We had a great workshop.
Jennifer Poteet‘s “Bird in a Box” compares good poems to skating, to eels, to electric current down the spine, to the thrill of being undressed by a first lover, to crashing a bike after learning to ride one, and the pounding of the heart in the chest after that crash, to a bird in a box. Then the poem screeches to a halt: Why? Because, it is revealed that the lover, the who one who unbuttoned of the speaker’s blouse, button by button, was a real person, one who, “after a third marriage” tells the speaker “the doctor gives him six months to live.” It is the boldest sort of strategy, in which the poem is pulled out of its conceit by reality and the crash of the bicycle morphs into a real life catastrophe. Bravo, Jen.
John J. Trause brought a movie commentary sort of poem called “Craning to See a Hotel Room” that mixed references to the movies “Psycho” and “Touch of Evil” to delve into the issues of exploitation and voyeurism.
The title of Frank Rubino‘s poem, “Days of rogation,” refers to meatless feast days in the Catholic calendar, and to a larger meditation on the modern meat industry, but at its best, it slides, meditatively, into a consideration of the unaccountable pain and solace of love: “no one/ will love my ear-wax, love my funny toe…./ no one / should be allowed in there, but here you are!/ One time you… showed me guyswith giant cocks and… I cried/ inside but …/I come from people with zucchini heads/ some of them… gnarled beautifully like mountain cedars…”
You can’t teach talent like that.
My poem, “Her Silver Rings in the Dish by the Bed” was a sonnet-length domestic love poem. Frank saw it as a sonnet. Yana said it changes the sonnet tradition by paying attention to an older woman. Frank liked the fact that it “starts with a thesis and proves it out,” somewhat metaphysically.
Susanna Lee‘s poem was also about domestic romance. It was called “Poem for the Rising of the Winter Solstice Moon.” It spoke in a “room of one’s own way” about maintaining private space in the home, but veered towards the sadness of isolation in life later in marriage, with couples sleeping apart and the speaker’s parents “gone.” Then, somewhat miraculously it slouched towards communion of a deeply mature sort, when the vibrant moon seen separately gave the couple something to talk about. Deft work.
Preeti Shah‘s poem, “My Name” was a purely lyrical piece in the form of a personal history. When she was young her “Name/ caught light the wet riggings/ of palak in some hesitant throat.” In India, it “comforted/ as Maa’s home dish…” In America, she comically compares it the Heimlich maneuver. And finally, in along lyrical passage, she conjures the feeling of her name in her own mouth as a beautiful meal “aching to be tasted/ by all tongues/ that still missed their homes.” Beautiful.
Speaking of foreign locales, Carole Stone‘s “Down Mexico Way” imagines the figure of Death in several disguises: as a guitar player, an American tourist, as a cyber researcher peeking at her “Facebook” page, and as a waiter at a Mexican restaurant, where her deceased parents show up and “light up cigarillos.”
Yana Kane‘s “The Doll House” takes dollhouses to task for their lifelessness, their obscuration of “any flaws:” for example the “mother in the kitchen” who is always and forever pulling “a blueberry pie from the oven.” And the father in the parlor, who “never tires of reading the same newspaper.” It was a creepy poem, for sure, something between Twilight Zone and Stepford Wives.
Raymond Turco‘s “Verona” creates a vibrant tonal sketch of the town with a curious allusion to an unproven theory that the name “Verona” is a bastardization of “Vera Roma” meaning “the one true Rome.”
JJT called Brendan‘s poem, “Waterfall in Winter” “high Romantic,” and “Tennysonian.” It depicts the hidden space behind a waterfall where a kind of shrine is maintained, literally maintained, as its “drooping lilies” are replaced —by the speaker—with “fresh ones” and the old ones are cast into the “crashing water.” Yet, when he leaves he swears he will never be back. Mysterious, and somber.
Janet Kolstein‘s “The White Bird” (not in the package) is either a dream, a surreal vision, or just another day on the Lower East Side. It presents a bird perched on the speaker’s shoulder that talks, shops for clothes, takes a bath in warm water, and is grabbed by barber who wakes up after sleeping on the street outside his shop. The speaker then pats the bird dry with a “paper towel, to avoid his getting chilled/ when he turns into a cat.” I’m voting for ‘just another day on the Lower East Side.’
Thank you all for coming; see you at the next workshop.
Field Notes, Week of 12-21-21
We had a great workshop.
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