Archive for the ‘Group 2’ Category

Adhesive Force (TT quote)

Friday, September 22nd, 2006

pg. 45:

“Connections are not stated, yet we know the three statements are connected. The are connected because the same poet wrote all three. That is, they are products of one vision that, along with style, becomes the adhesive force. This adhesive force will be your way of writing. Assume the next thing belongs because you put it there. The real reason may be clearer later.”

i think this is a very important thing to remember when reading and writing poetry. in putting together the various lines that make up a poem, it is to be assumed that the poet has an overarching idea that holds together all the lines and all the ideas; what Hugo calls the “adhesive force”. in reading a poem, we assume that all statements are related, and that by understanding their relation, we can understand the meaning/significance of the poem. it is important to remember that most readers will carry this assumption into reading the poem, thus we must make sure we have a unifying force running throughout our poem. obviously, we should have some kind of idea of the poem’s subject and theme, but i think it is also important to have consistent tone so that different elements don’t seem out of place and confuse the reader in his or her attempts to unlock the meaning of the piece.

Patrick Phillips, “What Happens”

Friday, September 22nd, 2006

What Happens


What happens never happens on its own.
The future and the past collide.

I’ve known a radio to go on playing
the song that it was playing

just before my father’s Pontiac began to slide—
the past so stubbornly persistent

even Jimi Hendrix would not stop wailing
just because my face was broken

and the rain was blowing
through what had been a windshield—

spot-lit figures clutching their knees
and sobbing in the grass

as Jimi shrieked and shrieked out of the past,
until finally I found the knob

I’d cranked in my euphoria, just before
the gods let loose their wrath.


And sometimes what happens
must happen more than once,

as when my friend died and the news
reached me in a cabin on a hillside,

where I presided over row
after row of sleeping campers.

The head counselor had whispered
through a moth-flecked screen,

then stood beside the stump
where I sat smoking and crying

and talking about what happened
until there was nothing left but sleep.

But by the time I was awakened
I’d forgotten, and for an hour

he was alive somewhere.
And I was showered, shaved,

and halfway down the mountain
when a twig snapped, and he died.

And sometimes what happens
doesn’t even happen,

like when it was time
for my wife to push

and she pushed so hard
the screen flatlined.

So hard the heart stopped
and the whole room began

to flash and beep, like on TV.
Nurses streamed through doors

and in an instant we were childless.
We wandered through our days.

The doctors worked and worked
and nothing happened.

And it was then I knew for sure
that nothing cares for us.

And I was changed.
And I have never been the same

though I’ve learned
to pretend I do not know

what can happen and un-happen
in no more time than it would take

an angel or a devil to descend into my wife,
and pass through her into my son,

who was miraculously born into this world,
where everywhere and always

hearts are stopping for no reason.
and for no reason, starting up again.


i found this poem very powerful, especially in the first section. i was pulled in by the lines “even Jimi Hendrix would not stop wailing / just because my face was broken”. the entire poem has a certain bluntness about it, but i think this line is particularly striking because of the idea of a broken face. this general, ambiguous description is far more effective and jarring than pinpointing a particular facial injury, and becomes all the more effective when the catastrophe of the crash is paired with the persistence of the radio in spite of the destruction and trauma. the rest of the poem adds to the tone set in the first section, and by the end, it becomes a very succesful reflection on the transcience of life and also of death. one aspect that somewhat distracted me however, was the pairing of the two lines together. i can understand how this technique is used to lend rhythm to the poem, but i can’t decide whether or not it would have been better without this sort of sing-songy rhthym. as is, i think it helps the flow, and makes certain lines and elements of the narrative stick out, however, i can’t help but think that for the subject matter, it would be much more dramatic without this division. but maybe the only reason it’s dramatic at all is because of this juxtaposition?

Poetry Daily: Miss Brevity

Tuesday, September 19th, 2006

Miss Brevity

I made the gown myself from minutes
held together with safety pins, and

wore it as I wafted through the nursery
pouring light all over the crowns
of their heads. All

those ghostly babies in their rows. Oh,

you swear you’ll remember us forever,
but you won’t.

