As much as I try to stay in the moment, it seems all my
attention, as an editor, goes to the forthcoming issue as soon as the current
issue is shipped across the country and over the seas. So, writing these posts
has given me the excuse to read through our catalogue, which, despite
commonsense and the laws of economics, is now twenty issues deep. It’s been a
thrill to re-discover poems, not that I had forgotten them, not at all, but,
like re-connecting with old friends, I had forgotten how satisfying it was to
be in their company. High in the sky someone ate a peanut and accepted
We tend to think of forgetting as a malfunction of some sort, yet much of what we forget is evidence of a functioning memory. The world would be too much if our brains didn’t slough off the vast majority of it. But I can’t help thinking that how we remember by forgetting resembles how we write poetry. Memory selects but a handful of sensations and their corresponding people, actions, things, etc., to archive in the brain’s wet network. Those selected inevitably accrue added significance, which is to say they become concentrated. The poet makes similar selections and cuts with hopes of yielding similar results.
Maybe another way of saying it is that the successful poet possesses the facility for intense focus on the page, extracting from her experience, imagination, or both, a rich distillate to share with her readers. This power of focus is one of the things that I love and admire about Mary Ruefle’s poem “Cardamom Buds,” which first appeared in “Past Imperfect: The Trouble with Remembering and Forgetting,” Conduit #11. Mary’s voice, strong and firm, strides, despite her speaker’s somewhat agitated and fragile emotional state, through this poem, from 30,000 feet to the kitchen counter. The world is there and the world falls away leaving speaker and reader there, alone.
I almost forgot to write that this is my last dispatch for The Best American Poetry blog. Thanks for reading.
-- William Waltz
a complimentary beverage, Mr. Rabbit’s corduroy robe
was taken off and put on nine times in the next seat,
a spatula was made in a factory far below
and one who had lost the habit of marveling took it home
and turned things over. Undoubtedly I still loved you
and man remained an inexpressible island of grief.
It began to rain, and I don’t know if I was alone or
by myself (was I washing my hands or the bar of soap?)
but the growing season was over. The rain came nonetheless
and I saw with intense thankfulness a few cardamom buds
lying on the counter. Nothing else mattered!
I was no longer a zebra lost among birches,
and the great beauty of my upward striving
was received with intense thankfulness
by no one in particular. Tea was in order.
I sat at the counter and let life sketch me.
I blushed at first, believing I took up too much space.
I crossed and uncrossed my legs. I folded and unfolded\
my hands. I couldn’t move much more than that,
for on the other side of the room your ghost stood,
waving a palette. Come over here! it cried,
I’ll make you as small as you like!
But I stayed where I was, and dropped the cardamom buds
in my tea, certain the summons couldn’t possibly apply to me.
-- Mary Ruefle
High in the sky someone ate a peanut and accepted