How to Read a Poem (by me)
Books remind us
of what we love,
lit by others
every time we return to them.
Spine and margin and cover and leaf
bursting to light and heat.
Paragraphs burning bright as meteors,
metaphors leaping as shiny as minnows,
from page to page,
Here are some comments I made. Use them as you will.
- don't know why. Explicating rhythm is so difficult for me. As a poet I don't articulate it often to myself. Mostly, I step back and hold the line in abeyance. I
needed something with weight at the end to serve as an anchor for the flexing light and heat of the rest of the poem. What better image than the dragonfly, the top of the foodchain insect predator on my farm. And predacious is exactly the sound and sight of them flying commando next to me on a tractor as I mow a field.
- Almost ended the poem here, but that muscular, flexing I spoke of above really attracted me. The meteor and minnow skipping on the surface. Implied here are the images of fingers.
- I am drawn to the minnow metaphor, the meteor metaphor, the ardent heart making words do more and better, to carry more with less and less.
- A catalyzing agent encourages two to get together as one, the physical "fire" of a book--how it fits into our senses as real-- and the abstract--its content of words, sentences, paragraphs that re+mind us to turn and re+turn to them for warmth and purpose. All fires are practical and useful
- I adore the assonant fit of ardent and heart. I keep a copy of the OED handy, a digital version. My paper copy is at school. Ardent comes from the Old French verb "ardere". The OED mentions "ardent spirits". The word has slowly and inexorably shifted from concrete toward the abstract--just like the poem where the books move form concrete, physical things toward the abstract and toward me. Re+mind and re+turn both make us consider physical moves. Like dance, a perfect entanglement of concrete and abstract.
- I thought about using "fireflies" or "lightning bugs" instead of meteors. I still might. I just liked the idea of a paragraph flashing across the sky, a spectacle of wow burning up in the sky. Then I thought about another kind of bright, the silvery flash of minnows, a-leap as they are chased by larger fish, in the morning light. Passionate and seeking safety, burning to survive. I feel something animal in the poem flexing its muscles. And that word--minnow, something very like ...well, I don't know. The word fits for me emotionally.
- A physical container for ideas and words--paragraphs. Are we crossing over into abstraction and metaphor. Yes. Metaphor in the original Greek meant "to carry over". That is what I am trying to do, carry the reader over from their world to mine, a world of magic in text.
- More physical imagery. When they are lit they give off heat and light, but the word "blaze" above, with its ambiguity, should give a strong hint that I am doing more than create a sensorium even as important as we all think of that--the touch, smell/taste, sight, sound, and heft of books.
- More physical images to accent the sheer physical power of books. And then...light and heat as if on fire.
- Re+turn should bring to mind re+turn. Hidden under this is the argument I am making for physical books. I have been walking by my bookshelves for thirty years, turning toward them over and over again like compass needle to north. They are my lodestone even though for many they would be an albatross. Have you ever picked up a box full of encyclopedias? Yeah, dense with epistemologies.
- This word is ambiguous. It has several meanings. This is what poet thinking is all about for me--subverting the routine.
First, the word is about fire, right, but if you have every looked at my posts (count on two hands my very fine viewership) you know that I write about trail blazes. I want the word to be a fork and to mean both of these simultaneously. My poems are designed to carry a lot of freight. What do you think about ambiguity?
- What ethical blazes have books kindled in you?
Most poetry tries to freshen the language. Most poets are work necromancers. They bring what is routine and everyday back into clear and plain air. This is called a metaphor. Values don't really burn, but I am trying to conjure up a feeling here where what we believes has the intensity of a fire. I am trying to do that with a few words and not a lot like here. Maybe poetry is all about translation and summary put together. What do you think poetry is supposed to be or do?
- What do you love? What values do you live by? For me, I have books that remind me that there was a reason that moved back to the land over 30 years ago. One of my books is A Continuous Harmony by Wendell Berry. Here is a recent reading from that book where I talk about my values. Books remind of these values. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PAra-yL45hs&t=87s
- Have you ever thought about the word re+mind? To "mind" again? What does that mean? Poetry is meant to de-cliche words and expression. That is a mental model to keep in mind as you remind yourself with this filter in mind.
- Use Hypothes.is to annotate the poem. I have seeded the poem
with questions and comments that you can reply to.