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.


The Depth of Words

Dan Albergotti’s poem “Bad Language” drew me in with its first line, “We fear to speak, and silence coats the night air.” I love when writers use such phrases. They are immediately effective because I can relate to what the speaker is saying. I have experienced such a silence, one that I become drenched in, enveloped, encased.

I love the vulnerability the speaker reveals: “Don’t leave me alone with self- / knowledge.” I often feel the same way. I think often writers cannot express their feelings except in writing, but even in writing we experience insecurity when others read what we have to say. How then can we tell others our desires? “Understand me,” the speaker says. Is this is a plea or a demand? With the complications of language the speaker illustrates, I like to think it is both.

All Effect- Anthony Deaton

From the Fishouse is divided into ten different section which range from eulogies to poems that focus on wordplay. I was drawn in by the section titled “Spangling the Sea: Poems with Convincing Consonance and Chimes of Internal Rhyme.” I wanted to look at poems that more obviously focused on their language use, and picking one from this section seemed like the best bet. I read All Effect by Anthony Deaton. What drew me in at first was his use of the words season and reason. He used kept pairing the word reason with the word this. When I read these words out loud I kept hearing the word “season” buried within the words “this reason.” I thought that was very clever of the poet to be able to use a word three times while only writing it once. He also showed obvious attention to consonants with lines like “written hectic and sky-bitten” and “missiles with shrill flushing / whistles that overbrim.” I also thought his lack of punctuation (he only used one period and one hyphen) was also interesting, but I’m not sure why that stuck out to me. Overall, I thought this poem was very clever and used language/letters in a very careful and thoughtful way.

Sweeney’s “5 O’Clock Poem” at 2 O’Clock

I didn’t have the book for this week, luckily there’s a website that has most of the poems from the book. Upon browsing this selection of poems I decided the 5 O’Clock Poem by Jennifer K. Sweeney is one of the poems which is most attractive to me. I don’t want to say favorite, because lately I’ve been questioning much about what it means to like or favorite something, and the reasons behind why I like some things vs. others. I use the word attractive because after reading multiple poems once, this poem is quite literally the one that I was attracted to without any analysis or reflection. The truth is I don’t know why I like this specific poem. Is it because it’s easier for me to comprehend than other poems? Because this specific poet appeals to my style of understanding and writing than others? Or is it because she used specific strategies to get me to like her poetry?  There are some vague ideas I have about why I like it. The language is simple, there is an abstract idea about going against “the current”, eventually giving up and giving into “the current”, which I relate to and which I have been struggling with as of late. And then there’s the language and the imagery of walking down a street, gray and bent; getting on a train; a salmon in a shallow stream.  But there’s much more to this appeal which I’m not aware of. I’m sure this appeal has to do with composition, sound, organization, the break in lines and the choosing of words– the poem is beautiful because the poet made it so. I’m thinking now that maybe all these thoughts are good thoughts to enter this workshop with, considering that maybe by the end of it I’ll be able to know more about certain poems appeal to me and in certain respects,  know more about my likes and dislikes and where they come from.

Christian Barter’s ‘Poem’

I have this thing for syllables. The first thing I do when I read a poem is count the syllables of each line. I enjoy a poem that has the same amount of syllables in each line. Christian Barter does not do this. What he actually does, and what kept me reading, is that he gives you two lines with thirteen syllables, then he gives you two lines with eleven syllables. Then he gives you a line with eight syllables. Christian Barter sets you up for a pattern, of syllables, and then destroys the pattern and starts a new one. But then he goes back to the original pattern of syllables. The effect that I get from this is a sense of being distracted. The person in the poem wakes up with the hope of writing a poem but seems to get distracted by the radio. The person hears Bernstein’s drifting violin. Am I like the person in the poem? Have I started to hear the syllables like the person has started to hear Bernstein? Because of this the poem starts to become less of a poem and more of an experience with sound and the movement of my lips and tongue.

On Anthony Deaton’s ‘An Early Snow and Winter Comes into Kilter’

Upon flitting through the poems in From the Fishouse, I quickly realized that (at least tonight) I’m very interested in structured line breaks and use of white space, both aspects that the assigned poems for the evening were essentially lacking, though all four had a steady and thought-provoking use of enjambment. Starting from the beginning of the collection, fittingly, the first poem that caught my eye was indeed the first poem of the anthology. Deaton’s use of white space and line breaks immediately drew my attention and I was taken with the opening stanza, being a nature-lover myself. After its completion, I was left wondering why they chose this poem to be the first in the anthology; save for the welcoming line towards the end, I thought the poem didn’t embody the sense of sound the assigned poems we read carried. I was intrigued by the repetition of white by the ending, however. Though this poem is mostly regarding the early death a quickening winter can bring, white is often a sort of cleansing colour. All in all, I was taken by this poem and look forward to delving into it more.

is this cheating?

One of the techniques I use when I write poetry is finding random lines that I’ve written scattered in various notebooks, napkins, receipts, etc. and put them all in a hodge-podge on one page and then work with that. Often times the random bits are too disjointed to have them flow, but sometimes I can smush things together and create one jumbo super poem. (Occasionally I’ll put in filler transition lines that helps to bridge from one idea to another) I was wondering if this is somehow cheating. If all these ideas are written in separate headspaces, is it wrong/facetious of me to put them all together as one work? Sometimes it’s even for the aesthetic value, if something sonically is interesting, as opposed to the original meaning I was trying to get at. I’m not sure if this is maybe “lazy” or “untrue”. Thoughts?