Gregory Donovan on “The Jeweled Eye”:
I despair of being able to write adequately about someone I love. One day in my office I heard my wife begin her shower, and I pictured her there, hot water streaming over her—she says it’s the only time she feels warm during winter, the dead season and its bone-chilling cold she hates. I felt protective toward her in my imagining, much as Coleridge feels towards his friend Charles Lamb in “This Lime Tree Bower My Prison,” where, though he’s forced to stay behind with an injured foot, Coleridge imagines on behalf of Charles the healing effect of a walk along a forest path and out into the open for a view of the sea. I married late and well to a brilliant and talented woman who is my family in a singular way—all of my immediate family, both parents and two younger brothers, are dead. Yet I was always suspicious of marriage—during college I once asked a friend who’d been married (and divorced) about it, and he told me marriage is simply a commercial conspiracy to get you to buy appliances. My good fortune is that my wife became my best friend during the eight years we’d developed a strong (and entirely platonic) relationship rooted in our love of music, poetry, and films—she’s had a career in all those fields. I’m astonished at my luck in marrying my friend and the privilege of marrying without a single doubt. Recently we bought her a small, lovely bracelet whose Italian designer places a tiny ruby on the clasp as a kind of signature. In the poem, that’s all she’s wearing, wrapped in steam and in imagination’s care.
My favorite field trip as a child was visiting the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia and walking through the giant heart on the first floor. For years I’ve tried to write a poem about standing in the middle of that enormous heart, with its veins, arteries, and encompassing, pounding cadence. Finally, the heart found me as I was writing my way through the revelation of a murderous family incident and my growing awareness of a legacy of trauma made possible by generations of idolatry and silence. The Franklin Institute heart became a metaphor that made writing about this violence and heartbreak possible. And in the midst of the process, a form evolved, embodying the poem.
The Odyssey of Yes
This poem is one of four Odysseys in the manuscript I am completing. The series moves through poems addressing the complications of saying “yes” and “no” in an environment that encourages or requires compliance. In addition to addressing the fear of saying “no” and the relief of saying “yes” in that setting and in the outside world, there is also the reality of genuinely thinking and feeling “yes” in the atmosphere of the forbidden “no.” Throughout most of these poems, a childlike repetition and rhythm evolved, playfully allowing me to address the gravitas of the subjects.
Frannie Lindsay on “Pleasure“:
At the end of her life, my sister became indiscriminately greedy in her desires for sustenance, for company, for simple sensual pleasures. Her last lunches would consist of waffles with excessive maple syrup, chocolate mousse, and always great handfuls of cashews. Her artless hedonism seemed informed by the knowledge that she was dying — it acquired a certain aloofness from her waning physicality, which came to resemble an awkward grace. She longed, in fact, to draw those close to her even closer to the fact of her cancer-riddled body: she needed to have her thinning hair French-braided and her feet massaged and oiled. She needed witnesses to the impending mortification of her flesh.
Frannie Lindsay on “Silent Night“:
The one-year anniversary of 9/11 was awkward and solemn. I left my house at dusk, grabbing a stubby hurricane candle on the way out the door and jamming it through a paper plate, wondering if I would be pacing my neighborhood streets alone with the wick cold and white. It still remains a wonder to me when others meandered one by one onto their porches and down their walks toward an uncharacteristically quiet Harvard Square, holding candles, not talking, one by one passing the flame around until all were lit.
Hank Lazer on four poems:
And then I began writing in quatrains… The form given to me seemed to be 3 quatrains (12 lines) = a poem. A small unpretentious notebook turned out to be perfect for the shape of these poems: Scratch Pads (4” x 6”) from CVS, which I first thought would be fine for grocery shopping lists, but soon I was writing away in these three-quatrain poems, and eventually there were hundreds of these poems. The poems that Danny selected for Plume form a nice group – all touching on aging and writing. I rarely title my poems (though I always include the date of composition), but for the Plume poems, since I was working with the number four, I made the fourth word of the poem also the title. “Old” begins with a riff on Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet, my poem addressing old poets (I am 72 years old). “Two” engages the liberating aspect of being an old(er) poet. Our reading keeps alive – brings to life – the poets we are reading. In “Two,” I think of the great (now less well known?) poet John Taggart and his rural, isolated home. “Not” considers the strange succession of days and time, and our inability to know time (because we are time). And “Wrote” – perhaps because I’ve been going through lots of storage bins of my old papers, correspondence, manuscripts (from the 1970s and 1980s) – reflects upon a much earlier (pre-computer) mode of communication and community, when we wrote (often by hand, sometimes by typewriter) long letters to one another. Now, we write, and it, like us, vanishes…
Dorianne Laux on “I Watch My Neighbor Watch Porn Movies through The Kitchen Window” & “Moonflaw”:
I Watch my Neighbor Watch Porn Movies through the Kitchen Window was written quickly from a true memory. On warm summer nights I could see him and the TV downstairs, as well as his wife and their new baby upstairs. I was such a wonderful, homey tableau and when they came together downstairs, such tenderness and love. It seemed to capture these odd bedfellows of the epitome of domesticity and worldly adventure.
Moonflaw is a mystery to me. The word is made up, though it may have come from the fact that there are moon faults. I’m always looking up facts about the moon. Other than that, I have no real memory of how the poem came to be or even quite what it means. It’s essentially my mind wandering through the poem on the tail of my imagination in a loose grip.
Patricia Clark on 3 poems:
I love oysters and when a small specialty grocery store in our neighborhood in Grand Rapids, Michigan began promoting special seafood weekends featuring fresh oysters, I was eager to partake. As busy as the countermen were, they’d shuck the oysters for us, leaving them in the shells, on ice, labeling the six of them, or the dozen if we splurged, so we could know their origin and name. Growing up in the Pacific Northwest, I was repulsed in my childhood when my brothers picked oysters out of salt water, cracked them open and slurped them down. Thank goodness our tastes change as we age! The famous English satirist Jonathan Swift wrote, “He was a bold man that first ate an oyster.” In Michigan we feasted on Blue Point oysters from Wellfleet, some Pink Moon oysters from Prince Edward Island, and I seem to remember Kumamotos from Totten’s Inlet in Washington State. Each time we indulged in these oysters, they were a sensual pleasure. I loved buying shallots and mincing them into a mignonette sauce, adding red wine vinegar or white champagne vinegar along with fresh ground pepper and some salt. Good food makes me happy which leads to wanting to write, and I couldn’t help but see connections between eating oysters and being in a relationship with someone. All the difficulty of opening the oysters, the grit, the mess, the delicious sloppiness. Thus, the poem.
“Because What We Do Lives On”
He needed to be mentioned in the poem, my grandfather, that is, but I wanted my mother to get the attention, she with whom over the years I didn’t always have the easiest time getting along. I saw my mother overlooked and discounted so often that it hurt me, too. This poem describes only one of a few examples of what I would call her heroism in the face of trouble, in this case my complaining grandfather, grousing that his son (my father) who was underneath the house getting filthy was not getting his house’s pipes thawed as quickly as he would like. Even being on the receiving end of kindness, my grandfather couldn’t help but bitch and complain. My mother was having none of it. I don’t think I witnessed this incident but she told it herself, as I remember it, and rendered him, appropriately enough, properly speechless, in real life and in her story.
“Center of Gold”
The Austrian painter Gustav Klimt painted The Kiss and The Woman in Gold, but his landscapes are lush and worthy of attention too, for their rich color, stunning detail, and echoes of eternity. Such is what I found in Aplebaum, a postcard reproduction I looked at, studied, dreamed on, till it spoke to me and yielded this poem.