Photo by James Brunskill
I am pleased to have two poems appear in the inaugural issue of Aperçus Quarterly. The poetry section features fine poems by colleagues and mentors such as Boyd W. Benson, Cameron Scott, Marvin Bell, and Peter Sears. The collection is a manageable size, and each poem is worth a read. The images beneath each poem are also striking, evocative, and well-chosen to compliment the written piece.
I wrote the poem “White Pigeons” while still in Ojai. There is a coop nearby my parents’ house. Re-reading the poem from my office in Soho makes me homesick for a place that now seems so far away as to almost have been imagined. It is, for me, a pleasant kind of haunting. Enjoy the poems.
“How open to suggestion / they have always been, carrying nothing // with them of the past, content to leave almost / everything behind…”
-Christopher Buckley, “New Clouds”
I received a complimentary copy of the premiere issue of Cloudbank today. The journal is co-edited by Peter Sears, core faculty in the Pacific Unviersity MFA program, and the index reads like a roll-call of some of that program’s most talented writers: Arthur Ginsberg helps us see behind sight, Ron Bloodworth takes us into meditative country, Marianne Klekacz makes a Christmas-morning discovery of flight, Jennifer Whetham extols the sensuous mushroom, Beth Russell defends the curious appetites of the female praying mantis, and Abby Murray brings a glimmer of hard-earned compassion to a dog-eat-dog world. More than this, new poems by Christopher Buckley, Carolyn Miller, Margaret McGovern, and a host of other wonderful poets — some from the Pacific Northwest, others not — round out this impressive debut. A publication of Cloudbank Books in Corvalis, Oregon, Cloudbank the journal is accepting submissions for its second issue, including offering a $200 prize for one outstanding poem. Details for submitting poems, and ordering a copy of their excellent first issue, are available on the Cloudbank website.
“You must be careful not to deprive the poem of its wild origin.”
Peter Sears gave a dense and compelling talk today on the larger aim of revision — which is not only to add and subtract from a work, but to also to re-envision. Drawing on numerous specific examples from talented poets, including himself, he held up a litany of mediocre poems made great through craft — from minor tinkering to dramatic shifts in perspective and tone.
The most striking example to me was one of Peter’s own poems, which he expanded by pushing it out beyond the bounds of the natural ending of a decent poem, into far more personal territory. Then, he pared down again, and those newfound details caused the poem to fuse into something at once both more specific and universal than before. It galvanized the poem.
It occurs to me, fresh from workshop, that one of the inherent perils of taking feedback about one’s own work from a group, is that the primary instrument at the group’s disposal is subtractive. That is, they can cut — but it would be presumptuous to actually add lines to someone else’s poem. Also, as Marvin Bell points out, groups often naturally tend toward compromise, the stuff of mediocrity.
Fortunately, at the Pacific residency workshops, the faculty encourage us to look at the work more holistically, and often use certain elements of a poem to address larger themes in the group’s work, or poetry in general. In the end, it is on us authors to discover the ultimate destination behind every wild impulse that starts a poem. But having, rather than a trail guide to follow through specific terrain, instead tips from experienced travelers who have walked many trails — is what makes this process invaluable.