What Sparks Poetry is a serialized feature in which we invite poets to explore experiences and ideas that spark new poems. In the newest series, The Poems of Others II, twenty-four poets pay homage to the poems that led them to write.
When I was his student, Stan used to say that a piece of writing is never really finished, but only rests. Perhaps, too, our love for a person or place, when it is true, is always unresting. Isn’t that, after all, what “Dutch Elm” implies?
Today, as I re-read this poem, I enjoy the way it yields to light, as if the paper strip changes into a page, and the page of the poem into a farolita, or vice versa. In this way, it’s mostly about light without saying the word light more than once. It blurs the boundaries of thingness and mystery, obliquely pointing us to tangible and intangible realms of knowing.
One moment you can be a child in a classroom, terrified & trapped, & then you read the right words, & you are free. It’s true. Freedom is real. Art is true. And once you know a true thing, it is difficult to un-know.
Howe’s techniques create an altered world that a reader can step into and attempt to decipher. In the act of reading, we enter into the act of making. I loved the mystery in that process and the reader-work involved as we participate in the unraveling of established histories and the un-silencing that results.
Up until encountering Jillian’s poetry, I’d more or less repressed or compartmentalized the emotions I felt as a result of my marginalization and always ultimately unsuccessful assimilation, both for fear of how dangerous I thought it was to indulge those emotions and out of societally formed habit. I found a way to misplace, overlook, or normalize horrible things, even if I always survived them.
December 16, 2019
The Poems of Others II
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