Poets on Poetry



L’Animal dans la decoration

Erica Goss

Inexact

                               An Evening With Marvin Bell, 6/28/16, Eugene, Oregon

The man sitting next to me
wears a pink shirt. His smile
is like a sleek rangy animal.
It makes me greedy and grateful
 
at the same time. A woman
sits in front of me. Her
inexact beauty still shimmers
after all these years. Is she grateful?
 
Her husband reads poems
in the voice of a dead man.
He laughs at all of the saddest
parts, checks the time
 
every five minutes, tells us
metaphor is repetition,
asks us to ask him questions.
 
I pat the little animal of my belly.
The man sitting next to me
could be a friend. His shirt
is pink with possibility.
 
In this room we’re all animals,
uneasy but grateful,
somehow not yet dead. Our lives
are hard but not impossible,
 
repetitive but metaphoric,
and even though time
is running out,
beautifully inexact.

[Poet’s Note: I wrote this poem after hearing Marvin Bell read for the first time, at an event in Eugene in June of 2016. One of my all-time favorite poems is Bell’s “To Dorothy.” At the reading, I sat directly behind a woman who I came to understand was The Dorothy in the poem. I wondered what it was like to be the subject of this famous poem, and wondered how many times she’d heard her husband read it. This poem is the result of that evening.] 

Angela Narciso Torres

Pantoum with Lines from Elizabeth Bishop’s Letters

Everyone feels her best poems are lucky accidents.
I should learn to be more articulate.
Can’t seem to say the things I’d like to.
I’m leading up to a joke.

I should learn to be more articulate.
What does poetry get anyway but bad treatment?
I’m leading up to a joke.
Please don’t think I’m suffering from paranoia.

What does poetry get anyway but bad treatment?
It’s strange to be so old.
Please don’t think I’m suffering from paranoia.
You’re right to worry about me, only please, Don’t!

It’s strange to be so old.
I feel I must write a lot of poems.
You’re right to worry about me, only please, Don’t!
There’s a thunderstorm and I just lit my Aladdin lamp.

I feel I must write a lot of poems.
It’s spring—first one I’ve seen in years.
There’s a thunderstorm and I just lit my Aladdin lamp.
Oh, this incredible country!

It’s spring—first one I’ve seen in years.
Lunch and a swim in this full, clean pool—delicious.
Oh, this incredible country!
I’ve typed myself into a fine nostalgia.

Lunch and a swim in this full, clean pool—delicious!
Can’t seem to say the things I’d like to.
I’ve typed myself into a fine nostalgia.
Everyone feels her best poems are lucky accidents.

Source Text: Elizabeth Bishop, One Art: Letters. Selected and Edited by Robert Giroux, Farrar Straus Giroux, 1994.

Marjorie Maddox 

To all those struggling women poets

jostling pen and junior,
computer and comp classes,
lover and love of words—
step in with both feet dripping
with wrung-out dreams;
get your graying hair wet and wet again.
It will not get better. It will
not get easy to feed the few seeds
pushing themselves out
of your dry, crowded,
busy brain, but listen—
when has your life been other
than what’s written
here, now?

[Previously published in True, False, None of the Above (Poiema Poetry Series, Illumination Book Award Medalist) and also in Women’s Studies ]

Jannett Highfill

The Edge of the Desert   

1.  International Conference, Casablanca

Soldiers stand at street corners, rifles like sashes across their chests, 
while foreign scholars declaim decentralized democracy
versus non-inflationary monetary policy.  
The merchants of the souq talk fast, but do not smile at tourists. 
The streets are Mercedes or mule-cart wide, the air
manure and diesel. The dolls are handmade for westerners so
much maroquinerie. Leather. (About thirty-five euros.) 
Jellaba—the full-length cotton garment worn by the Berber. 
The doll the economist chooses is an empty
jellaba: hood but no head, sleeves but no hands, robe but no feet. 
The emperor has no clothes, the jellaba no Berber. See,
molded leather over an invisibility. 
Call an International Conference: Marketing the Doll
to the Wickedly Lost
. Could someone sell us a soul?

2.  Outside Marrakech

A man gets out of a minivan,
sits on a stone curb at the edge
of the desert, doesn’t see the huge
red sun on the sand behind him.
He’s reading The Lonely Planet but on that
page it doesn’t say “look up,”
“look around you.” 

 

 

Please look up and look around you, which is what a lot of poetry is about, and at each poet’s solo feature at EIL as well as our past poetry-on-poetry features during National Poetry Month at EIL:

Ars Poetica at EIL

ABCs of Poetry at EIL

Joy in Transgression at EIL

Erica Goss at EIL

Jannett Highfill at EIL

Marjorie Maddox at EIL

Angela Narciso Torres at EIL