Friday, September 14, 2007

Poetry Friday: Finding (and keeping) Poetry

Y & O i U h C a O t M e P y L o E u T f E o M r E i t

I found this poem written on the inside of a gazebo. It was one of those fake "welcoming" structures rigged up at the entrance to a large subdivision. No graffiti on the outside---the kids were smarter than that. But inside! Score!

Anyhow, it made me think about all the places you can stash poetry. This is one way I collect it:

I like copying some poems out by hand. (That one in the picture is Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird, by Wallace Stevens.) Others, I cut out of the newspaper or photocopy or type up, and then I paste the poem onto a blank page. Like a poetry scrapbook.

Once, after a move, I was unpacking my books and found my scrapbook with several pages "filed" in the back, where I hadn't had time to paste them in. (As you see in the picture, I'm still behind!) I pulled out the pages and read one of the typed poems, which was nine stanzas long. Wow! It was gutsy, and achingly complicated and sad, and funny too. Then I got to the end and saw my name.

Yes, really. I had written it. I even found the notes in my own handwriting that I had taken as this poem hit me up the side of the head, and ambushed me right in the middle of a writer's conference breakout session. (It was an illustrator's talk. I blame the artist. Entirely.)

So, obviously, I should write my poems on bigger things that are harder to misplace. Like gazebos. Here are the first two stanzas:

The boat is sinking. He knows.
The varnish moves over the surface,
Circles radiating from the can,
As he holds the edge of his wooden canvas,
The boat that is sinking. He knows
She is large, thick,
As he paints her,
In one day, into the varnish.

She can’t eat while she is being painted.
He can’t paint while she is eating.
“Paint me eating,” she says. “Paint me
With juice in my hair. Paint my body
While my lips move.” “You look different
When you eat,” he says. “Your colors shift.
I’ll wait.” She hides a sunflower seed between
Her thighs. He flicks it away.
She turns her left arm green to spite him. He uncaps the paint
Thinner. She gathers saliva beneath her tongue.
He holds still: his brush, a knife;
His breath collapsing.

Poetry Friday is hosted this week by HipWriterMama.


  1. Love this poem--and your post. I have different ways/problems with keeping track of poems (my own and others'), too. Now you've got me thinking about my madness and methods.

    And--I'm so glad I'm not the only one who can totally forget things I've written!

    Your post got my Friday off to a very cheery start (and I liked the gazebo poem, too. So teen angsty). Aren't I just a pleasable person this morning?!


  2. Hi Sara,
    When I was writing my cento, I went to an old poetry volume and found it stuffed with poems I'd cut from newspapers and magazines, along with some wretched pieces I wrote myself. I suppose I should just start a scrapbook, but it was actually fun looking through all the little scraps and remembering where they came from.
    Love the poem. Is it modeled on Stevens? (I love the Blackbird series.)
    As always, thanks for sharing.

  3. Oh, Sara! Don't you love it when this happens? I do -- I find papers and laugh at the brilliance and intensity with which I seem capable of writing -- briefly -- in unsustainted bursts.

    This poem sounds REALLY deep. Wowza.

  4. This is awesome. As is the one you found in the gazebo. I mean, I really, really love that. I wonder how many people have stared and stared at it and just thought, what a weird collection of letters...

  5. Wow. That is an amazing poem. I am so glad you found it (both times). And I love the gazebo poem too. So clever!

    Our sixth graders came into the library today to hang poems on the columns. They are hanging poems all over the school. They hung QUIET by Myra Cohn Livington near my desk.

  6. Tricia: yes, it's modeled a bit on Stevens's poem in that all the stanzas (or are they nine paintings?) add up to a complicated picture of what passes between these two people. I would post the whole thing, but the subject matter is mature, as is the language. (That's part of me, too, but not the part that any young reader clicking over from my website should see.)

    And you know what I just realized? That gazebo poem: "You complete me/ and I hate you for it" is sort of the theme of my poem too. No wonder I paired them together. And yes, now I'm feeling like I should introduce myself to myself. Sara, meet Sara. :)

  7. I'm intrigued by the two people in your poem. Does the artist use his canvas as a battle ground, or as a release, or even revenge?
    Keep your eye on that sunflower seed!

    The gazebo poem is a wonderful surprise! And I love Wallace Stevens. Thanks for the brain flex.

  8. Great stanzas -- I'm so glad you found them. And it's nice to find something like that from time to time, and realize in a dispassionate way that you actually have talent, and like your own writing. We're usually so quick to diminish ourselves.

  9. I enjoyed your reading your stanzas (and yes, it's hard to forget that sunflower seed now). It's a thrill to find something you wrote, forgot about and then, when it's revealed again, realize, "Hey, that's good!"

    My word verification is "eibags." Blogger must know about my restless sleep...

  10. Ah, the wisdom of graffiti, sometimes poetic, often obtuse.

    To this day I recall listening on a first generation Walkman to Simon and Garfunkel singing "The signs of the prophets are written on the subway walls" just as I came across the scrawl in a transit station that said "Time is a crutch: eat mandarin oranges."

    I've been trying to put those two items together in my mind for decades now.

  11. Oh, no, you've got me trying to pair them, too.

  12. What a treat, Sara, as always!

    I like your idea of retyping poems and pasting them in a notebook. I may have to steal that one.

    Thanks for being a poet for us every Friday! Such a nice end to the week.

  13. Wonderful, Sara. Am intrigued about the rest of the stanzas and hope to someday read them!

  14. Sara,
    Love the graffiti poem. I am always thrilled to find past flashes of brilliance in my writing collection. Thanks for sharing yours.

    And David, thanks for the laugh.

  15. Sara,

    We kept poetry notebooks in my elementary clasroom. In the notebooks, students pasted the poems I shared in class that connected to the science units we were studying. It was great for my students to have a record of all that poetry. I also compiled smaller booklets of poems for the seasons and other special topics like Halloween. I felt the best method for teaching children how to write poetry was to immerse them in it.

    I enjoy stopping by on Fridays to read your original works.

  16. Note to self:
    I need a poetry notebook.
    I need to start writing poetry again.
    My students need poetry notebooks.
    We need poems posted all around our school.

    Note to Sara and all commenters:
    Thanks for some FUN additions to my "to do" list!

  17. Mary Lee: Yes! And I like that you "need" these things, instead of using that puny word "want."

  18. Neat, Sara. The combination of the graffiti poem and the fake "welcoming" gazebo is like a piece of installation art. Cool. I like your poem, too.

  19. I love your stanzas.

    My favorite graffiti, which a prof in college told me he saw in a bathroom stall at Harvard: "Back in a minute. Godot."


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