Poetry Daily

What Sparks Poetry

Object Lessons

What Sparks Poetry is a serialized feature in which we invite poets to explore experiences and ideas that spark new poems.

In our current series, Object Lessons, we’re thinking about the relationship between the experienced and imagined world. We have asked our editors and invited poets to present one of their own poems in combination with the object that inspired it, and to meditate on the magical journey from object to poem.

For me, Virgil’s Aeneid is partly about continuity and repetition, a setting out over and over again. Likewise, David Ferry’s deep intertextual approach to writing—especially in Bewilderment, which includes his translations of Virgil, Catullus, and others, alongside his original poems—is also about continuity and iteration.

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Brian Teare
October 12

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The object I'm considering is a landscape, which includes recognizing myself as part of any landscape that I'm engaging, whether I'm looking at it, remembering it, imagining it, or writing about it, and whether that landscape is the rolling hills of California, a painting by Henry Ossawa Tanner, a video by Zenib Sedira, or an argument for public parks by Fredrick Law Olmsted. And just as I am a part of the landscape that I'm writing about, the writing is a part of it, too.

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“The Wake of Maria De Jesus Martinez” was one attempt to write, as form, a casta-like poem, where each section of the lyric was itself of a different time and space, yet, linked through repeating phrases. As the lyric progressed, the work began to be less “pictorial” and relied more and more on sound: the emotional labor of the poem was performed/rendered through its music.

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A poem, too, is a series of intersections. To be like a mountain, a poem must be in ever-motion, unclosed and unfinished. To be like a mountain, a poem must/might be its own metamorphic conglomerate, swallowing fragments of what came before—texts, body memories, images—transforming them by pressure and heat into some new thing.

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Most of all, however, Curt was interested in cement, its powerful malleability. Cement could allow you to fashion new things never before seen on the landscape, or it could just as well slink back to imitate the forms that were already there. I, on the other hand, was not a ready fan of this material. I couldn’t deny that it disgusted me, had always disgusted me, but now especially, when the hum of construction was all-present in Indian cities as to never stop. Cement was simply a mainstay in the air we breathed;

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When I first saw the bandelette in the Musée d’art et d’histoire du Judaisme, in Paris’s Marais district, I immediately experienced one of those Rilkean “bursts,” for here was an object, that in its ornate yet near-transparent being, invoked so much of the social, cultural and historic struggles of the Jews which are writ large across and infuse the whole of Western culture from earliest times through the rise of Christianity and the Church fathers, on up to the Shoah.

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