Thursday, June 22, 2017

The Garden of Verse: Where Do the Poems Come From?

     Poets in the June 2017 edition of Verse-Virtual took on the mystery of where poems come from.

            "Writing the Poem," a fabulous poem by Dick Allen (fables galore in here), is a bravura response to the never-stated theme of writer's block. The answer? You let the poem write itself. Things just happen, but they happen in so lively and picturesque, and unexpected, a way that the reader can't wait to see what happens next: 
".... The poem
will start singing 'One bright morning, I’ll fly away'
or jump from a Walmart roof...
the poem will make friends with furniture salesmen,
and eat avocados just arrived from Monday."
            I'll take my avocados from Monday any day of the week. I liked every high-jumping, sky-dying line here, but I also wish to pay special mention these:
"Poet naïf, poet of the corner store
with your mind set upon camera lenses and canary yellow,
are you in your right mind
            'Poet of the corner store' strikes me as a marvelous image. Next time I go to the corner store, I'll try to see where it takes me. 
This is a poem that demonstrates by its own construction where poems come from. Sometimes the 'wrong' mind might be the right one.

            The mystery of inspiration wafts over some other poems I admired in June's Verse-Virtual. CJ Clark introduces us to the enigma of the Skogmo Cafe, accompanied by a black-and-white photo that made me think "JFK." The poem asks, "Wasn't this once called the Skogmo Cafe?" Neither party knows the answer.
"Instead we order soup
And sip the chowder, the broth
Of our separate winters..."
            I love this poem for the image of spooning up "the broth
Of our separate winters..." Not the bread of affliction, nor the shortcake of romance, yet a piquant and, I suspect, highly personal taste.

             I don't know the "Line From Merwin" alluded to by the title of Judy Kronenfeld's poem, but I don't need to in order to feel myself surrendering to the sensations of ephemeral beauty and sorrow evoked by the language of this poem.
"Each day on the long drive home
how easily the sky
soars into profundity,
like silent music."
              The profundity of "silent music"? Another mystery, perhaps But we probably know in our own hearts what the phrase means. This is a poem built on short lines of exactly right words.

              Jim Lewis offers a wise and clever interpretation of a painting by Firestone Feinberg (pictured above) in "the color of your songs." The poem repeats lines, or parts of lines, from the end of one stanza to the first of the next, echoing the repetition of imagery in Feinberg's paintings. I particularly admire the alliterative music in this stanza that renders the whole more playful in tone than a literal summing up of 'meaning' could possibly do:
"sonata for serpent
where bass clef crawls
along the floor
and treble spreads its trouble
all across the couch cushions
below watchful eyes..."

           Joan Mazza's poem "On Being Asked How I Write a Poem Every Day" provides another answer to the question posed implicitly by the theme of a writer's block.
           Like some of these others, it's a poem that demonstrates in its own creation the 'point' it appears to be making. The way on, the poet tells us, develops from a seamlessly sustained comparison for working a vein and digging in an earth that is always there:
"Some days I wear a hat, boots, and work gloves,
and push the wheelbarrow over logs and mud,
ruts and roots that trip along the way..."
            We all know about that mud, those 'ruts and roots' (two words that call to one another). And if there are indeed logs lying across the floor of your personal forest, you have my deepest sympathies. I have entered such forests and gone nowhere in them. But Mazza's poem takes us swiftly to black soil "under old oaks," and we sigh with remembrance and know that we're onto something now.
            June V-V is onto something too. It's simply more fine poetry.
             These poems and many others can be found at