Tuesday, March 26, 2013

from April Inventory by W.D. Snodgrass

I haven't read one book about
A book or memorized one plot.
Or found a mind I did not doubt.
I learned one date. And then forgot.
And one by one the solid scholars
Get the degrees, the jobs, the dollars.

And smile above their starchy collars.
I taught my classes Whitehead's notions;
One lovely girl, a song of Mahler's.
Lacking a source-book or promotions,
I showed one child the colors of
A luna moth and how to love.

I taught myself to name my name,
To bark back, loosen love and crying;
To ease my woman so she came,
To ease an old man who was dying.
I have not learned how often I
Can win, can love, but choose to die.

Read whole poem here.

Monday, March 11, 2013


I am going to make my own anthology of poems I love. Here are a few titles I'm including:

Dark and Dark by W.R. Moses (p. 72 of The Wesleyan Tradition)
Utter by Don McKay (p. 34 of Strike/Slip) - unless I find a new poem that I like.
Myths, mountains by Jamie King-Holden (from Chemistry)
The Day the Perfect Speakers Left by Leonard Nathan (p. 96 of TWT)
The Hermit Crab by Mary Oliver (and Wild Geese)
Anne Frank Huis by Andrew Motion (from Scanning the Century)
The Unseizable Elegy by Erin Moure
You Can't Have it All by Barbara Ras
Between yesterday and your mouth by Rosa Alice Branco (New European Poets)

And something by Peter Gizzi, Borges, and other favorite poems. I guess I can put up to three poems by a poet if I have a hard time choosing. So much material to go through, though, which is the fun part.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Internal Conversation

Should writing poems be about associations or should I structure them like I would an essay? I suppose that depends on what you want to accomplish with it. Poetry I believe is something you learn by doing. There are too many contradictory models out there. You can't always choose the tradition and aesthetics you inherit. But you can break your own rules. The only rule you must not break is that you must own your poem, take responsibility for every word or sound. If you can do that, then you can abandon it and call it done.


A long time ago, I wrote a poem that was published in our high school paper. It was an insipid poem, but it had a title that intrigued the editors, and still continue to intrigue me. It was called "Metanoia" which means something like a hundred eighty degree change.

So today I tried writing another poem that lived up to that title. (I'll keep it to myself, thanks.) It's strange to trace your own journey. When I was young, I loved to rhyme and thought the entirety of poetry was rhyme. Some of my poems from high school and college were unliterary. My sense of humor was there, but it wasn't anchored into the senses. They were thought-poems.

Then I learned about a different kind of poetry, ones that were vivid and sensual and anchored in the real world so that one enters it like into a dream.

Now I'm still struggling to marry both kinds and to expand my own abilities and sensibilities.


I believe poetry is a habit. It's not one shared by a lot of people out there, though when you see the number of aspiring poets you might think otherwise. Yesterday I downloaded some poetry podcasts and spent my half-shift at work listening to them. Were they useful? I'm not sure I gleaned anything of import, but they did serve to remind me of poetry, like it was a neglected long-distance friend knocking on my door.

The other day I tried recording a few poems from a book, and was dismayed at the tremulous quality of my own voice. I run out of breath, and end up whispering the final words of a line. It's also a matter of confidence. There were other people in the house and I felt like I shouldn't disturb them. It's like running a hand through a length of rope and unexpectedly finding a knot. I know I have self-esteem issues, but it's a shock to realize how it affects me physically.

All through high school I was quiet. I remember a lot of conversations where the other person would lean forward and ask me to repeat what I said. Where did this come from I wonder? This fear to speak up and be judged. Maybe it's just that I grew up surrounded by judgment, and my voice was quelled. It might be one reason why I was so enamored of writing, of the private nature of it.

It's a little unfair to blame it all on my parents, who raised me like they did my more outspoken siblings. That's one of my lifelong goals by the way. To stop blaming my parents for my faults and do something to change them or else take responsibility for them. So maybe I need some shouting lessons.

Actually I improved in college, mostly because I was studying literature and was comfortable with the topic. I remember answering in class because nobody else was raising their hand. I remember a lot of positive reinforcement from my favorite professor when I got it right. I also had a lot of opportunities to speak to strangers, speak in front of a crowd, and even dress as crazily as I could get away with. Ah! The heady nostalgia for my youth.

I'm turning twenty nine in two days. Isn't it about time I shed all my preconceived notions about who I am?Reinvent myself? Bare my soul for judgment? Tell the truth, or portions of it?