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Saturday, November 02, 2013

The Crafty Poet and Ways to Kickstart Your Writing

Diane Lockward's wonderful book to jump-start your creative process, The Crafty Poet, has had a great mention in Poets & Writers as one of the "best books for writers." I'm pleased to have a poem of mine included in this juicy craft collection, "Worst," under the Prompt: Missing You. Diane's prompts and tips are richly illustrated with poems from so many poets I love I can't begin to name them all.

I especially love the chapters on Revision and Recycling poems. Adele Kenny, whose blog The Music In It gives weekly prompts, has a poem, "Snake Lady," illustrates the principle of revising a poem by adding layers of complication. This is a favorite trick of mine when considering a poem whose heartbeat is so faint I can barely hear it loud enough not to consign it to the morgue.

Here's one, "Scared Birds," that I revived with the above technique of layering, and it made its way into Deep Water Literary Journal. It's also included in my new book, Gods of Water and Air. This one was a case of two poems that collided in the night, with great cacophony and surreal mangling of metaphors in a sort of fairytale way. It scared me when I wrote it, hence the title.

Friday, November 01, 2013

On this All Souls Day, I offer a poem about one kind of afterlife (there are many) from Gods of Water and Air:


Smiling Back from the Afterlife

I meet my father for breakfast
in some life after Alzheimer’s. He smiles:
Are you still my daughter? The first sick joke
from the afterlife begins on the phone.
I say, I regret that I am. His skull
knobbed yellow and blue, bruised
from an unremembered mishap, I imagine his face
the color of a car’s undercarriage, the sun
from his ocean view window
catching the green mica flecks in his eyes.
His thoughts float on the surface, torn
out of context. He’s dying, he says:
ninety-two and a ragpile wreck.

He throws down the paper.
Still all assholes! he proclaims and asks
the word for forgetfulness. I remind him
it’s CRS syndrome: Can’t Remember Shit.
His favorite joke lives on in my memory.
Everything between us lives in me,
so when I leave him in his black leather chair,
I feel his confusion pelting my back.
Do I know you? Your name is Rachel, right?
The phone catches his frown, then smile
in its black brick, photo grim as a toe tag.
Still your daughter, I say from the airport.

Now I’m on a plane and as far
as he’s concerned, I might as well be
in the afterlife. I’m mulching him
over, planting him in memory,
watering him with thin answers,
sure that he’ll spring up in life after
this, my old deep-rooted weed.