September 2010


The poet says poetry demands that readers and thinkers slow down. Just as a poem emerges out of careful attention, it demands and recreates that kind of attention within the reader. Poems are the antithesis of the sound bite; they are antidotes to polarisation.

How to Write Poetry at Five Books

Every day an eminent writer, thinker, commentator, politician, academic chooses five books on their specialist subject. From Einstein to Keynes, Iraq to the Andes, Communism to Empire.

Advertisements

The volumes consigned to the flames in Berlin, and more than 30 other university towns around the country on that and following nights, included works by more than 75 German and foreign authors, among them (to cite but a few) Walter Benjamin, Bertolt Brecht, Albert Einstein, Friedrich Engels, Sigmund Freud, André Gide, Ernest Hemingway, Franz Kafka, Lenin, Jack London, Heinrich, Klaus and Thomas Mann, Ludwig Marcuse, Karl Marx, John Dos Passos, Arthur Schnitzler, Leon Trotsky, HG Wells, Émile Zola and Stefan Zweig. Also among the authors whose books were burned that night was the great 19th-century German poet Heinrich Heine, who barely a century earlier, in 1821, had written in his play Almansor the words: “Dort, wo man Bücher verbrennt, verbrennt man am Ende auch Menschen” – “Where they burn books, they will, in the end, also burn people.”

Jon Henley

via wood s lot

There are two elements in “finding” a poem: discovering the subject matter and locating the concrete details and images out of which the poems are built. In this instance, I do not mean the subject matter to be the ideas or subjects for poems. Instead, I am referring to finding the resonant sources deep inside you that empower those subjects and ideas when they are put in poems. For example, I am made of the landscape in northern California where I grew up, made of my father’s uninhabited mountain where my twin sister and I spent most of our time as small children with the live oak trees, the stillness, the tall grass, the dry smell of the hot summer air where the red-tailed hawks turned slowly up high, where the two of us alone at ten did the spring roundup of my father’s twenty-six winter-shaggy horses. Down below there were salmon in the stream that ran by our house, the life of that stream and the sound of it as we lay in our bunks at night, our goat and the deer standing silently outside in the mist so many mornings when we awoke. The elements of that bright world are in my poetry now when I write about love or Nicaragua or the old gods in the rocky earth of Greece, just as the Greek islands where I lived for almost five years resonate in the poems I write now about the shelter for abused women in Manhattan or how a marriage failed in New England—but not directly. They are present as essences. They operate invisibly as energy, equivalents, touchstones, amulets, buried seed, repositories, and catalysts. They function at the generating level of the poems to impregnate and pollinate the present—provoking, instigating, germinating, irradiating—in the way the lake high up in the Sierra mountains waters the roses in far away San Francisco.

Linda Gregg