Archive for the ‘Group 3’ Category

“Winter Field” by Ellen Bryant Voigt

Tuesday, November 7th, 2006

“The winter field is not

the field of summer lost in snow; it is

another thing, a different thing.

“We shouted, we shook you,” you tell me,

but there was no sound, no face, no fear, only

oblivion–why shouldn’t it be so?

After they’d pierced a vien and fished me up,

after they’d reeled me back they packed me under

blanket on top of blanket, I trembled so.

The summer field, sun-fed, mutable,

has its many tasks; the winter field

becomes its adjective.

For those hours

I was some other thing, and my body,

which you have long loved well,

did not love you.”

I really like this poem and what she does with the concept of a “winter field.” What is more like oblivion than a winter field? What is more cold and useless in its expanse than the winter field? I think this image is what I was trying to achieve in one of my poems. I also really like how the image of the winter field is interwoven with that of the speaker’s body, who “did not love you” while it was like a winter field. A summer field is loved, is played on, is used; a winter field is just an empty space.

Reccomendation – The Cobweb by Raymond Carver

Monday, October 30th, 2006

The Cobweb

A few minutes ago, I stepped onto the deck
of the house. From there I could see and hear the water,
and everything that’s happened to me all these years.
It was hot and still. The tide was out.
No birds sang. As I leaned against the railing
a cobweb touched my forehead.
It caught in my hair. No one can blame me that I turned
and went inside. There was no wind. The sea
was dead calm. I hung the cobweb from the lampshade.
Where I watch it shudder now and then when my breath
touches it. A fine thread. Intricate.
Before long, before anyone realizes,
I’ll be gone from here.

This has been one of the most rewarding poems to read again and again. I notice more connotations and implications of small details every time I go through it. There really is not a lot of bulk there, but for such a short poem he is able to bring quite a lot across. The terse four and five word sentences are distant almost to the point of abstraction or complete dissasociation – it really paints a bleak picture. Hope you enjoy it…

Virginia M. Heatter

Wednesday, October 18th, 2006


This is the sky where it meets
the water’s surface.

This is the wet ridge of it,
the line between life and drowning.

This is the glow of embers rising
against the rigors of evergreen.

This is a ring of large stones,
and in the nostrils, cedar burning.

This is the sound, still throbbing
in the ear canal, of translucence

passing through narrow tubes.
This is the salt of confluence,

and the sweet of imperfection.
This is melody, harmony, silence.

And this —

is the dead space, the rift
behind the gums, that hollow.

I like this.

Couplets are neat.

The “this is” thing is kind of overdone (i’ve done it myself), but it works I think.

“the rift behind the gums” is a great line. Also, the whole thing has nice sound.

Mmmmmm, words.

Tuesday, October 3rd, 2006

My Name Is Donald

Like a fish on a hedge, the horsefly
Lands on my wife’s lipstick.
That is sobriety.
That is the end of my hayride with oblivion.
I wonder: How long will it be until no one
Knows what a hayride is,
Or was? I’ve never been,
But the happiness I’ve seen in movies —
All the kids piled up in hay & a fiddler driving —
Is very real. It was real for a while.
Only a child can watch a movie sober.
He is younger than the mule pulling the wagon.
He is unshamed by the fiddler’s expertise.
His birth trumps all, which is to say he’s flying.

–Donald Revell

OK, I love it. But do I get it? I’m not sure.

It kind of reminds me of Faulkner-meets-JohnAshbery-meets-billycollins or something. (I know, enough Billy Collins already)

The hayride stream-of-consciousness is great. The words transient, nostalgic, youthful, rural, and tradition[al] all come to mind. Maybe I only think of Faulkner because of the thing about the fish… like My Mother is a fish… or whatever.
“Only a child can watch a movie sober,” what an interesting line. I wonder how much sobriety refers to alcohol and how much it refers to coming to terms with mortality. Oblivion suggests mortality. What is sobriety? The realization of something dangerously unexpected. A horsefly on lipstick, for example. Then how is a child sober? Perhaps, a child is able to make realizations with more clarity, with more acceptance. There are less preconcieved certanties with children.

