Saturday, October 6, 2012

from the bookshelf: i wish i had a heart like yours, walt whitman

I worked with Jude Nutter in a mentorshop program at Intermedia Arts before I started my MFA program; in fact, it was just as I was gathering materials to begin applying, and she helped me sort through my poems to determine which would be strongest and in what order.  Through the time we worked together, (along with three other mentees, which include Greg Watson, a poet who has invited me to read with him twice now, an honor), I began to write what I referred to as "my grandfather poems," and the bulk of which became The Recent History of Middle Sand Lake.  So, you see, I owe a lot to her instruction and the inspiring timing.

Once again, I am Jude's mentee, and today we'll sit down as a whole group together, discussing Carolyn Forche and Polish poetry and the poetry of witness.  It's somehow exactly what I need--I'm incredibly interested in moving away from such tunnel visioned poems, which I still love to write and think are very important, and see what it is to write a more braided poem that looks out into the world.  I don't want to "take the I out," so to speak, but after writing a full-length manuscript that keeps so close to the body, I am ready to write about the body in the world.

We read her most recent, I Wish I Had a Heart Like Yours, Walt Whitman.  Beautiful, heartbreaking book.

What feels to be the thesis of this book:
it's been slipping beneath the skin / of every poem I write (10)
Your father's dead will not leave you in peace (81)

Phrases and images I loved:
At the keyholes of the nostrils (1)
crisp grass with green light up its sleeves (1)
the wind's white shoulders (2)
banner of his blood (2)
the breath of the [gun] barrel (3)
black knuckle of an axe head (5)
boys began to smell strange, like objects / that never dried out, like the rank / hug of air in the bunker (11)
And this is how I came to language, / with such fear in my small body.  And it would burn / down through me like a wick. (13)
the pod of a silver canoe (14)
dirt's top drawer (16)
this is how it was that we let you die // several different deaths at once even though / you were given only one. (27)
Long, braided / straps of song (29)
the yoke of your narrow / shoulders (31)
the leaves like the polished tongues // of church shoes. (31)
chime of trowels (40)
urge us to offer // our bodies up into the mouths of others (41)
I was on my knees, which had blown / inside out, like flowers (43)
I found my donkey, half dead / and braying in the ruins, wearing stockings / of blood and shit. (44)
the small, worn / tray of the page (53)
the wet drawbridge of his tongue (56)
the fender of your teeth (56)
its bright, precise grammar of sails (61)
The knife was honed and bright as a grass blade. (65)
a fritter of sunlight (67)
These are girls / who have recently discovered / that the bodies they have are the bodies / men want more than they / themselves do. (72)
wearing even / the promise of their large hands like expensive / accessories (73)
sliding through the belt of shadow / under the overpass (73)
the bright lasso / of a wedding ring (75)
the heart's // four neighborhoods (77)
Bless the grave of every poem. (78)
The brain / is just a basket of blood vessels. (91)
the insects / mistake my windows for clean platters / of sky (96)
green trawl of light (98)
I thought the flesh // was a door but it was always a mirror (101)
the heart's / plump slipper, there between the lungs' little kitbags (101)

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