Friday, April 16, 2010
Between Water and Song
Last night I went to a poetry reading at Marian University to celebrate the publication of my friend Norman Minnick’s new anthology, Between Water and Song: New Poets for the Twenty-First Century. David Shumate, a Marian professor and prose poet, began the program with this poem from the anthology, by Ruth Forman:
why so afraid to stand up?
someone will tell you
but here is the truth
someone will always tell you
the ones we remember
He said that of his students loved this poem so much he declared he was going to have it tattooed on his body. The student was there, he admitted he hadn’t done this quite yet, but…he might. Which I hope he does—not because I like tattoos; I don’t, particularly—but because I think it’s such a fabulous example of how the right poem can totally blow you away.
It’s not the same poem for everyone. I’ve taken to reading poetry collections the same way I look at paintings in a museum—wandering through, letting myself be drawn to the work that seems to have been made just for me. Like Vermeer’s “View of Delft” or Jill Bialosky’s “Another Loss to Stop For,” which I carry, folded up in my wallet.
Malina Morling, whose work is featured in the anthology, said that when her high school English teacher read “The Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” aloud to the class she knew suddenly, absolutely that she wanted to be a poet.
Talking about how she collects the details and sentences that make their way into her poems, she observed that writing poems is a lot like remembering dreams. People often say they don’t dream or they don’t remember dreams, but if they make an effort to remember their dreams—they do. Poetry is like that, she said. If you make up your mind to write poems and keep writing them, the things you notice start to make themselves into poems.
I was glad I went to the reading last night. It made me remember that, in the right frame of mind, the whole world becomes a poem--and a a single wonderful poem can crack open the universe with its astonishing, ordinary truth.
Like this one by Norman Minnick:
While You Work
While you sit at your desk
water striders dance upon the surface of a pond,
high, thin clouds stretch across the sky,
and acres of tall grass, reticent after a long dry summer,
practice nothing but grace.