The ending is so positive. Life trumps all. Surprisingly positive in light of the rest of the poem: a hayride with oblivion and whatnot. “He is flying,” though, suggests a connection with the horsefly–the cause of sobriety.

I suppose that children bring about a sort of sobriety as well as experience it.

There’s a lot more that could be said about this one. I like it.

A short short poem

Thursday, September 28th, 2006

I wrote this poem over summer and i’d love to hear some feedback on it.

yes, it’s a true story:

clean out yr car

In my trunk, I have a shoe.
One shoe–I lost its brother
moving I think, but I keep it
in case I find the other.

Poetry Daiy: Monkey Mind by Steve Orlen

Tuesday, September 26th, 2006

When I was a child I had what is called an inner life.
For example, I looked at that girl over there
In the second aisle of seats and wondered what it was like
To have buck teeth pushing out your upper lip
And how it felt to have those little florets the breasts
Swelling her pajama top before she went to sleep.
Walking home, I asked her both questions
And instead of answering she told her mother
Who told the teacher who told my father.
After all these years, I can almost feel his hand
Rising in the room, the moment in the air of his decision,
Then coming down so hard it took my breath away,
And up again in that small arc
To smack his open palm against my butt.
I’m a slow learner
And still sometimes I’m sitting here wondering what my father
Is thinking, blind and frail and eighty-five,
Plunged down into his easy chair half the night
Listening to Bach cantatas. I know he knows
At every minute of every hour that he’s going to die
Because he told my mother and my mother told me.
I didn’t cry or cry out or say I’m sorry.
I lay across his lap and wondered what
He could be thinking to hit a kid like that.

I think this is an interesting poem. The title seems to me to be doing alot of work; I think of a monkey jumping all over the place, and a child on the monkey bars. This child/speaker certainly had a curious mind, hopping from one idea to the next. Orlen also writes that “I know he knows At every minute of every hour that’s he’s going to die” which makes me think that the child’s curious mind didn’t know that it should stop–it ceased only because it was hit.

Since we’re posting favorites and all…

Thursday, September 21st, 2006

Here’s a contemporary poem by Franz Wright that I really enjoy:

Church of the Strangers

We were wandering
the vast church—
Our Lady of the Strangers
No audience, and
no magician in sight.
Watching the one trick he knows every day
must get boring.
I have an idea.
What if you were faced every morning
with taking
from the golden chalice
a sip of the real
thing, the black throat-gripping
tear-savor raised
to its intended purpose
here, nausea
and panic of abandonment
by the world, your own friend,
flowing into, joining
and haunting your blood.
Because no symbol’s going to help us.
I mean it,
really gagging it down
if you dared to pity
the ones being tortured right about now
and experience, not your own pain for a change,
but your helpless desire to assist them.
Who knows? You might get around to it
someday, that is
at least admit that you believe in their existence:
this shouldn’t be so hard. Remember?
Once you believed in some bearded son-of-a-bitch
who looked just like your grandpa,
the one who stuffed his baggy pockets
with quarters to get you to reach for his dick.
Millions of people grew up believing in him
so this won’t be too hard. We have to live
in the dark ages now, and I use that term
literally– the last one
was a carnival. There are no symbols
with the efficacy we require.
Blood, baby. This
might be worth showing up for.
No more secret contempt
for this childishly earnest
abracadabra by which wine is turned into wine,
while half the planet’s getting crucified
and nobody notices. Yeah–
downed in a straight shot of blood till you puke
might get your attention at least.
But I’d bet pretty damned few
would be able
to make it,
even Sundays. Hell,
no one comes as it is; only
you and me, trespassing
during the off hours…
Just wandering through the vast
void, with its dark
golden light from noplace, breathing in
the illuminated motes
of dust and incense–
you and me, characteristically
lost somewhere off in our own
spooky corners
daydreaming, too far away
to whisper the name
of the other, alone, maybe
meeting each other by accident
as everyone must do.


