Poetry

Unwritten Requisition
Texted me to say you won’t always be around,
as if I should shed a tear through this disguise.
This phone doesn’t feel, and neither do I,
how it might be sad to lose a mother otherwise.
But I’d be losing a different kind of mother,
the kind of mother lost which gains you nothing if but one breath of relief.
Obligation, manipulation: No, I still won’t answer your calls.
I’m done playing your childish, guilt-ridden games.
And before you tip-tap on those keys some more,
know that I wished my own life stolen, begged for my own life’s ending
for nothing, if but one breath of relief.

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My poetry professor totally dogged the following poem, Mam-ma's Hands.  He said I should have picked another memory of my grandmother that wasn't so cliche as "hands".  Out of respect because he was my professor, I politely accepted his criticism at the time.  But now, I have my degree and I'd like to tell him to shove it.  My grandmother died the summer before I took this class, and what I remembered so distinctly about going to the funeral was her hands, the way they looked so stiff and dead, the way her fingernails were painted the same color she always painted them when she was alive.  This poem was a way I remembered her and made sense out of the odd way her hands looked when I saw her at her funeral.

Mam-ma’s Hands
You were five and it was St. Patrick’s Day.
She taught you how to tie your shoelaces,
guiding your unsure hands with her soft
hands. Christmas Eve the year you asked
for a dollhouse, you helped her wrap presents.
Soft hands held the red ribbon
in place while you tied it into a bow.
You visited almost every weekend,
overnight stays ending in fluffy pancakes.
After breakfast she sipped her coffee while
reading the newspaper, soft hands
methodically lifting mug to lips, then
flipping to the next page. The linens she
dried on the clothes line. You watched her from the
window as you stood on the step-stool built
by Pap-pa. You were small and she far, but
soft hands outlined her delicate
movements. Only a phone call away, soft
hands dialed you up often to say
“I love you.” The same softness put
pen in hand to write you birthday cards, sealed
envelopes and placed stamps with a soft, firm press.
Memories glide down your right cheek, then left.
Hands now motionless, softness now stiffly
folded and posed upon her abdomen.
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Reflections from a Poetry Student was, believe it or not, an end of the semester reflection of the poetry class I had taken.  It served as our final paper for the course, and tells the story of how this poetry class impacted my reading and writing of poetry.

Reflections from a Poetry Student

Beauty is one of the most subjective concepts to explain to someone, and any explanation lends itself to near exclusive opinion. My concept of beauty is based upon personal values and beliefs that I hold, which are shaped by my family dynamic, past negative and positive experiences, and the knowledge and information I have gained through my education. My view of beauty also greatly reflects my world view; that is, how I view people in the society and culture that I belong to, as well as my perception of people in other societies and cultures. As I mature in body and mind, my concept of beauty will most undoubtedly transform with my experiences and relationships.

I believe beauty, as it relates to writing and poetry, is defined by the person who authored the written work. As I near graduating from college, a dream I have held since I was a child, beauty is evident in determination and in the power of the mind. When I read the key poem Facing It by Yusef Komunyakaa, I feel I am reading a beautiful poem because it reflects the determination of Komunyakaa to fight for his life and the greater fight of battling the mental repercussions of his experiences. Komunyakaa is reaching into his heart and his mind and transcribing raw emotions and painful visions, and his words caused me to journey along with his memories. I recall very difficult experiences I have faced, and I feel a sense of pride and internal beauty in overcoming those obstacles. After reading Facing It, I wish to write poems that convey internal reflection about personal experiences. Because I feel I have encountered more obstacles than the average person my age, I believe poems that serve as condensed memoirs possess great beauty because it is difficult and often painful to venture into one’s past. When determining if something is beautiful, I define beauty as the emotions and visions I experience when I see or hear creative pieces. Beautiful poetry includes acute descriptions that are playful or intensely dramatic, and include assonances, metaphors, and similes. Another key poem I read was by classmate Jody Moore. He wrote the poem, Highmore Street Hyena, about a hyena that is a lioness deep inside but that settles on eating scraps and being the hunted instead of the hunter. The hyena is a metaphor for a woman who does not value her true worth and what she can accomplish in her life. I consider this poem beautiful because the descriptions of the hyena’s life perfectly mirror how many women describe their feelings, but as related to a rabid animal. Again, I go back to the power of the mind. The careful thought to create such relative concepts and the time to structure the poem so wonderfully is simply beautiful. Many poems I now write include abstract metaphors to reinforce the meanings I wish to convey about the intended subject matter.

