Notes on poems
I won’t comment on all poems, but on a few that I think are fun to share what inspired the poem. But the meaning is all yours to make; I believe that poems need to leave enough opening for each individual to enter and stand there, looking around. You will inevitably see your own thoughts and feelings and associations, as they surface even momentarily while you read a poem. But, in my opinion, the poem shouldn’t be so wide open that you can’t find footing, or that the associations are too vague or random.
Each poem on this site is work that was generated, revised, and posted in a morning. Keeping this site motivates me to write (usually only on the weekends) and to keep generating new work. It also serves as a relief from a rather un-intellectual day job . . .
I am currently working on a chapbook, work that will somewhat recycle some of the content on this site, but will mainly be longer, serial poems. By pushing myself to generate work and “let it go” each Saturday and Sunday morning, I have been practicing, stretching, preparing for the longer work. Thank you for any interest or appreciation for what I’m doing here on this site.
Poems . . .
Compression at center
“Compression at center” was inspired by situations taking place at my grandparents’ house in California as my family settles the estate; living in a different state while so many changes are happening in my family has been difficult, but I know not anywhere near what my family members are experiencing as they go through a lifetime’s agglomeration of “stuff”. The house itself is a true childhood home, and will surface in many of my poems (and dreams, without being solicited!). The house happens to be on “Center Ave.” which I suppose is a bit of nerdy wordplay that I could have kept to myself. Nevertheless, this element continues to delight me.
I felt the poem weaving in and out of the weight and thrust that accompanies this complicated family matter, that in general embodies the human condition as we all negotiate in our own ways experiences such as death, adulthood, sibling relationships, our own relationship to material objects, our desire to transcend while being tied to the physical plane. You know, everyday experiences.
This poem was inspired while listening to a lecture called “Great Minds of the Middle Ages”, from the Great Lectures series (the lecturer is Dorsey Armstrong–I highly recommend her lectures). The professor noted that she judges a culture to be at its height when people can make a living as a poet. This struck me, as well as some points mentioned about medieval libraries, and a quotation from St. Augustine regarding “a kingdom without end”.
As well as the fairly random notes from this lecture, I think the endless stream of advertisements on tv influenced the poem. Particularly, ads for the latest drug for “my” disease (“my” COPD; “my”IBS, etc. not to mention the personification of irritable intestines, or pleading bladders). It seems to me that something has changed in our society that we need ailments to define us, to create a comfortable stability in our lives. I commented to my husband last night about the quality and amount of storytelling going on right now involving illnesses (if you watch tv you notice these things–I watch both lazily, and critically as a student of pop-culture . . . I suppose the critical reading part gives me a good excuse to watch).
She had a sea:
I was looking through images of frescoes, and found the ancient fresco that seems to be called Woman Picking Flowers or Girl Picking Flowers by the Sea. It is from a wall that was buried in rubble in Pompeii. I read that the ash preserved daily life in a way that is not preserved elsewhere, as the town was entombed by the ash (and rubble). The people of Pompeii did not get swallowed by magma, but by the ash deposited after Vesuvius’ massive eruption. This eruption followed a substantial earthquake only 15 years or so prior. Many of the important sites in Pompeii such as a stadium had only just been repaired or were not repaired yet when the volcano erupted.
I was most intrigued by the fact that a sea was mentioned in the citation for this image in some cases. The image itself appears fragile; thin paint that was not meant to last 2000 years, but when fresh must have been bright and cheerful rather than patina’d and diaphanous. I was also struck by the momentariness of her gesture; picking flowers, by herself, possibly by a sea, and placing them in a basket or cornucopia. I liked the precision of her fingers on the stem. I enjoyed daydreaming about this moment in time; feeling like a voyeur into a personal moment. Some sites stated that she was picking flowers for a ceremony or celebration, but I was struck by the simplicity of the flowers even more delicate, so many years after it was painted.