Losing poems, & why do good poets get to use abstractions and I can’t

A few months ago, I received a great poem in my inbox. I get those every morning, thanks to my subscription to Poem-A-Day from the Academy of American Poets (Plugging not because I’m getting paid but because Poem-A-Day is awesome. ) But, this poem took me a little.

I forgot what the poem was called, or who wrote it. I remembered that the poem was about poetry. I remembered that the poem was almost all couplets . I remember it asking about what does “everyone else caress.” Lastly, I remember that the poem was full of abstractions, and that I loved it.

I’d lost the authors name, though, and couldn’t find the poem in my inbox since I forgot the title too. I looked everywhere for the poem about poetry. I didn’t read for what was probably six months.

The other day I got  a new poem that closely resembled the other one. The poem was in a very different form– it’s a prose poem in a block-format– but a line made me think it was the same author as before.

“You must take the fear of normalcy and the aerodynamics of emotions that fuel the sense of the present and jerk it to a gluttonous love.”

Again, so full of abstractions but somehow still relatable. “Normally,” “emotions,” “love”– all in one sentence. Why does it work for you, Prageeta Sharma? Why do I feel that I understand those lines? For me, the words “aerodynamics,” “gluttonous,”  and “jerk” ground me in the emotions and concepts in the poem. Aerodynamics is a concept, but it’s scientific, so it feels real to me in its basis in hard science and measurement, perhaps? Gluttonous, although an adjective, has hard g and u sounds that sound gurgle and stomach-like. And jerk is a such a quick, quippy unapologetic action.

I guess it might be about the very careful use of words. To frame abstract words in other words that have a strong sensory component, even if those words are rarely used in the poem. Every time I read poems like Sharma’s, I want to write like that, but the abstractions just end up taking me to my eleventh grade writing days. Do you guys have any ideas on how to successfully use abstraction in poetry? Should I just wait until I’m more seasoned? Do you need an MFA?

I read Sharma’s poem, “Seattle Sun,” and then was able to find the other one, called “Belonging as Consequence: on Poetry.” You can find both of these poems below:

Belonging as Consequence: On Poetry

Seattle Sun

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