Response to How to Fall in Love with your Father

Firstly, I love the title. Initially taken back by the nearly incestual idea, I was intrigued to read this possibly risque poem. My shock was apparent when I viewed its length: but it was wonderful. The simplicity garnered by its mere three stanzas held more weight than a good deal of the longer poems we’ve read as a class thus far. The speaker detailed the distance between son and father without making it overly obvious or dwelling on their past relationship, and the fact that he focused on something as simple as lifting another person out of a chair was a great way to convey the intimacy needed in a task like that. I always feel like my own writing needs more validation and I often end up stumbling over what I’m trying to say. I want to try to mimic the simplistic weight this poem held.

Where Does Your Poetry Come From?

Hi all!

I was reading through all the responses to my ‘found poetry’ post – lots of great stuff going on there. It lead me to think about where we find inspiration for our poetry.

It’s been a really long time since I’ve written a poem – the one I shared last week was written freshman year of college (three years ago for me!), and since then poetry has been kind of a non-existent thing for me. I remember I used to get inspiration for my poetry at the Slam Poet Society; I would listen to some incredible performances in person, get a prompt, and off I’d go, full of ideas. We talked the first day in class about finding inspiration in music; and in my last post, we discovered a poet who found inspiration in other’s words.

As I work on regaining my poetry skillz, I wonder where I’ll be able to find my inspiration. Largely, so far, I’ve found it in the words themselves – words I’ve been desperate to use, to say, to love. With the writing exercises, I’m struggling to ‘fit’ in the box of the prompts, wanting to spill my words all over the place, with no organization, even if I am somehow feeling ‘inspired’ to write at that moment. It seems like, however, that kind of inspiration is going to lead me nowhere new, and so I’m seeking different sources. Are there different kinds of inspiration, that will lead to poems of different forms, shapes, pun-i-ness, etc?

What do you all use for inspiration? How do your different sources lead to different poems? What do you do to get past your ‘writer’s block’ – which I find especially difficult when attempting to write poetry? If we listen to music to garner inspiration, should we credit that music for all it gave us?

Lastly, I’d be really interested in hearing what inspiration feels like to you. Is it a collected focus, a will to work and research and refine? Is it vague, crazy, disorganized passion on the page? How do you make the feeling of your inspiration ‘work’ for you? Do you even need to feel inspired to write poetry? Is the source, and the depth, of your initial passion an integral piece of the work that will never disappear, even with extensive revision?

Thanks for your thoughts!

Found Poetry

American, the Hallelujah is a found poem – meaning, of course, that the author found these words elsewhere and reordered, edited, etc to make this poem. The poem immediately made me question first, the validity or originality of found poetry, and second, if being a ‘found’ poem helped this poem gain any meaning.

While the structure of the alphabetical progress was cool, and we definitely got some great rhythm out of all that punctuation, I struggled to garner any ‘message’ from the poem, especially with things like ‘From every stormy’ (perhaps referencing affliction?) and ‘Hear what the voice’ written in. I did enjoy some of the sounds in this poem – the s-section in particular rolled over me nicely, but the rest of it was so punctuated I felt like I was being stopped over and over and over. It made it so choppy, it got irritating. I tried to find a message – a theme – and found, perhaps, the hardships of our nation that bind us ‘trembling captives’ together? Thoughts?

And then the validity of found poetry. I know poetry seems to be a genre with infinite rules, and the infinite capacity to break or re-arrange them, but it seems like ‘found poetry’ is a pretty way to advocate plagarism. I think if I went up to my literature professor and presented a ‘found essay’ they would not be terribly receptive. What is it about poetry that allows other people’s words, rearranged and tweaked, to become a new person’s art? Is there a rule for how much can be ‘found’ from one source, or how much it must be changed to become new? How do we determine when someone has simply added line breaks to another’s thoughts and claimed ‘originality’? Could the author have gotten across this theme better using his own original words, or is there something especially poignant in those recollected phrases from ‘America the Beautiful’?


