Friday, March 27, 2009

Poetry Friday: How a Poem Happens

My friend, Anne Marie Pace, pointed me to a new blog, How a Poem Happens.  Don't go over there unless you have some poetic time to kill because it's subtitled "Contemporary Poets Discuss the Making of Poems."  And they do mean discuss, not unload a poem and run.  Several interesting questions follow each poem, including: "Was this poem finished or abandoned?" "What's American about this poem?"

The latest poem posted there is by Richard Frost and it begins:  

My brother’s wife phones me and says I’d better drive over
right away for what will probably be the last visit,
so I get in my mother’s old Buick and two hours later
I’m at their apartment at Smugglers’ Village in Stockton.
My brother’s life has been a mess all along.
He came out of the war a drunk, lost on the horses,
failed in real estate and fiction writing,
got a good job and wrecked two company cars.
He is alternately charming and a bully, and I probably
wouldn’t be his friend if he were not my brother.
Now he is dying of brain cancer. The surgeons
have removed an apricot-sized tumor from the back
of his head. He has regained the power of speech
but is dying fast. Here I find him standing

As you can tell, this one's more of a loose story than the poems I tend to share. But the poet's a "working jazz drummer" so I gave him leeway to riff for a bit. :)  Besides, I like to be surprised by my own Poetry Friday picks sometimes.

What about you? Do you tend to pick the same kinds of poems to share on Fridays? Do you have a poetry type? Do you plan ahead or go with what moves you at the moment?

How does your Poetry Friday happen? 

Poetry Friday is hosted today by the talented Julie Larios.

P.S.  My own attempt to explain "how a poem happens" is here, in my post "Breadcrumbs."


  1. Yes - his style is loose and meandering, much like his brother's life, much like his brother's voice.
    But death is a great organizer...

    Huh. My PF happens sometimes on Friday, but normally, they happen weeks in advance; I have a file full of poems which I find around the web or in books and take note of, and then pull one which suits my mood. Often my mood is unsuitable, which means there's no PF. Often I think I should be a bit more deliberate than this, but there's the idea of letting the day move me, so I keep up my randomness...

  2. I misread the poet's name as ROBERT Frost and got really, really confused for a minute or too!

    My Poetry Friday used to start with a poem and end by finding a picture to match, but more and more, I have started using my own photos to start with and then going in search of a poem to match. I watch for ideas all week, but I usually don't get going with the post until Thursday night or Friday morning.

    Or, sometimes, like this week, the poem writes itself during an hour of insomnia at 2:00 a.m.

  3. That's a great blog! I found his comments equally as interesting as the poem itself. There's something about "jazz drummer" that instantly intrigues me, too. :)

    My PF posts require quite a bit of time, since I'm picky and generally slow to put words together.

    Beginning of each week, I'll search for something that touches, surprises or amuses. I usually angst over the volumes of inaccessible poems I have to wade through before zeroing in on the right one -- but as soon as I see it, I know right away.

    Then comes the search for photos, and during this process, I'm trying to think of how I'm going to set up/introduce the poem.

    My background in poetry is academic, but on my blog, I try to stay away from over-analyzing. Once in awhile, I stumble on more than one poem I like and save it for later. But that's rare. Unlike Tanita, I don't have a cache of poems waiting for my mood to strike. I wish I did!

  4. Tanita -- I cannot imagine you in an unsuitable mood, my friend...

    Sara -- first of all, this poem is just a punch in the gut (and I mean that in a good way) and the site is AWEsome.

    My poetry friday's are almost always at a whim...
    Except for when they're not :)

  5. I really love how you describe poetry as litergy and "its purpose is to be a living ritual that takes you beyond the words." I do the same thing as what you said - try to get the ghosts in the room written down and then let the images bump up against each other...

    I try to rotate my FP posts between book reviews, poems that have a lot of meaning for me and that I can find already published online to link to (often difficult and frustrating), and originals. If I can get something written for the Monday Poetry Stretch at Trisha's I'll use that. That said, I am often wracking my brain Friday morning trying to decide what I want to do... The pressure is sometimes inspiring.

  6. I am just wading back into Poetry Friday, this week with an original. I think I used to always try to tie them to something that was going on in my life.

    For April I got permission from my publisher to do something special with 4 of the poems from Hugging the Rock.

    After that, I don't know. :)

    Thanks for the link. I'm going to save it as a reward for cleaning my desk.

  7. Well, I don't formally participate in PF. But I do a post every Friday inspired by the previous 7 days' entries at the mysterious whiskey river "blog" (?); I use one or more of those entries (sometimes poetry, sometimes not) verbatim, and then sort of free-associate on the ideas and themes they explore to grab a couple other quotations and/or poems and/or songs and/or YouTube videos.

    I usually start this process on Thursday sometime, and usually have the post up by around noon on Friday, and it almost always includes poetry (if nothing else, song lyrics). My own contribution to the whole mess is minimal. :)

    But I do really like the Poetry Friday idea and the way you (and other participants) riff on it yourselves, week after week.

  8. I'm sorry, I'm still hung up on how the subject of the poem faked an earthquake? How does one do that?

    Sorry I'm not being, you know, profound, but a) my brain was partly dead anyway when I got here and b) again, seriously, HOW do you fake an earthquake? I'm super intrigued.

    Anyway, I think I tend to pick the same things for PF. I like this post, 'cause it bugs me that I do that. Generally, I even pick the same poets, I feel, and would like to know WAY more about poetry than I do.

  9. I am always reading poetry during the week, largely because it's easy to read in my snippets of free time. When I find one I like, I stick a bookmark in it. The pages of the books are littered with them! Then I pick one I really like to share that week. It's not particularly thoughtful, but it generally reflects my mood. In reviewing the last few years I found that Emily makes a strong appearance every fall. I wonder what that means?

    I did read the Frost poem, but felt the gut punch even stronger with Sandra Beasley's poem Metro Section, Page 4. WOW. I will be going back to that site. Thanks for sharing it.

  10. OK, I really do have to finish my taxes tonight and I really CANNOT spend time on this site tonight. But I'm definitely going back!

  11. Sara, thanks for the link to this blog--fantastic! Yet another one for my overloaded blog aggregator.

    My PF posts are fairly simple. Usually just a poem, by me or someone else. I try to include a book cover to help promote the book! But they're fairly last minute. I usually have 10 different books in mind that I'd LIKE to share on PF, so on Thursday, I see how I'm feeling and choose the poem.


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