Last week, I stopped in the downtown Tattered Cover Bookstore to look at some poetry. Frank O’Hara’s Meditations in an Emergency
Destroy yourself, if you don’t know!Inspired by AMC’s Mad Men to take a closer look. But standing there, reading the words, the poems jagged edges pleasing to my eye, I realized how much I miss poetry.
It is easy to be beautiful; it is difficult to appear so. I admire you, beloved, for the trap you’ve set. It's like a final chapter no one reads because the plot is over.
For the last two years, there’s been no time for poetry. Barely any time for fiction. And even before that, I’d neglected it. There was a time when I read a lot of poetry, devoured it, wrote it, read it at poetry readings, published it. I turned them into songs. I even used to send out a poem each week to a long list of email contacts. I haven’t written a new poem in probably ten years. Even in the MFA program, I stuck with the fiction writers. You kinda got the feeling you’d better not go trying to play in the poets’ sandbox.
So now, writing again after two years off in the EMBA program, I feel it might be time to reconnect with poetry. I really want to shake up my use of language, to be inspired to take chances, to not go for the obvious word choice, to seek out unique metaphor, to see things again from a poets perspective. So I pulled down from my shelves Carolyn Forché
You recognize strangers,Sylvia Plath
think you lived through destruction.
You can’t explain this night, my face, your memory.
You want to know what I know?
Your own hands are lying.
“Taking Off My Clothes”
I have fallen a long way. Clouds are floweringNot the poets I know well. I went to the library, checked out Theodore Roethke
Blue and mystical over the face of the stars.
Inside the church, the saints will be all blue,
Floating on their delicate feet over the cold pews,
Their hands and faces stiff with holiness.
The moon sees nothing of this. She is bald and wild.
And the message of the yew tree is blackness—blackness and silence.
“The Moon and the Yew Tree”
Is pain a promise? I was schooled in pain,Denise Levertov
And found out all I could of all desire;
I weep for what I’m like when I’m alone
In the deep center of the voice and fire.
I know the motion of the deepest stone.
Each one’s himself, yet each one’s everyone.
“The Sententious Man”
From the tawny lightLi-Young Lee
from the rainy nights
from the imagination finding
itself and more than itself
alone and more than alone
at the bottom
of the well where the moon lives
“Everything that Acts Is Actual”
And one day, when I needWe all should more poetry in our lives. At least I know I should.
to tell myself something intelligent
I’ll close my eyes
and recall this room and everything in it:
My body is estrangement.
This desire, perfection.
Your closed eyes my extinction.
“This Room and Everything in It”