Poet’s Corner: Here’s an invitation to the community: Let’s all share some poetry
The Addison Independent is pleased to reintroduce the Poet’s Corner, to be published the first Thursday of each month. We have a new writer for this column, poet Susan Jefts of Cornwall. She is originally from the Southern Adirondacks, attended college in Vermont, and is an alum of the Bread Loaf Writers Conference. Her poetry has been published in many national and regional journals, and she is currently completing a full-length book of her work. She runs workshops that use poetry as a tool for exploring life themes and directions, and has taught poetry and writing at colleges in New York state. Learn more about her at manyriverslifeguidance.com
Some of my favorite words about poetry are from Romanian poet Paul Celan:
A poem can be like a message in a bottle, traveling in the — not always greatly hopeful — belief that somewhere and sometime it could wash up on land, heartland perhaps. Poems in this sense too are underway: they are making way toward something.
I have always loved this image of a poem as a brave and earnest traveler out there in the darkness. I like it because it reminds us that not everything about poetry can be fully known or explained and that its origins, and likely also its contents, are a bit mysterious. These words remind us that poetry is meant to be felt and experienced in the realm of the soul and the heart, as much or more than by the rational mind. So if we do find a poem washing up on heartland, we will know that something significant has happened, and we might be moved to invite that poem in, sit with it a while, and maybe even respond to it.
When I was asked to revive the Poet’s Corner, begun and thoughtfully tended to by my predecessor, Leonard Gibbs, I knew I was interested. This is the kind of thing I’ve always wanted to do and have done in various forms in the past, but never as a newspaper column. How exciting, I thought, to be able to share and respond to poetry written by members of our community. I’ve been writing and reading poetry for many years and, while I have many of the credentials other writers have — poetry courses and workshops, acceptance into writers’ residencies, a decent publishing history — I am also no expert on the subject. I don’t think that matters so much, though, because this is not a column about being expert or about being correct, but is a column for celebrating and responding to poetry, in all its eloquent forms. And hopefully for finding some joy along the way.
Another reason I love Celan’s image is that it invites participation. Anyone might come across that message in a bottle, or any number of other “containers,” and take its contents home. All can feel invited to experience its words and images and respond in some way — through their thoughts and feelings, by writing their own poem, or leaving a thoughtful message on this newspaper’s blog. Poetry can make us more present to our experience in the world, and to the experiences of others at the same time.
There are so many kinds of poems in the world. A poem written in a lyrical style can transport us through its tightly packed language and use of metaphor to new levels of awareness and experience. A well-written narrative poem can take us, through its use of discursive lines and story, to other places past and present, and into the lives of others. And of course there are so many other forms and styles between and beyond these. But when a poem is written with precise and unique language and imagery, with depth of feeling, and a sense of where the poem wants to go (versus where we think it should go) it will move beyond its own words into a place others will want to follow. It will take on energy and movement of its own; it will begin making way.
So if you have poems that are well crafted, that you’ve tended to with care, and thoughtful word choice and imagery, please send them my way. One will be chosen for print here each month, along with my thoughts about it. I won’t be able to use all the poems I receive, but hope to use many of them. Some of them might show up in the “From the Blog” column on addisonindependent.com.
Send your work to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Poems should be in a Word doc or docx file, 12 point Times New Roman font, and one page or less in length. Include a bio of no more than two lines. I look forward to reading your work!
And now, here’s a poem of my own to start us off:
Returning to Earth (or Rediscovering Neruda)
By Susan Jefts
It happened on a day I went first
to the woods. It happened on a day I wore
my blue scarf, bought a banana almond muffin
and drank shade grown coffee from Brazil.
When I thought about my conversation with A
last night at the café. Images of rocks and roots
came forth, but also a bird in flight. It happened
on the day I finished my taxes.
It happened between one thing and another.
A book about the soul and a poem about things –
shoes and metal, tobacco smoke, and salt.
“Many things conspired to tell me the whole story,”
wrote Neruda, “not only those things that leap
and climb, desire and survive.”
There are so many: the brass knob of the door,
the ink on the paper. The fibrous thread
of my book, the stone tablets in the park.
It’s the way they sing, it’s the way they stay still.
So now, it seems I can’t say enough about things.
How they connect me to a string in my body
that binds me to my soul. How every feeling now
is a stone or a book, tobacco smoke, or salt.
(Previously published in A Slant of Light Anthology, 2013, Codhill Press Books)
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