Well, it is November. Lots of good stuff in the works and good news to share. But right now we’re putting together the launch party for Word Fountain’s Fall/Winter issue (I’ll add the link here), so in the meanwhile, here’s a bit of a lovely November find, read by the younger poet in the family!
We’re very excited to be releasing the next issue of Word Fountain next month, on November 2nd! If you’re the Northeast Pennsylvania area join us at the Osterhout Free Library in Wilkes-Barre at 6 pm that Thursday for a launch party and reading. Follow the link for all the details:
On Thursday, November 2nd, Word Fountain, the Literary Magazine of the Osterhout Free Library will celebrate the launch of our 14th issue since that first experimental leaflet in the fall of 2009.
There was a two-year hiatus between the spring of 2014 and the summer of 2016 when we re-launched the lit mag with a new look and a new mission, to bring local, national, and global writers of poems and short stories together into one place for our patrons and friends. This will be the fourth issue since the magazine’s rebirth.
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Came home after a ridiculously long Monday to microwave my dinner and listen to my youngest son read “Who cooks for you?”
This Richard Wilbur poem is good for the soul too.
*Be sure to click on the link in his screen name to hear Micah read the poem!
Please take a moment to relax, close your eyes, and listen to a reading of a fine poem. Okay, you don’t have to close your eyes.
A Barred Owl
By Richard Wilbur
The warping night air having brought the boom
Of an owl’s voice into her darkened room,
We tell the wakened child that all she heard
Was an odd question from a forest bird,
Asking of us, if rightly listened to,
“Who cooks for you?” and then “Who cooks for you?”
Words, which can make our terrors bravely clear,
Can also thus domesticate a fear,
And send a small child back to sleep at night
Not listening for the sound of stealthy flight
Or dreaming of some small thing in a claw
Borne up to some dark branch and eaten raw.
There are so many updates to do. My recent reading in New York City, camping and hawk watching with my boys—heck I haven’t even told you yet about the poetry conference in Paterson, NJ this summer!
But we’ll get to all of that. At least you know there are things to say, and I know there is more to come. Meanwhile, my youngest son is back at his recording gig, reading poems out loud more frequently than I have been doing lately. In fact, in this post, he has a recording of himself as well as a recording of a young lady at Poetry Out Loud competition reading this particular poem.
I think they are both fine interpretations. I’ve heard others that were too dramatic. Yes, there is such a thing as too dramatic in poetry readings. Generally, I find it best to strike a more even tone. Not monotone by any means. But if you add too many sighs and lilts of voice, too much of anything that isn’t clearly already on the page, you risk limiting the dynamic range of what was written. I realize I am biased, but I think Micah’s reading here is a good example of the less-is-more principle. It expresses just enough emotion to show that it’s human language but allows the poem to do its work without getting in the way by over-presentation.
In this reblogged form, you have to click below where it says “view original post” (or here) to hear Micah’s version.
Frequently I’ve gotta do all of this work first, and then just wait and listen.
I’ve been working on a poem since last Easter. Not unusual. Most of them don’t come quickly. It was almost all there, but it had some issues. And the ending, well, the ending was more like just a stopping. It was true. It was what happened, but it wasn’t right.
So I was working on other poems this evening and decided to pull the Easter one up again to see if it wanted to play. Oh lord, the first line was a stumble, not just the ending, but the very first line. I made a note beside it saying, “This meter is all wrong,” with a little illustration showing that it was neither iambic, anapestic or any other ‘ic.’ It was just ick.
I had built this edifice of a poem and I didn’t want to Jenga it to pieces. Nudge, nudge, gentle tug, and wouldn’t you know it, the words just rearranged themselves. Two of them dropped into the next line. Well, that changed the whole stanza, which changed the next. This line could go. This word had to go. A new verb stepped in like it had just been out for a smoke, but knew right where its spot was, an X taped there on the poem’s stage. It was all prepared without me. Well, not really. More about that in a moment. I shrugged. I was happy.
But there was that ending again. It was poignant—sad, sweet, and true. But it was a dull ending, just rolling into the final margin with a clunk. And then, it hit me. The event happened, sure. I was telling it all mostly true, but I wasn’t capturing the feeling it gave me. Then I remembered what I always tell myself—I’m not a historian.
And the poem said, “Hey, David. You know what I really want? I want the narrative to end like this . . . ” And what it whispered in my ear stunned me. Totally unexpected, but perfect. It was simple, natural, and magical. And not at all from my own head, or so it seemed. Okay, Easter-ish poem. Do what you want. I like it. Just let me go to bed now, okay?
So what’s the lesson here? You don’t have to work, just let it flow out however it wants and it’s sacred? Oh, hell no! Quite the opposite. You listen, and then you work. You pause again to listen as you continue. You get down what you can. You write every detail. You do it. You have to do it (even just by practicing in your head sometimes for those ones that seem to come on their own) before it will do itself.
You have to arrange the worlds before your instinct knows how to rearrange them. You cut out a lot later. A lot. And once you’ve done all the work, and the poem decides you’re really serious about this, maybe it’ll stop being so distant and let you in on what it wants to do. It’s a paradox; you have to work in order to let it work itself out. It’s just your brain unfreezing anyway. Instinct and training like an archer’s hand on the bow. It’s not flow or inspiration, or magic.
Well, it might be magic. But the spell will cast itself only after you’ve done all the preparation, the study, the sweat. Sweet dreams, friends. And keep writing.
The young man has been doing a lot of new recordings lately. Make sure you check out his other stuff including some Edgar Lee Masters Spoon River poems. Today’s was delightful and new to me.