Laura Kasischke

There are so many images I enjoy in this poem. The act of pouring light, for one, and the ambiguity of the first line (either they are the minutes held together by safety pins, or the newborn’s gown itself). Delivery room nurses must have a wonderful job. My mom used to hold that position, and it never seemed like work, she said. Caring for newborns is knowing how to give unconditional love, immediately, to something that can’t return it.

The images of the ghostly faces lined in rows also speaks of nurses of another kind, using that same unconditional love to save endangered lives.

The title speaks volumes, for nurses are rarely addressed by their first name, even though their lives are so personally connected to the patient, even if only for a brief time. Calling her “Miss” rather that “Mrs.” emphasizes the singularity of her position towards the many she cares for. It also coincides with how children address their first pre-school teachers or caretakers, Miss so and so, rather than the plain name.

enough with the cliche love poems

Sunday, September 17th, 2006

From Poetry daily:

“First Love”

They say

the first love’s most important.

That’s very romantic,

but thats not my experience.

Something was and wasn’t there between us,

something went on and went away.

My hands never tremble

when I stumble on silly keepsakes

and a sheaf of letters tied with a string

–not even ribbon.

Our only meeting after years:

two chairs chatting

at a chilly table.

Other loves

still breathe deep inside of me.

This one’s too short of breath to even sigh.

Yet just exactly as it is

it does what the others still can’t to manage:


not even seen in dreams,

it introduces me to death.

-Wislawa Szymborska

I actually chose this poem because I hated it. No really, I thought it was terrible. And I also picked it because I thought it fit exactly into what Hugo was talking about when he said don’t talk about/write about huge things: death, hate, grief, LOVE.

I really had a problem with the language in this poem. If you’re going to write a love poem, I feel like you have to do everything in your power to avoid cliches, which to me, is damn near impossible. Love itself is cliche. The letters image, and worst of all the “chairs chatting” image are both images that have been overdone.

It made me think about how I would write a love poem. I think there are a lot of images about love that can still be mentioned in a poem. I read this short essay by David Sedaris once about love and his relationship with his boyfriend and how they always fight, they know each others routine, they don’t even talk or look at each other when they go out to dinner, but they love each other, and thats what happens in long-term relationships: you become routine. I think I would like to write a poem about that. Theres still somethings that could be said in love poems.

Waterfall at Journey’s End, by Neil Shepard

Thursday, September 14th, 2006

Yet another metamorphic
swimming hole, waterfall
where language fails.

Gneiss, schist, slate.
You can hear nouns meta-
morphose to verbs, gnarl, shiver, split,

then strip down, tumble
in granitic kettle-holes
and camouflage themselves

in green water, green
because pines hang
above the fault line

and shade language
from blue-blank sky where some-
body’s watching, listening

to the syllables of delight.
This is the place of pre-
delight, before the light

blinked on in our fore-
brains and pained us with fore-
knowing. No, this place

delivers a hiss, a wordless
rush through gray clefts,
the high chattering scream

of being submerged in momentary
cold so cold the body knows
undeniably, indelibly,

these are the high walls
of journey’s end, of anaerobic
last-gasp, body-turning

blue. And tongues become
like limbs trying to climb
the high cliffs of death

to clutch a purchase
on exposed outcrops
where words can sink

their cleats, pitons,
grappling hooks, inventions
that turn humans pre-

human: moss-crawler, rock-clasper,
some thing attached to cold stone
that owns no language—

micaceous, gneiss-spark,
fissile schist, granite-fault—

that goes on climbing

as if it were stone-dumb,
attached by its tongue
to the thing, the very thing.

