It’s Friday. Today there is no pink eye, no late start (for two out of three children), no half-day (for the remaining third of the trio). My house is quiet, my desk is clear.
Don’t tell the Universe.
I’ll get right to the roundup:
dictionaries It’s not very often that I need to have a dictionary nearby while I’m reading. But this week I’m reading Stanley Plumly’s essays in Argument & Song: Sources & Silences in Poetry, and I’ve been keeping my dictionaries right nearby to do things like…
…look up mimesis for the 100th time in my life (I can never remember what it means): “imitative representation of the real world in art and literature”
…try to determine whether there is any meaningful difference between suasive and persuasive (for all intents and purposes, no)
…learn the meaning of prolixity: Quality or state of being prolix, or unduly protracted in duration; specifically, a stylistic quality resulting from verboseness, diffuseness, and confusing or tedious copiousness of detail
Pro tip from Stan: No prolixity in your poems.
And thank you to my three favorite dictionaries:
sources Here’s another pro tip, related to that old saw “write what you know”: Plumly writes, in his essay “Words on Birdsong,”
“Of the many sources of poetry, experience tied to time is fundamental, and, finally, archetypal.”
“Contrivance is endless, a kind of lottery of the imagination. Poets cannot make things up. Poets make things from—from memory; from matter that cannot be changed, only transformed; from the rock of fact that may disappear, eventually, from erosion, but that cannot be willed, out of hand, to evaporate.”
I think what he’s saying is that in order to be compelling, a poem has to have something real behind it: real emotion, real intellectual inquiry, real experience. Something has to be at stake for the poet and/or in the poem. Incredible language, impressive craft—these are not enough. Some would disagree, of course, but the poems that stay with me are those that have it all: incredible language, impressive craft, and something at stake.
bridges A friend sent me this poem via text earlier this week. It’s W.S. Merwin killin’ it again. I love how it begins in certainty (“as I always knew it would be”), then veers into tentativeness and uncertainty. I love that the tentativeness of the poem is what carries it down the page until, BAM!: what’s at stake in five words. Here is…
THE BRIDGES by W. S. Merwin
Nothing but me is moving
on these bridges
as I always knew it would be
see moving on each of the bridges
and everything that we have known
even the friends
lined up in the silent iron railings
back and forth
I pass like a stick on the palings
rises from the marbled river
the light from the blank clocks crackles
like an empty film
are we living now
on which side which side
and will you be there
May this day be a lovely bridge to your weekend.