Thursday, June 26, 2008

Welcome to the poet's room

Here is the place for poetry-related subjects, for looking at my process, and for some teaching. I will post at least once a week, with thoughts and at least once a week with some idea or lesson. 

Today for example, I bought a couple new books, including Susan Woolridge's book on craft as it springs from unexpected non-poetic spaces. I am excited to get that and a book I bought on line. I think a lot about line and its importance. More specifically, I think about ends and beginnings. I get very frustrated with poems where the end words seem capriciously chosen by the poet. When I see throwaway words such as "for" or "the" at the end of a line I grimace and wonder what the hell the poet was doing there. These words do NOTHING for me as far as advancing the line or the feeling or the stanzaic power. Call me crazy, but I like to be shoved into uncommon spaces and motivated to keep going. With so many amazing oems out there, why read on when the words drip in stasis at the ends of lines. I think it is RARE that these throwaway words DO something there at the ends of lines.

Beginning words are important too (just ask the French who believe these more important than the end words!) I look for words that zip and zing at the fronts of lines and stanzas.  I recently taught an online class (ask how YOU can take one of these from me) and asked the students to seriously consider the ends and beginnings and to stretch the limits of using words of power in both places. We got some AMAZING results. You will too.


  1. Here's my poem, with words from Musee Des Beaux Arts by Auden.

    Some disasters splash, their cry
    disappearing into a green corner.
    Everyone wonders if someone, anyone
    ever understood their suffering.
    Standing, walking, did they ever
    take the exact position that means
    waiting -- a window into failure,
    a forgotten tree hiding from sky?
    Everything turns to wood.
    Don’t forget the sun, how it shone.

    Ellen Goldsmith

  2. VOWS

    No one ever forgets the love
    that was a mistake, an ocean full
    of fading stars, failing triumphs.
    The field this morning rains
    with summer light, false promises.
    In afternoon, the sky listens
    as I rehearse a marriage vow
    even though I was married thirty
    years ago and can’t remember
    the people, the food, that vow.

    Ellen Goldsmith
    Words from Jack Gilbert’s Failing and Flying


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