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poetry germs: pass them on!

May 23, 2009

I used to read Robert Peake’s blog quite regularly, back when I was in the throes of the Polka Dot Witch (poetry) Blog. Robert’s story (well, one of Robert’s stories) is that his infant son died at only three days old. It’s a wonder to hear what insights and appreciations that tragedy has manifested.

Somehow, I lost track of the site in all the moves I’ve made since then, but in today’s Poetry Hut Blog news (May 23), there was a link to a speech he delivered at the conclusion of his MFA studies at Pacific University. You should go read the whole thing, but here’s a quote:

“It seems to me that poetry is not, in fact, a skill one learns or teaches—like driving or typing—but actually a virus one catches from sustained and intimate contact with the infected.”

Translation, as it applies to the blog world, perhaps, would be: we’ve got cooties. And if you stick around, you’re gonna get ’em, too.

I want to tell you that I didn’t read the entire speech as a cootie-carrying 10-year-old. I read most of it, in fact, as a mostly serious poet who is grateful when she finds an apt description of something she also feels. Peake wrote,

“I became—not a grief poet, or a lighthearted poet, a formal poet, or a free-verse poet—but a receptive poet, and a determined sitter before the laptop screen.”

He’s talking, of course, about how certain experiences (in his case undergraduate training and the loss of his son) gave him a path to follow with poetry and how he ultimately opened to more.

I’ve forced myself to branch out a bit also over the last year or so. It happened after I’d written many, many angst-ridden poems about my mother’s illness and the ill-health of our relationship at times. These poems had been preceded by a few years of poems about depression and disillusionment with motherhood and marriage.

Many of them have been good poems, but it felt like a rut. It seemed like I was a poet who only wrote about her disappointments. When I realized it and began to be afraid I couldn’t write anything else, I put my butt in the chair and tried new things. This fall, for example, I attempted some love poems, insisting all the while they weren’t love poems.

It was wonderful, however, to experience something different at the poetry table. Instead of the way my prior themes made me feel solid and heavy (not burdened, but grounded), the new themes gave me buoyancy and thrill enough to keep me returning to find it again and again. I’m an addict, a poetry addict, a cootie-infested poetry addict. So hot!

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3 Comments
  1. August 1, 2009 1:18 am

    Carolee, I just came across this, and I must say: good for you. It was my faculty adviser, Marvin Bell, who once remarked that we should write, “instead of so many elegies to the dead, more love poems to the living.” My best to you in your journey.

  2. August 1, 2009 11:44 am

    thanks, robert. i’m so thrilled you found the post.

  3. August 3, 2009 10:06 pm

    Me too. And, thanks to you, I’m checking out Read Write Poem.

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