Thursday, November 08, 2007

with thursdays

Every Thursday this autumn, I make the trek up to the Twin Cities, sift through the poems, put myself onto the wooden table and am pulled apart, like salt water taffy. It's a beautiful experience, and I had a wonderful, clear critique last meeting, which is exactly what I need at this point.

I thought of this as I was reading the Best American Short Stories of 2007: I've always had an easier time editing my own prose than my own poetry.

A student asked me today how Paradise Lost is categorized as an epic poem, how we decide these things, why the line breaks, why not just a string of text, a story. What makes a narrative poem different from a short story? What makes a prose poem a poem?

I will write poems in my head as I drive home tonight, think of how the airplanes suspended reflect the descent into dementia, how the mournful sound of a cello can strike at a person's heart, how the words "frightened" and "lonely" appeared in the birthday card from my grandmother, a woman who has never given me a revealing emotional word in her life, how this shift was expected, but how flattening it is when Alzheimer's happens to your own family.

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