Happy Friday, Reader! Before we begin today’s roundup, I must own up to an error in yesterday’s post. Somehow, despite the fact that his book was sitting 4 inches away from me as I typed, I got John Hollander’s name wrong. Really wrong. He is the guy who talks about stance vis-a-vis ekphrastic poetry. Mea culpa. I’ve updated the post to correct my error. As I often say to my children: Ah, I’m so imperfect but I keep trying to get things right. Now, on to the roundup:
composting This week I’ve been thinking about the importance of composting. I’m not talking about throwing your vegetable peelings into a heap in the backyard, although I’m all in favor of that, too. I’m talking about all the ways to feed your writing life — all the scraps you read and write, all the unmarked paths you follow, sometimes to dead ends — when you’re not certain what, if anything, will come of it. I’ll give you an example: A couple years ago I was big into re-reading the Grimm fairy tales, and I was particularly taken with The Robber Bridegroom. I read and re-read that tale. I wrote in and out of its lines and phrases in my notebook. I wanted a Robber Bridegroom poem. None came. I gave it more time. Still, none came. I sighed, I lamented: I can’t believe I’m not going to get a poem out of this. After several months, I gave up trying to write a Robber Bridegroom poem.
Then, a couple weeks ago I was trying to write a poem about my wedding day (BTW, aren’t wedding days so wierd!?). It was cardboard on the page for quite some time, so I fell back onto one of my old tricks, which is to combine my own lines with lines/phrases from another text. And guess what text I used: The Robber Bridegroom. Long after I’d given up hope that the time spent reading and writing around that tale would give life to a poem, it did. So, I’m here to tell you: in poetry and in life, keep composting — those scraps you thought were going to end up as so much dirt may surprise you in the end.
to follow the wrong star Speaking of which, you simply must go read this post by Sage Cohen, who writes today about being willing to follow the wrong star. This is a heartening story about following one’s intuition, without having rational reasons for why. I think Cohen’s post is rich with wisdom for life, but can also be applied at the micro level to art-making, or even to an individual poem. Don’t ask why your poem feels the need to feed that stray cat — just feed it, and be open to what happens.
Monet refuses Here’s another way into ekphrasis (or almost-ekphrasis) — taking a slice of the artists life, seen through the lens of her/his work, and making a poem of it. Lisel Meuller did that in her poem, “Monet Refuses the Operation.” Apparently, the back story is that Monet had cataracts in both eyes and his doctor recommended surgery to correct the cataracts, but Monet opted not to have the surgery. It is a lovely poem that borrows from Monet’s artistic style, his way of seeing (literally) the world. Here it is.
That’s it for this week, Reader. I hope you have a great Friday and a great weekend. Now I’m off to post this on Facebook in the hopes that someday FB will realize that I post mainly about poetry and family life, and they should stop displaying ads for Executive M.B.A. programs on my page #algorithmfail.