Friday, April 18, 2014


Poems talk to each other

Poetic expression can be a sublime way to address our other self(s), our God, our friend, our lover, as well as, objects, situations, nature, and more.

Poets can talk to each other in their common language of images and metaphor, rhythm and meter, rhyme and alliteration, emotion and lyrical expressions,

Poets Jim Harrison and Ted Kooser have always exchanged poems, but practiced this habit  more intentionally after Kooser was diagnosed with cancer. In  Braided Creek: A Conversation in Poetry, we have the privilege of eavesdropping on their short poetic bursts of conversation in which they consider everything aspect of their lives-- nature, aging, friendship, poetry, and more.  The continuity of the conversation is uninterrupted, as they have chosen to omit attributions of which poems are whose.

Here we peek at  their ongoing conversation:

Old friend,
perhaps we work to hard
at being remembered.

Which way will the creek
run when time ends?
Don't ask me until
this wine bottle is empty.

When my bowl is still half full,
You can eat out it too,
and when it is empty,
just bury it out in the flowers.

All those years
I had in my pocket.
I spent them,

Earlier Kooser had published Winter Morning Walks : 100 Postcards to Jim Harrison.

To whom might you write short poems ?  With whom might you exchange a conversation in poetry

While Kooser and Harrison addressed the stuff of everyday living,  David Breeden and Steven Schroeder conversed and collaborated in poetic conversations around religion and philosophy and the meaning of life beyond our everyday living.

In Raging for the Exit: A Commonplace Book, we witness their poetic dialogue. Unlike Kooser and Harrison, we know whose thoughts we are reading--Breeden's are in regular type and left-justified, while Schroeder's are in italics and right-justified.  As they respond to each other, they weave a map of evolving ideas and  a window into the progression of their thoughts.

( from How Many Miles?)
....Oh, Babylon,
The merchants will weep
And the saints rejoice
When you fall.

But as for the rest
We will have
Forgotten our way
And we won't
Be back again.


 (from there)              
  we forgot
                                            the song singing
                                            us, thought music
                                            like language ended
                                            when we laid down
                                           our harps and

                                          by the rivers
                                          there.  We wept
thinking ourselves
 a poem abandoned...

 What religious or philosophical themes might you address in conversations written in poems?

One of the richest conversations that exist in poetry is For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf, a choreopoem by Ntozake Shange, created to be performed.

Both the book and the Broadway play  were moving experiences for me.

 Remarkable and powerful, For Colored Girls. the film directed by Tyler Perry, received little of its deserved recognition and accolades.

He uses Shange's poems as the dialogue for his characters with very little modification, and presents a powerful conversation which fosters much reflection and  many further conversations.

The preview below features the first poem in the book, which contains the title line and opens the movie.

 Can you express a social issue in poetic conversation or series of poetic dialogues?

We can also engage in conversation with the poems of others, their teaching, and their influence on us.

 This is the  focus of  collected poems in A Ritual to Read Together: Poems in Conversation with William Stafford  edited by  Becca J. R. Bachman.  20 years after his death, poets address Stafford directly, remember him, and reflect on his work in relation to their work, creating a letter to him, a conversation with him.  

What writer, teacher or other person will you engage in a poetic conversation or letter?

Finally,  poems can declare our love and praise the object of our affection. 

I have spoken in previous posts about my affinity for short traditional Japanese poetic forms.  I was delighted to recently find a form new to me-- the somonka.  Robert Brewer writes about this form in the current issue of Writer's Digest (see page 17) in his Poetic Asides column.

The somonka is a ten-line, two-stanza  love letter.  Using the structure of the tanka ( five lines with a 5-7-5-5-5 syllable structure), one person writes the first stanza, while the receiver of the first stanza writes the second.

Click here to read sample somonka.

To whom will you address your love poem, your somonka?

With whom can you engage in a conversation in poems?

Today's Deeper Writing Possibilities

Write a poem about something  that has been on your mind.  It may be a poem about circumstances in your everyday life, a philosophical or religious quandary, a social justice issue. or a declaration of love.

It may focus on a person from your past or someone in your life now.

Once you have completed your poem, share it with another person and invite them to respond in poetry, as well.

You may continue to share back and forth creating a series of poems-- a conversation.

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