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« Thanksgiving 1977, Albany NY by Stacey Harwood | Main | Birthday, Thanksgiving, Black Friday [by Jennifer Michael Hecht] »

November 25, 2010


Steamed Bosoms for all!

For my part, and I'm guessing this isn't only true for me, I don't have a single way or approach or process. Like being a person - different pressures and different occasions and different enticements evoke and necessitate different behaviors. I have different poetry behaviors. Sometimes I feel deeply comforted by a kind of plan - I don't write much metrical form but I do think of myself as someone curious about the architecture of a poem. I like to find a scaffolding within which to build. But other times I find the poems have been sort of coalescing (often subconsciously) over a long time and they sort of write themselves. Sometimes writing, like being a human, feels like a negotiation between what you can influence and what influences you. And like being, in writing I think that negotiation is dynamic and various. We repeat patterns and behaviors, we find realms of comfort, we push ourselves into new and uncharted territory. We risk, we succeed, or we don't, we try again. And if we do it long enough and often enough, every now and then we make something that pleases us. Which to me is the crucial thing: Understanding what pleases us, and when we've made that or haven't. Not sure if that answers your question, Jessie, but that is my friendly attempt at a contribution to your clever, warm and thankful blog! Love to you and your fam, and snuggle Jilly for me!

Happy Thanksgiving, J and J!

Much to think about, JP. I have learned over time that for myself, planning and contrivance are the agents of frustration and disappointment in my off the page life, but a salvation in writing poetry (and prose). My dinner party is never as sleek and elegant and effervescent as it was in my head; the Christmas cards NEVER get written and i feel far worse than if i hadn't decided last year tat this year i'd definitely do it. My grand designs for beauty and order in earthly life fall flat, time after time.

As a poet I am an unrepentent, unreconstructed formslut, and it's rare that I feel i've written anything worth its bits and bytes if i don't start with some kind of high concept, whether thematic, structural, both, or something else. Once in an MFA workshop a frustrated colleague looked up from a draft of one of my poems (a fussy inverted ballad form i'd invented to my own great self-congratulatory excitement) and wailed "You're so gifted with words, Amy -- WHY do you insist on putting these straitjackets on yourself?"

um... nearly 20 years later, my answer is that as hard as it is to define poetry (or art generally), one constant seems to be that it is opportunity arising from constraint. For me, most of the felicitous accidents that make the poem could not surface without having the isometric tension of a structural rulebook. A contrivance. a plan. You have to have one to break it. and that point of breakage is where all the fabulous happens. If you're lucky and able to persevere.

Off to jog in advance of culinary contrivance. And to ponder why there's such a divide for me between the on-page and off-page relationship with The Rules.

Thankful, to you, for something other than turkey to chew on. Love!

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"Lively and affectionate" Publishers Weekly


I left it
on when I
left the house
for the pleasure
of coming back
ten hours later
to the greatness
of Teddy Wilson
"After You've Gone"
on the piano
in the corner
of the bedroom
as I enter
in the dark

from New and Selected Poems by David Lehman


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