Diana Marie Delgado’s “Correspondance”

When choosing a poem that stood out to me, I just kind of flipped through the book hoping that a cool title or interesting format would catch my eye. I stumbled upon “Correspondance” and the long-lined couplets grabbed my attention. Then I started reading and wow. This poem. You know when you read a poem and you wish you had written it? Yeah, there are some lines in here that articulate feelings that I’ve never known how to articulate. Delgado starts by bringing us “deep in the moth hour.” What an incredible way to signify time, space, and mood! These wow moments just keep happening for me: In the next stanza, “the real me slipped out like a hiccup,” one stanza later “Mom’s fine, breaking/,” in the fourth stanza “I’ve never seen so much sad architecture,” and the final phrase “Or have you learned how to read in the dark?” This poem is packed with so many moments I admire for their language, their evocative simplicity. Then (thinking about the context of this class), I began to notice the poem’s sound. The subtle rhyme of “moth hour” and “no altar” in the first line, the way the consonants of “crooked…eggshell” play with “crocodile” in line 5, and the way the direct rhyme of “me” and “Z” create a catchy, even playful rhythm which contrasts (yet compliments)  the serious tone of the second stanza, are all sonic achievements just subtle enough, I think, to allow the poem to sing and resonate with me as the reader without hitting me over the head with tricks. This is how I hope to use sound in my own poems.

Suzzane Cleary’s “Echocardiogram”

“How does, how does, how does it work…?” Asks the speaker in “Echocardiogram” as the poem’s opening. I found this poem in the repetition section of Fishhouse, and was pulled in by the title. The first line made me think the repetition would be reminiscent of a heartbeat, since the repetition of “how does, how does,” has the same beat as a heartbeat. However, this only lasts the first line, and soon the repetition becomes a sign of anxiety in the poem. Phrases are repeated, as are words in different contexts, and ideas continued through this repetition. The last few lines is a run-on sentence that uses repetition to drive home that the “house where love lives” is in a small tin shed stuck in a very tumultuous area, representing that the heart is not nearly as protected as the speaker wishes.

“To Certain Students” – V. Penelope Pelizzon

This poem’s title caught my attention, simply because of the relevancy… you know. students.

I loved this poem because it honors the creative writer, the lover of art, music, dance, writing, reading, theater – something I feel like happens less and less these days (exemplified by the pre-law for poetry (“my parents would kill me”). As a Biology-CW double major, I often get asked what I’m planning to do with the biology – the writing is assumed to be a hobby. Especially as, this summer, I considered swinging my career path from biology graduate school to some sort of freelance writing career, this poem struck a chord with me. My parents will definitely kill me.

I think this poem’s last few lines really draw out the beauty of being a writer. I loved how moving the last line was – the idea of young, green things (students) moving this ‘oldest tree’ (presumably the writer, the teacher) to tears. I thought the metaphor was beautiful, especially considering the earlier metaphor of all the cold snow getting in between the trees as she writes about the students I’m assuming do not draw her from stupor at the new day’s bell.

I also have a special love for nature writing, and think that the connection between nature and creativity is incredibly close – it interests me that the author seems to be inside, closed in for the more despondent parts of the poem (the first few stanzas about the ‘non-certain students’) and, in the emotionally evocative sections, she writes more about nature as if she were the nature.

Lastly, I really enjoyed two of the stanza breaks – between stanzas 5 + 6, and 6 + 7. The poem really go stronger for me from 5 – 7, but I loved how the pauses almost made me go back and re-read, as though ‘you who tried to quit’ meant both as though you tried to quit writing, but your heart couldn’t let you and just you who tried to quit pre-law.

Meghan Barrett

After Christian Barter’s “Can You”

Hi everyone!
What caught my eye in this poem was the second line when the speaker says he’s “Addicted to the beginnings of relationships” and I found this to be extremely relatable. Dating someone for the first time is exciting; everything is new and fun and light. He prefaces this with “Can you love the dawn and hate the day?” I think the comparison is great because dawn is a prime example of beginning. He then compares new light of day to his first sighting of a woman named Catherine–which I immediately associated with Wuthering Heights although I don’t believe it has anything to do with the poem. The speaker tells readers of the promising look she gave him “before the promises.” The sounds in this poem are very quiet. When the speaker says “[…] still stuck with sweetness to her face in my notebook of pre-day ecstasies” it is clear he spent a lot of time writing about the woman before they were together, and the “s” sounds make the line dream-like. The last five lines of the poem are more dense with imagery than the beginning. There are a lot of “-ing” words in these lines such as “seeping,” “casting,” “opening,” “ending,” and “inkling.” These words give the end of the poem a feeling of floating or slowly drifting, and I believe Barter wanted this effect because he writes about the world opening. The speaker is waiting for love to come to him.