I really liked this poem because it reminded me of the British Romantics, and their penchant for nature and appreciation of its power over imagination. I also like writing about nature and using language to try to capture and express the majesty of simple things, such as the waterfall in Shepard’s poem. The part of the poem that really was the hook for me was in the first stanza where he in describing the spot he has found, writes: “where language fails”. I thought this was an excellent description. Sometimes in a scene, especially a great spectacle of nature, there is just too much good going on to even put it into words. All you can do is drink it in. Along with this, the lines: “This is the place of pre-/ delight, before the light / blinked on in our fore- / brains and pained us with fore- / knowing.” also struck me. I found it very effective to classify a place this way, as so serene yet powerful that it takes us out of our own minds almost, and gives a glimpse the world untarnished by our own expectations.

The Yellow Curtain

Wednesday, September 13th, 2006

The Yellow Curtain

                                                                     Edouard Vuillard, c. 1893
I woke into a sheet of gold unspooled
and still unspent, a wealth you know.

For once, though it was everywhere—
the bedclothes were stitched with tumbling waves of it

all shifting westward in imperfect perpendiculars
through windows to where a buoy bobbed and tugged,

like an anchor dredging deeper hues, the sun.
And I was bobbing too, hand dangling from a dream

in which I’d stopped at the pollenous heart of every thing,
had bloomed like a single drop of water from the tap

that gathers light and works light’s little knives
until it seemed no one could look at it too closely and survive.

Maybe that’s why my eyes stayed shut,
though I could feel gold brushing them with whirring wings,

and why the practical boats didn’t make for harbor
though the city hung before them clear as a postcard,

and why the room’s wallpaper rioted with verbenum
everywhere but in the brilliant mirror, which, on most days,

pretends it’s a porthole looking out
on nothing more spendthrift than the sea.


This poem is written by Terri Witek.

I read this poem both before and after googling the title and the artist, which then gave me a link to the painting it is based off of.

I think I liked the poem better before I saw the painting, especially because of lines like “the bedclothes were stitched with tumbling waves of it” and “I could feel glod brushing them with whirring wings”  — these lines jumped out in my mind as things that can only be expressed in words, not through paint. I was disappointed at first, with the painting and then with the poem, because the images in my mind didn’t match the painting (that yellow looks more like mustard than gold!) but then I think I realized that the poem spoke louder than the painting, giving the subject a voice (“I”) and providing a setting outside the room. 

Maybe the poem has to do with the overwhelming task the poet feels in translating a story from a mysterious figure with her back turned to us: that it is the immense possibility that is “why my eyes stayed shut.”


Triggering Town

Tuesday, September 12th, 2006

“I find words beautiful that ring with psychic truth and sound meant. If such a choice were possible, I would far rather mean what I say that say what I mean. To use language well requires self-sacrifice, even giving up pet ideas.”

I definitely agree with this idea. Several times, when trying to write a poem, I might come up with a phrase I like or have a good idea, but later, I will realize that either the phrase really just doesn’t fit, or that the idea isn’t actually what i need to be saying. I think it’s important, as students of poetic compostion, to remember that, as Hugo says, sometimes sacrafices are necessary and also, that it is important to remember that an important part of poetry is the basic aesthetics of the language. We must remember this even when it necessitates abandoning ideas that very much appealed to us.

Triggering Town quote

Tuesday, September 12th, 2006

howdy howdy howdy. the quote that stuck with me the most in TT is on page 6:

“You owe reality nothing and the truth about your feelings everything.”

This quote was at first a little confusing, mainly because Hugo wrote that one owes the reality nothing followed by the truth about your feelings everything (the word choice is kind of weird, I’m sure it was intentional or something). I think the reason this quote stuck with me is because I believe it really sums up one’s job as a poet. my only qualm with it is that it seems extremely personal, but I suppose that why one writes as a poet at times. it doesn’t matter if you can’t get the names of certain people right; what matters is how it works for the poem (ultimately, how it works for you in the poem).

Triggering Town quote

Sunday, September 10th, 2006

“I would never try to locate a serious poem in a place where physical evidence suggests that the people there find it relatively easy to accept themselves…” (6)

I think this is a rather bold statement, which can also be interpreted as a metaphor for the process of writing poetry. Both poems and towns undergo many alterations to try to reach a higher level of perfection. But there will always be a critic, after the fact, that suggests a better way of doing it. If there weren’t any critics, who would care?