It’s hard to define exactly how a prose poem differs from prose. But for me, a short piece that has an edge, that stays with you, that feels more powerful than the usual snippet of prose, is a prose poem. Here are two of my favorites (I’ve already posted “A Story About the Body,” another fav):
Having lunch with my daughter yesterday, we were talking about a poetry workshop at the 92nd St. Y.
“It’s weird,” my daughter said, “Nobody seems to want to read poetry, but everyone seems to want to write it.”
This is an odd fact, and certainly rang true. The workshop last night with Mark Ford, was very good, though. Continue reading
I lost Monday this week, traveling to NY. It’s odd the way you step into a sealed tube, wait, emerge across a continent hours later. In the bookstore in the new terminal they had (surprisingly) the wonderful book of Tomas Tranströmer’s Selected Poems, edited and introduced by Robert Hass. I couldn’t resist buying a copy. Here’s a selection:
The building is closed. The sun crowds in through the windowpanes
and warms up the surfaces of desks
that are strong enough to take the load of human fate.
Talking with another poet about the discouraging series of rejections, the endless worry that one’s work is really good–how can one know? I remembered this wonderful little poem by Robert Hass, from Time and Materials.
Envy of Other People’s Poems
In one version of the legend the sirens couldn’t sing. Continue reading
Lately I have been enjoying the Saturday “Review” section of the Wall Street Journal a lot more than the NY Times “Book Review.” This is an excerpt of a Polish author, Marek Hlasko, from a review by Nathaniel Popkin. It’s from Beautiful Twentysomethings, Hlasko’s autobiography. I’m going to have to read the book:
“There are few nations who have so many chances for good literature as we, the Poles, do. We’ve got everything: misfortune, political assassinations, eternal occupation, informers, mystery, despair, drunkenness. By God, what else could you ask for? When I was in Israel, I lived with the scum of the earth, but still I never met people as desperate, detestable, and unhappy as in Poland.”
On my way home from Chico, I saw this:
Also saw lots of ducks! I suppose the plucking goes with the guided hunt. And of course, such a great phrase can’t go without its tongue twister:
I’m not the duck plucker or the duck plucker’s son but I pluck the ducks till the duck plucker comes.
Of course, it’s Tuesday. Monday slipped by again, busy with spring planting, new baby chicks, and miscellaneous garden chores–they are endless. But for today I thought I’d share two famous poets words on poetry. Philip Levine and Marianne Moore:
A Theory of Prosody
When Nellie, my old pussy
cat, was still in her prime,
she would sit behind me
as I wrote, and when the line
got too long she’d reach
one sudden black foreleg down
and paw at the moving hand, Continue reading
For those of you who follow the chicken saga, I wrote about my attempts to incubate or have my broody hen hatch some chicks. I have to report failure on both counts. Nothing in my homemade incubator hatched. I wasn’t so surprised at this, as I had some initial problems regulating the temperature. But for whatever reason, the eggs under the broody hen also failed to hatch. After 23 days, I took them out. Three had complete chicken embryos inside, but not alive. I don’t’ have any idea why, as she was a very diligent setter. I slipped seven day-old chicks from the feed store under her the night I took away the eggs, a mix of Rhode Island Red and Americana chicks.
Two of the Americanas are black, as is the mother. For whatever reason, she rejected the two black chicks. She refused to let them be, but pecked at and chased them around the cage. A self-loathing racist hen? In any case, I had to take the black chicks out and foster them inside. Continue reading
Sometimes it seems to me that poets, especially American poets, got derailed by the confessional poems of Lowell and Plath, and there is just too much self-absorption. Of course, everything experienced is filtered through the lense of self, but a little perspective is the mark of a fine mind. Galway Kinnell gave a craft talk at Squaw Valley Community of Writers, in which he suggested taking the words “I” or “me” or the various forms of these out of your work. And Sharon Olds, who was also there, wrote a beautiful poem about how she loved the I-beam I, “Take the I Out.” But I did write for a year without an “I” poem. It was a good exercise. And it’s hard to beat this poem, with no I in it:
Saint Francis and the Sow
stands for all things,
even for those things that don’t flower,
for everything flowers, from within, of self-blessing; Continue reading