Monday, May 04, 2009

Deploying Hands and Backhands in Verse


When the poet sets hands to keys, as it were, a world of possibilities stretches infinitely around her. We might even say that an infinite number of worlds of limitless possibilities extends in three dimensions from the poet's starting point. How, then, to best capture the essence of the thoughts that put her at the workdesk at this particular moment in time? How to convey the needle-specific observations that combine to form a painting, a message, a missive?

Think of it this way: the possibility of a poem is a lake and the poem itself is a bit of water from that lake. The poet's job is to gather and hold exactly the right amount of water; to take exactly what is needed, not a drop more and not a drop less, from the lake. Some poets approach the lake with nothing and scoop water into cupped hands, pressing together tightly their fingers so nothing spills out. Other writers slop into the lake fully-clothed and soak up whatever they can. They have water on their clothes. In their shoes. The right amount of water is there -- somewhere. Either of these methods is effective when employed by a poet of grace and skill.

Writing a poem in form is akin to approaching the aforementioned lake with a container. A thimble or a paper cup or a five-gallon bucket that still smells of the jalepeno peppers it carried from Mexico to Wisconsin. It puts an external limit on the amount of water the poet can take from the lake. It helps the poet transport the water without spilling.

Needless to say, the container does not guarantee that the poet has gotten the right water from the lake. A thimblefull of the wrong water is just a thimble of water.

(to be continued)


Post a Comment

<< Home