There are paintings I don’t need to see after reading an ekphrastic poem. Even though the analogy to film versions of books will not allow me to touch it, I am certain that the poem is all I need of the painting, the picture in my head so rich that any image would ruin it.
See Dan Ferrara’s “Shack, Peaked Hill Bars, Edwin Dickinson, 1955” in Cream City Review:
“the sun shines through a half pint of beer
throwing an amber shadow on a back rug where
a couple fucks to the wash of the Prussian blue sea.”
Every half century, the “synchronous flowering of bamboo causes famine in parts of India.”
What plants do together can kill us. I learned this from Karen An-Hwei Lee’s poem, “Prayer for a Bamboo-Flowering Famine.”
“The houses are haunted
By white nightgowns.”
Per Wallace Stevens. Forever.
After a cremation ceremony in Japan, ashes are removed from the incinerators so the family can take turns “feeding” ashes to the urn with chopsticks.
How can I abandon this image offered in Derek Sheffield’s poem, “The World’s Other Side,” which thickens my understanding of the chopstick as a life-sustaining implement?
Certain structures have stayed the same. See the first line of Anne Sexton’s poem, “Housewife”:
“Some women marry houses.”
Imagine Anne looking at the market for womanly home-making right now. I’ll be damned if there aren’t so many ways to become a house, to obsess over the details of organizing or tidiness, to poem the whole consumerist wreck.
The thickest fascinations need to be studied. But first, they need to be rolled across the floor and admired like a ball of yarn in a cat’s paw to see which way the thickness unfurls. To discover the start of the string.
Alan Feldman assigns poets to write a poem that is all one long sentence, an experiment in stretched-out syntax. That’s how he wrote “In November”, published in Best American Poetry 2011.
For the long string, see also “Greed and Aggression” by Sharon Olds and “Apology to the Muse” by Alan Dugan.
What looks like the start of a poem might actually be the end once the ball stops rolling.
“Crip poetics” opens an awareness to the body’s use and abuse in human space. By claiming the term “crip”—and defining it on her own terms—Barbara Hershey challenges ableism in poetic language and community. See Hershey’s poem, “etc.”, written after attending a lecture in which bell hooks listed an expansive, inclusive array of women intended to be representative, none of which was crippled. Hershey’s poem unfurls as a commentary on hooks’ lecture; the poet writes herself into the text.
“i am the etc. we are the etc.”
A lesson in the poetry of seeing one another whole.
Everything we can imagine has an afterlife. I realized this after reading Michelle Bonezek’s “The Afterlife of Pennies.”
Why not write a poem titled “The Afterlife of [whatever you want here]”? Pick something you loved as a child or a teenager. Give it back a life.
True love offers to hold the beloved’s scythe. See Erica Dawson’s “In Black and White”:
“A spade’s a spade. A plan
Can change. I love your pivot, covet
Your line, pin, point, arbor, and shaft:
And I can dig it. Feel that draft?
Come close. Now tell me how you love it.”
“Revealing a racial marker in a poem is like revealing a gun in a story or like revealing a nipple in a dance.”
Monica Youn’s poem, “Study of Two Figures: Pasiphaë/Sudo”, layers these markers in a slow monotone that destabilizes the foreground and empties all solid containers constructed to hold identity.
Poetry taught me how to speak to a god. To say, as with Louise Gluck’s “Vespers”:
To imagine a god as "someone “who is immune to foreshadowing”.
The secret life of dolls resembles our own. See Denise Duhamel’s “Kinky”:
“The night had begun with Barbie getting angry
at finding Ken’s blow up doll, folded and stuffed
under the couch.”
I’ve watched my daughters work through daily problems in their doll play. I’ve admired how Duhamel sustains this energy and potential through the entire Kinky collection—and how she infuses the secret life of our toys with hope and aspiration. How she renders them in our image.