friday roundup: the turn, a deepening, and ‘now that the fields belong to the crows’

...and also now that the putting green belongs to the crows... (wikimedia)

…and also now that the putting green belongs to the crows… (wikimedia)

Friday again, and a minimum day here in the Peninsula Town, so my time for kid-free activities is halved (but my aspirations are not!). I’d go grocery shopping but the frig is so crammed full of odds and ends that there’s no room for more. In theory, I could do some holiday shopping. In reality, there are more pressing items that need my attention: clean sock and underwear, for example. But first, let’s turn to poetry…

the turn  Last night at my poetry workshop group, someone brought an article by Michael Theune: Poetic Structure and Poetic Form: The Necessary Differentiation. In this article, the author argues for a more explicit discussion of what we call “the turn” in a poem — the place in a poem where the poet takes us in a new and different direction than the one we may have anticipated (classic example: a sonnet’s volta). Theune suggests examining a poem according to its structure rather than its form, and defines structure as “the pattern of a poem’s turning” (whereas “form” would refer to classic forms: sonnet, ghazal, sestina, blank verse, etc.). I’ve only read the article once, so I’m still digesting, sifting, and thinking — but I’m excited to have a new (to me) way of studying how a poem unfolds.

a deepening  Another interesting discussion last night was around the use of repeating lines, as one person brought a triolet. Someone wisely pointed out that when using repeating lines or phrases in a poem, its important that the reader’s understanding of, or encounter with, the repeating line/phrase deepens by the the time the poem ends. Although I may have intuited this in my reading a writing, I don’t think I could’ve articulated it before last night (this is why I love writing groups — I learn so much! And also because of the food and wine.). Something to think about as you’re reading and writing repeating lines and phrases.

And here’s an example of a triolet that does this particularly well: click here then scroll down to “Dactylic.” The poem begins with someone (probably a child) counting his toes. This might be a sweet and touching scene no matter what, but then the poem takes us back into history: Sapphic meter, “Generations of singers / keeping, conquering time.” By the end, we’re back to Tino counting his toes, but because this act has been linked to the continuum of art in the world, our understanding of the act of counting toes is richer and more weighty.

[I pause here to say: Yay poetry!]

now that the fields belong to the crows  This week I’ve been reading We Live in Bodies by Ellen Dore Watson (pardon the link to Amazon, but Powell’s didn’t have it). I particularly love the following poem from the collection (BTW, I know this poem is about 6 weeks too late for the parts of the country already experiencing winter, but the poem’s just right for NorCal right now 🙂 ):


Now That the Fields by Ellen Dore Watson

Now that the fields belong to the crows
and the dark rolls in on a cart with supper,
we thicken the skin of the house, tuck a caterpillar
of hay, a reverse moat, around the foundation.

Half the crickets in Conway died last night
under cold rocks — or do they all go at once, once
chainsaws are oiled and this new air reeks of apples?
Now that the last chrysalis has refused to open and our ears

are full of frantic roadwork, emergencies are blooming
like chrysanthemums — four in one weekend: first a heart
forgets the rhythm, then a woman leaps a ditch and hears
a loud crack in one of her body’s branches; one man falls off

his roof, another sits up and says: Breathing is just too hard,
now that the leaves are blushing to see their true selves
and the flies droning their I told you so song.
One blazing maple has taken over the town.


Amongst other things, I love that the dark rolls in on a cart and that the house’s skin thickens. I love the bold, journalistic statement: “Half the crickets of Conway died last night” (can’t you hear how much quieter the world is after that?), and the way she takes ownership of one spot on the map without saying she’s going to. I love that by the end, the town has been taken over by “one blazing maple.” It makes me want to write a poem that takes ownership of one spot on the map of my life. Et tu?

Okay, Reader, speaking of turns, it’s time for me to turn my attention to… well… looking around the house right now, let’s just say I’ve got lots of options. I hope you have lots of options for the rest of your day, too, all of them good. Thanks for reading.

6 thoughts on “friday roundup: the turn, a deepening, and ‘now that the fields belong to the crows’

  1. Oh, thank you for sharing that poem. I love the combination of the journalist’s tone you so insightfully identify with the “Now that” of the first line–which gives up to the crows so easily–I think it’s the it’s-a-fact, can’t-fight-it spirit which deflates the poem but also gives it a kind of convincing energy. And I love that the man SAT UP and said Breathing, which makes him claim it (can you imagine how different it would be if he’d laid down and said it?). There’s a resistance in there, I feel–a sense of betrayal, maybe, that’s active rather than passive–pushing up against the crows and the maples. Thickening the house is another response like that, an act of recognition that pushes back. I don’t know. Beauty and grief. I just love this poem….And I wish you a minimum day filled with more moments of beauty like this poem brings!

    • Yes, you’re right – resistance! The reverse moat! This is why I love talking shop, because I don’t think I could’ve articulated that resistance. But, yes! And thank you for your good wish. And for reading.

  2. I fully enjoyed this post! Thanks for continually stretching my poetry world.
    There is always laundry… not to be won, just battled.

    • Glad you enjoyed it. Never will forget the signs in your mom’s laundry room: “Laundry is a load,” and “A man works from sun to sun but a woman’s work is never done.” 🙂

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