I’ve been thinking a lot about force lately (in the Newtonian sense) as I’ve been working on revising a poem that had become too static for its own good. How, I’ve been asking myself, might one use a directional force (a push or a pull) as a central device by which to drive a poem’s internal motion (imagistically, rhythmically, and otherwise)? It’s an interesting challenge, to allow the arc of one’s language (which is, ultimately, abstract) to be driven by the idea of a physical (concrete) force. Cornelius Eady’s poem “Crows in a Strong Wind” provides some insight into how this may be done:
Off go the crows from the roof.
The crows can’t hold on.
They might as well
Be perched on an oil slick.
Such an awkward dance,
In their spottled-black coats.
Such a tipsy dance,
The thrust of his lyric takes off (or is blown off) its perch as suddenly as the crows are blown from the roof, only to return again as both the speaker’s thoughts and the crows themselves attempt to recreate the scene that served as the poem’s genesis. This pattern—of being blown off course, and then returning, only to be blown off, and to return again—creates a sense of disorientation that makes the poem feel dizzily, and wonderfully, surprising. The force of the wind drives the poem forward and back, forward and back, just as it disturbs the crows from their perch, resulting in a kind of sampling that causes the original image to be made new again and again.
Prompt: write a poem whose arc, and imagery, is driven by a single, physical motion (a push, a pull, a twist, a parabolic descent).
Waking up to bright sun and brisk, springy weather every morning was just one of the many small points of brilliance that characterized AWP for Mia and me this year. Having just come off winter (we both live in places that are not known for their sunshine during the first few months of the year), it was a treat to look outside our hotel room in the morning and see sun, blue skies, and mountains in the distance. Denver was beautiful. Even the snow that had been forecast for Wednesday held off for us. But not even the gorgeous weather or the lure of spring fever proved powerful enough to distract us from the activity going on inside the harshly-lit interior of the Convention Center this weekend. When I say that it was a wonderful AWP, I really mean it. After last year’s conference in Chicago (I met Nick Flynn! I heard Sun Yung Shin read! Lan Samantha Chang complimented my sweater! Poetry played in the elevators all day!) I was prepared for this year to be pretty darn awesome. But my experience this year totally blew me away. Part of it was the fantastic panels and readings that I attended. Part of it was the excitement of walking around the bookfair and getting to talk about LR and hand out our bookmarks and mini-books. Part of it was the great hotel, great food, and Mia’s great company (I’ll admit that we took at least one night off towards the end of the conference just to spend some catching up and discussing each other’s poems over styrofoam cups of Ramen). But a large part of what made the experience so great was the amazing generosity of the people that we met there, and the passion with which we heard them speak of their work and their involvement with communities of other writers.
Over the course of the four days, Mia and I went to panels and readings galore and spent lots of time in the bookfair. In this two-part series, we’ll be reflecting on just a few of our favorite events. For my post, I’ll be focusing on one off-site reading and three panels/readings that I particularly enjoyed. For more about our experience, look through our Flickr gallery of photos from the weekend, and check back here at the blog for Mia’s followup later this week.
Follow the jump below to read my reflections on the Kundiman/Cave Canem Joint Reading on Wednesday, Thursday’s Kundiman Panel, Friday’s From the Fishouse reading, and Saturday’s Split This Rock’s panel.