Hello, Reader. I am still here, but have been feeling quiet lately (not to mention busy: kids, deadlines, holidays, etc.). Today is the sixth day of a six-day weekend for the kids. Rumor has it there is school tomorrow. I’ll believe it when I see it.
For now everyone has found their own little corner of the house (or, in one case, yard) and writing a little something seems possible. So here I am.
And here’s what’s been on my mind:
sources I’m always interested in what poets say about where their poems come from. I’m interested whether they’re talking about it literally or figuratively; whether they seem certain or uncertain; whether their sources strike me as replicable (that is, worth trying) or not.
Earlier today, I ran across a lovely essay by my friend and fellow poet Sarah Pape, who wrote about poem-making in a Hayden’s Ferry Review contributor spotlight.
I’ve been reading and re-reading it all day, thinking about how poems come to me, most often out of the strange alchemy of other people’s poems and silence.
My favorite line from the essay, the entirety of which you must read for yourself: Tell me the places you’ve come from. Help me see.
Here’s the whole thing (and don’t be warned off by the “we’ve moved to a new port” message at the top of the page; scroll down, the essay’s there).
nuts and bolts I’ve been re-reading Richard Hugo‘s The Triggering Town. I needed a bit of the title essay for a paper I was writing, and then of course had to re-read the whole book. Because it’s that good—so much solid craft advice alongside his deeply felt convictions about what a poet is, what the writing life is all about.
Here are a few of my favorite Hugoisms:
“It is impossible to write meaningless sequences.” (from “Writing Off the Subject)
“(W)hen you are writing you must assume that the next thing you put down belongs not for reasons of logic, good sense, or narrative development, but because you put it there. You, the same person who said that, also said this. The adhesive force is your way of writing, not sensible connection.” (also from “Writing Off the Subject”)
“(O)nce language exists only to convey information, it is dying.” (from “The Triggering Town”)
“So you are after those words you can own and ways of putting them in phrases and lines that are yours by right of obsessive musical deed.” (also from “The Triggering Town”)
I had all but forgotten about his essay “Nuts and Bolts” which is full of very practical tips (“Maximum sentence length: seventeen words. Minimum: one.” “No semi-colons.” “When the poem starts, things should already have happened.”) and things to try when you’re stuck. Thanks to the Interwebs, it is available to all of us for free at this link.
the last poem I loved And now, as usual, a poem. Here is the last one I loved; it’s by Kevin Goodan, from his book In the Ghost-House Acquainted, which is worth its cover price just so you can study his amazing titles (but the poems are excellent, too):
SNOW ANGELS by Kevin Goodan
The barn is a story we’ve taken refuge in,
the one where the ghosts never arrive.
We wait anyway
since the weather demands it.
Strike a match and nothing disappears,
nothing leaps out, either.
Snow is a verb with certain ideas in mind,
it settles on the fringe of your coat.
Give me your hands.
The wind has a way of saying things
no longer self-evident.
Since the barn does not repeat itself
I will. Your hands,
they are remote and necessary.
With the temperature this close to zero
everything is at risk.
This is not a story
we can leave untouched.
May all the stories you can’t leave untouched find a home in your poems. Thanks for reading.