Thursday, October 9, 2008

Poetry: The Fiction Aphrodisiac

Unlike Marianne Moore, I don't despise it.

Once graduated from the hallowed halls of academia, I am now free to choose the poets with whom I am "intersected." Billy Collins explained this to me once. He said you as a person have intersections with poets, and every now and then, the person you are (at that moment in time) collides with a certain poet and his/her work (at that moment in time), and something resonates. What's the other saying? When the student is ready, the teacher appears.

I have my list: Whitman, Dickinson, Eliot, Williams, Stevens, Stafford, Wilbur, Kinnell, Meinke, Olds, Collins. And those are just the recent Americans.

Reading "distilled" words--verse--boils away the superficial layers of muck on the brain. It allows quicker access into that place where the ideas lie. I just read The Niagara River by Kay Ryan, our latest Poet Laureate, and her words spark like flint. She can turn an image on its head, a concept into paper:


What's the use
of something
as unstable
and diffuse as hope -
the almost-twin
of making-do,
the isotope
of going on:
what isn't in
the envelope
just before
it isn't:
the always tabled
righting of the present.

And suddenly, I'm off onto character landscapes, nuanced plot, detailed description. It's the fiction aphrodisiac.

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