On Ilya Kaminsky’s “We Lived Happily During the War”

While reading through the assigned poems I accidentally flipped back a page and was immediately intrigued by the line “and when they bombed other people’s houses, we.” The lower case “and” beginning gave the impression of an ongoing dialogue conveying the feeling of being stuck in shock or inner turmoil, almost as if the reader had entered into the middle of a perpetual confession. I didn’t read the title until after reading the first line, and although it wasn’t a difficult leap to make I enjoyed the complexity brought by the concepts of “living” and “happiness” mingling with “war.” As I kept on reading I found myself appreciating the line breaks

“but not enough, we opposed them but not

enough. I was”

that left me with a sense of combined hesitance and breathlessness. I related this combination to the difficulty of acknowledging the moments in which we don’t do enough, or neglect to assume responsibility for the fact that we all exist in ecological communities. The last thing that caught my attention about this poem was the use of parentheses in the second to last line. I think that the parentheses afford the statement “we (forgive us)” a murkiness that is really important here, as it is left to the reader to decide if the speaker is requesting forgiveness from the reader/victims of war or stating the fact that the “we” (a pronoun which likely includes many American readers) have already forgiven one another.

-Christy L. Agrawal

The Boldness of Lucy Anderton’s Sestina

While flipping through Fishouse, I found Lucy Anderton’s “Eve’s Sestina for Adam” and was immediately drawn to its sheer attitude. Here is the unapologetic voice of a woman who wants more and goes for it. Eve’s is a rare voice of female tenacity in a world where “He” (presumably God) “only could hear one side” (presumably that of Adam and all other men). I admire this Eve’s candor (“Clearly put, I was not born to be one / more pretty poppy in that garden”) and go-getter philosophy (“I wanted one / of your ribs. So I took it”). I also like the confessional tone of the poem, as if Eve is someone explaining herself in a police interrogation. Anderton as a poet is also pretty bold, as a sestina is a challenging form to master (and master she has, in this poem). I also thought it was a bold move on the poet’s part to use a homophone in the second stanza for one of her six end-words (“heirs” in place of “air”).

A Response to Steve Scafidi’s “To Whoever Set My Truck on Fire”

The poem that was chosen as the heading for the first “playlist” (since we’re focusing on sound,music, etc.) of poems in the collection, “To Whoever Set My Truck on Fire” caught my attention after the utterance of its first line: “But let us be friends awhile and understand our differences”. After reading the title, I had assumed that the poem would begin with a spiteful, hate-filled voice, but instead it begins with reason. Of course, that’s not to say that the poem doesn’t eventually spiral downward in a flurry of emotions in which the voice once filled with reason is left with sweltering anger. But it wasn’t the voice that urged me to keep reading the poem; it was the format. A poem of 8 quintains (hopefully I’m using that term correctly) with one period and 8 commas is not for the faint of heart. The quintains and the white space between them would normally force readers to slow down, but the lack of punctuation creates a burst in speed that not only lends to the poem but to the dynamism of the voice/narrator on display. There is narrative here, most evident in the voice’s sudden awakening to their burning vehicle but also in the exposition that follows right up until the very end. But the poem is also lyrical because of its great lack of punctuation–there is a loss of air because of its wordiness; because of the space that it takes up on the page. The poem has its fallacies, especially towards the end when the speaker’s violent musings come to the surface; the lyricism and complexity lessens. I suppose I mention this piece because long-lined poems scare me, and the fact that Scafidi can pull off the technique confidently without a reasonable amount of punctuation makes me jealous. And to go even further than that, at the end of the day, my jealousy is simply another form of great admiration.