I’ve looked at this poem quite a few times, and I’m still not so sure about the Santa part, but the rest of it is great. The only thing I can kind of decipher with that is the thought that maybe the line “not your own pain for a change” somehow ties to the quarters in Santa’s pocket.

Anyhow, the image of actual blood instead of wine for communion is great. Just great. It makes a great comment on how strange it is that (symbolically) eating the flesh and blood of Jesus Christ is now part of a pleasant, expected, nonchallenging Church experience. Eat a wafer and sip some grape juice. It’s normal. But what it represents is so far from normal. Cannibalism? That’s about as far from socially acceptable as it gets. So the poem begs the question: How has this Symbolic Cannibalism of the Son of God become an everyday, hum-drum affair? And if the shock of the reality of that event really hit people, would they be so ready to accept such a ritual?

It’s very much what Noam Chomsky talks about as the purpose of poetry–taking something we’re trained to see as normal and revitalizing it by decontextualizing it. I knew that linguistics class would be good for something…


Thursday, September 21st, 2006

“That is the advantage of making up rules. If they are working, they should lead you to better writing. If they don’t, you’ve made up the wrong rules” (43)

I can’t help but make up rules as I make things–be it songwriting, lyric writing, poetry writing, art, or whatever–and I think that quote sums up why. Imposing restrictions on oneself is a perfect way to channel creativity into something structured and beautiful. And if the rules start to hinder the final result, throw them out! That’s usually the hardest part, at least if the rules have worked in the past. It’s the whole “kill all your darlings” thing. If something works, use it, but once it stops working, throw it away. Sometimes its hard to admit when something no longer works.

In any case, it seems to be a pretty common piece of advice from poets–make up rules, or games, or whatever you want to call them. They are what keep you interested and what give you a direction, formally.

But never be afraid to revise them, to break them, to throw them out, or to do whatever has to be done for the sake of the piece.

Poetry Daily Response

Tuesday, September 19th, 2006

Two Degrees and Falling by Barbara Lau

Sometimes nature, subbing for God,
has to throw her weight around, pin us
to the mat. It’s two degrees and falling
into a bone-whittling cold. The moon gleams
like a glass eye. Train whistles freeze in midair.
Inside, swags of frost cling to the windows.
We light fires as if man had just invented them.
We prop cabinets open so the pipes won’t burst,
and stare at the blank bird feeder,
the stark backyard now one thick strip of ice.
How can the stray cat, the redbird couple,
possibly survive? Will the mountainous pine
come crashing through our attic?

We get groggy on the dregs of Christmas
cognac, watch the kids wrestling by the hearth
like that scene from Women in Love
except they must keep on their flannels.
We wince when the lights flick off
and remember tales of the Donner party.
We’re grateful for matches, candles, canned
soup, blankets, beds, each other’s bodies.

Morning comes. The window frames
a freeze-dried kind of stillness
until two red and taupe shapes
swoop onto the feeder, alert, waiting.

I like this poem because of the cold images it conjures up. Hearing nothing but the cold and a train whistle feels freezing to me. I love how the moon is described as a “glass eye.” Sometimes it is so cold out it seems like everything is glass; it’s untouchable its so freezing. Also, I like how the author sympathizes with “the stray cat, the redbird couple.” While everyone is inside seemingly all warm and cozy, the animals are outside in the cold.

The Triggering Town

Friday, September 15th, 2006

From the first page of chapter 3, Assumptions.

“…assumptions are necessary elements in a successful base of writing operations. It is important that a poet not question his or her assumptions, at least not in the middle of composition. Finish the poem first, then worry, if you have to, about being right or sane.”

Hugo uses this chapter to show us just how vast our subject matter can be, and thusly how important it is that we pay attention to the subject. The list of assumptions that he “always assumes at least one of” is filled with pairs of opposites or examples that are inverted forms of each other. I found this part of the book very refreshing, almost a relief once I saw how Hugo really viewed the possibilities of form.