Happy Friday, reader. Time for another roundup.
real mail Earlier this week, my fellow poet-blogger Drew posted about A Month of Letters. There is a movement circulating the internet that invites people to write one letter a day for each mail day of February (Sundays don’t count because there’s no mail that day). I, for one, love real mail. Coincidentally, I have mailed a real letter every day this month so far. However, I’m not going to join the challenge — anything beyond committing to brushing my teeth, drinking coffee, and feeding my young is too much for me right now — but I thought I’d post the link here for those of you who might want to join up. Visit Mary Robinette Kowal’s website, A Month of Letters, to find out more.
And if you’re not the letter-writing type but you want to receive some real mail in your mailbox, have I got a deal for you! Some of you know that I put together an occasional handout full of poems I love, or that make me think, or that make me want to write another poem (you can read more about The Handout at this post on my old blog). I’m working on the next installment of The Handout and it should go in the mail next week. If you’d like to have some poems show up in your mailbox, send your name and address to me at mollycspencer (at) gmail (dot) com. This is my way of spreading poetry — I love to do it and the stamp’s on me. As the post card above says: for you my darling.
more mud and glass We had a great discussion earlier this week about clarity in poetry — too much, too little, or just right. Thank you to everyone who joined the discussion in the comments and via e-mail. I was especially thrilled to hear from my friend, Ms. W-K’s, high-school creative writing class! If you haven’t already, check back in the comments to read their thoughtful responses to the issue of clarity in poetry. And, for Ms. W-K’s class (and everyone else), here’s an example of a poem that I think strikes a lovely balance between mystery and clarity. It’s called The Good Wife by Alison Elrod. Go on ahead and read it; I’ll wait.
Okay? So, here’s what I love about this poem: We know enough to grab onto: there’s a wife; she might be trying to be a “good” wife; she’s in a domestic setting that she finds pleasing (“she walked through her quiet house / admiring its lovely bones. / She loved the light / that filled the place, / the view from every window.” ) and yet, perhaps overwhelming or at least repetitive (“…she made herself / small — watched the paper dragon / hanging by a thread above her, watched / it turn and turn in endless circles.”); she has made a decision, an important decision; there seems to be both resignation and comfort in its aftermath (“Later, / she folded shirts / and started dinner.”).
And here’s what we don’t know: We don’t know what decision she made. To file for divorce? To stay married? To end a pregnancy? To keep the baby? To confront her husband about cheating? We don’t know, and that gives us some room to imagine, and to remember those big decisions from our own lives, how breathtaking they can be. We don’t know what the house feels like when the rest of the family is present. We don’t know if it’s a decision to be shared with them or not (kind of feels like not to me, though). We don’t know what this decision will cost her or gain for her; we just know she made it. So, for me, all that we don’t know gives me room to get inside the poem and consider a wide range of possibilities, and to see the poem through the lens of 100 lives instead of just one.
Ms. W-K’s class, let us know: does the balance of clarity and mystery in this poem please you or confound you? What’s your poem for the day you knew for sure?
your brain on metaphors Did you know that when you hear a metaphor your brain lights up? I didn’t either until I read this article which explains recent research on how the brain processes metaphor. In part, the article says: “investigators discovered a region of the brain important for sensing texture through touch, the parietal operculum, is activated when someone listens to a sentence with a textural metaphor. The same region is not activated when a similar sentence expressing the meaning of the metaphor is heard.” Poets take heed: The scientists involved in the study found that “On average, response to a sentence containing a metaphor took slightly longer (0.84 vs 0.63 seconds).” Still, pretty cool that language can trigger not just the auditory but the sensory for us. I was also interested to read that “complex processes involving symbols, such as appreciating a painting or understanding a metaphor, do not depend just on evolutionarily new parts of the brain, but also on adaptations of older parts of the brain.” We humans have been poets and artists for eons, I guess.
Ok, Reader, this is the longest post ever! Forgive me, I didn’t mean to take up so much of your time. Happy Friday, happy weekend, happy reading, writing, and whatever else you love to do.