Throughout the semester, this course has greatly affected how I feel about poetry. Since I was a child, I have always enjoyed writing creative pieces, including poems. In the beginning of this course I was very interested in poetry, but I was not knowledgeable about the various forms and structures of poems, the importance of concrete and tangible settings and concepts, or about iambic pentameter and rhyme schemes. One belief that was quickly changed was my belief in flat rhymes connecting the lines of a poem. I soon learned that rhyming words can possess a multitude of similar characteristics. After the first month of this course I must say that I was no longer interested in poetry. I held the view that poetry can be whatever the author wishes it to be. Poems could possess some notion of concreteness, but I believed most poems were very abstract. I did not like that we were required to include tangible objects and settings in our poems, or that our poems should be structured in pentameter. These concepts were the complete opposite of what I thought about the majority of the poetry genre. As the semester progressed, my interest in poetry was rekindled. After writing a poem in the form of a terzanelle, I enjoyed following structural guidelines. When I learned the many techniques in producing end rhyme words, I loved creating unique rhymes in my poems. The in-class writing exercises taught me new techniques in brainstorming ideas for poems. My favorite exercise was when we paired up random words and rearranged lines to create a new poem that was totally different from the original. This course also taught me how to better analyze poems that I read. For example, I know that full rhymes signal a change or some sort of tension between what is being stated in the two lines. I feel this course has taught me to be more open-minded when reading and writing poetry. When I read a poem, I now concentrate on the particular words used and how certain words may signal another underlying concept, issue, or emotion. After completing this course, I feel that my personal creativity has greatly increased, and I am a better writer today compared with my writing skills at the onset of this course.

My improved writing skills have much to do with the poems we read in class. By reading the subject ideas, poem forms and structures, and language used by other poets, I learned alternative techniques for creating my own unique poetry. I chose to write a terzanelle for my form poem after reading Terzanelle in Thunderweather by Lewis Turco. My terzanelle, Painful Thread, includes a distinctive feature that makes my poem stand out. The third line of the fourth stanza is repeated, but I used the new first line of the fifth stanza to add variation to the meaning of the poem. My poem would not have this unique variation had I not read Terzanelle in Thunderweather. My use of interesting full rhymes began after reading Sunflower Sutra by Allen Ginsberg. For example, two paired end words that I particularly mimicked were “eyes and ends”. The simple use of these two words, and the subtle variation they injected, transformed my future poems. My poem, Painful Thread includes subtle full rhymes as well, such as “debt and thread”, “lead and thread”, and my favorite, “soul and foul”. When writing Painful Thread, I thought back to Sunflower Sutra, and I just began pairing words that were similar in nature to the words used by Ginsberg. I used the same technique when I wrote To Anonymous. I include full rhymes such as “travel, evil, and unequivocal”. Before reading Cinderella by Cynthia Cruz, I secluded my reading and writing of poetry to poems with “fluffy” language and gentle subject matter. The intensity that Cruz’s words project were both fascinating and frightening, and I loved the emotion both conveyed and aroused by this poem. When writing To Anonymous, I first thought about interesting full rhymes I could use. After creating a few key words I wanted to use, I thought back to Cruz’s poem. I wanted to write a poem that would arouse the same unexpected intensity of emotions and visions that would stand apart from any other poem in the class, and I feel that I was successful by my subject matter and the phrases I constructed.

As this spring semester comes to a close, I am pleased with the knowledge and creativity I gained through this course. I did not just write poems. I learned how to structure formal poems based on rhyme schemes, language, and pentameter. I read poems I would have never come across, and I wrote poems I would have never thought to create, had I not taken this course. In terms of literature, I am more well-rounded and familiar with different writers and subject matter, and I now feel as though I could carry on an intellectual discussion about literature. As ironic and cliché as it sounds, when I reflect on this class I think to myself how one of the last courses I took in my entire college career had some of the greatest affect on how I would view creativity and beauty and how my writing would take shape.