friday roundup with pain au raisin

life savers

life savers

Hello, Reader.

I am here to attest that pain au raisin saves lives.

Or at least it saves Thursdays.

Or at least it saves that portion of a Thursday after the headache eases and before you get home and your front door lock is broken and you have to break in to your own house and then you pick people up from school and go to the middle school where Eldest is playing basketball except his game is actually away not home so you race down to the South Bay in rush hour traffic and your GPS, affectionately known as Marge, fails and you get lost and end up in the hills and then you finally find the school where the game is being played and you arrive to watch the last three minutes of a game they are losing by more than 20 points and because of all this Sister misses ballet.


Let’s talk poetry:

learning again Long-time readers may recall that there are several things about life and poetry that I have learned, re-learned, and re-re-learned. As I’m transitioning away from finishing a Large Project, I am re-re-re-re-learning some things. Here are a few of them:

  • Finishing a Large Project — writing in and around and toward that project — is very different from the act of just writing A Poem.
  • There is no need to try to turn A Poem into the next Large Project. One must let A Poem swim in its own little fishbowl indefinitely until the next Large Project begins to take shape. And one may have to flush many A Poems down the toilet in the meantime.
  • Resistance is futile: You may want to write about the girls kidnapped by Boko Haram, but if the Muse says instead to write about the survivors of a 19th-century shipwreck, you’re stuck with the 19th-century shipwreck.
  • Poems (for me at least) come out of playing with language. Exercises and prompts can get you to the page and give you ways to play with language. An exercise or prompt has done its work if there is one phrase in the two pages of writing you did for it that opens the door to a new draft.

on the speaker  I’ve been studying William Carlos Williams this week, and one thing I noticed as I read is that in some of his poems the speaker is nearly (or totally) absent, while in others the speaker is on center stage. I have been busy creating a spectrum of speakers from “speakerless” to “assertive speaker” (in between are variations of the “subtle speaker”).

The speakerless poems strike me as almost a reverse ekphrasis: the poem’s primary impulse is to create a scene, as in “Nantucket.” The poem with an assertive speaker is dependent on that particular speaker to show us a slice of the world through his/her eyes, as in “Danse Russe.” In between are different subtle speakers who enter the poem, but gently and with a light touch.

All this has made me ask questions of my speakers in my poems: Why are you here? Can you leave? If not, why not? Do you really need to come in at line five, or can I show you into the room of this poem at line thirteen? Rather than walk into the room of this poem, would it be better for you to simply peek through the window or maybe send a text? And so on.

Dear Blue,  I’ve also been reading Blue Venus by Lisa Russ Spaar. In terms of voice and language, her work is entirely different that WCW’s. While he writes in a simple (yes, “American”) vernacular, Sparr simply luxuriates in sound and language. I confess, I love it.

Blue Venus explores, amongst other things, insomnia. There is a lot of night in this book, and a lot of the color blue. One of my favorite poems in the collection is a direct address to blue. Here is,


DUSK by Lisa Russ Spaar

Blue, I love your lapis palace,
your stair of melancholy that burns,
but does not consume my heart.

I love the heaven-shot and glinting stares
of all your tall and far-flung windows,
your shadowed sills, your roofless picnic of stars.

I climb your fabled tense of once
and upon a time, your fractured prayer:
that restless hinge: your voice, thick with thorns.


What color (or colors) could you write a direct-address poem to? Something to try, perhaps.

That’s all for today — happy weekend and thanks for reading.

5 thoughts on “friday roundup with pain au raisin

  1. I read a recent exchange (via social media) on the use of “you” in contemporary poetry. A writer complained that second person has become a too-convenient fallback/default pronoun. He said, “I want to know who the ‘you’ is. Is it me, the reader? Is it a collective ‘you’? Is it a person who has a name, and why not name the person?”

    Interesting thoughts. And now your post on speakers reminds me to re-view my poems’ speakers, too.

    • Ooh, I wrote a paper on second-person once. And I love it! Especially if it is not distinctly defined. I like the kind of room it creates — is the poem addressed to the reader? is it the speaker addressing herself? is there someone just outside the room of this poem? But of course, overdoing it can be overkill. Thanks for reading, Ann!

  2. Pingback: friday roundup: returning edition | the stanza

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