A string of dust drops
from the corner of the ceiling
in to the small room below ---
first still, then stirred softly
by a woman's breath.
Her respiration is warm
thickening with sorrow
while the white thread glistens.
Floss untwisted from the fine tatting
of a spider's craft,
it swings back and forth
widening the square pocket of air...
I began this as an extemporised riff as a result of responding to *how did the Susan Howe day go?* inquiry by Geraldine Monk on the British Irish poets list, and got
"the day began with an address by s/he to the many gender neutral minds,constructed with thought alone, there to direct their celebratory and affirmational force, toward the work of this wonderfully well known guild member, who lets face it, when the sheep and goats get sorted in latter times by the children of our childrens childrens children in the next century..."
and it struck me to speak of a far less known, yet equally worthy poet who also shares Susan Howe's surname:
Wendy Howe is a NY state english teacher and computer teacher who i first came across around the time i discovered GM's work, and impressed me equally. There was a site with about 60 or so poems of hers there (though i think she has since removed it) and i spent two days reading them, feeling i had found a true trove of classy verbal gear, and what struck me was the simple lyric Horacean construction.
I wrote to her she told me she had been writing since she was 15, so -- 30 yrs at it -- and far ahead of my eye in experience.
What clinched it critically, that this was poetry of a proof in the top 10 percent of contemporary practitioners, was that the site of these poems, wasa bit like the old BBC Get Writing one, and as each poem was added, timed and dated (the sixty were posted over three or four yrs i think) it drew what were cleartly sincere comments from ppl who were not poets and just simple appreciators of this deft evocative lyric voice.
We had a brief exchange of e mails over a few weeks and she sent me her six point Poetic outlining how she approaches the art of writing verse..
Though Elizabeth's Bishop and Dickenson, are seperated by two or three poetgenerations (D dying 25 yrs before B was born in 1911), these are the two the mind yokes into an Image underlining a metaphor of two career trajectories: one (Bishop) conducted at the time with lots of chatter, interest, awards and wide recognition, such as Howe, Susan has...whilst Wendy Howe, is the emily dickinson parallel, and below is her six point composition poetic..
*Thank you so much for the time and consideration you
have invested in reading and contemplating my poetry.
I was very touched by the beautiful poem you write
about my verse on your Blog site. What lovely words
And I am most grateful for you bringing
my work to the attention of others, especially other
blog sites and some editors. I am a very modest person
who feels that my poetry has substantial, artistic
merit; Yet, I am always striving to perfect and hone
my skills. It's an on-going process and my poetry
(writing styles, voice, technique) evolves as I evolve
intellectually and spiritually.
....your courage in journeying to Ireland to become a full time poet: I
think takes a lot of determination and love of the craft, itself.
Ireland is a place that inspires and fosters poets and their work. I think
it draws people to its artistic and scenic climate because of the
myth, the song, and the struggle that has defined the history of Ireland.
Perhaps, that's why poets may be able to thrive in Dublin and receive the
audience, respect and recognition they deserve.*
(obviously wendy doesn't practice in the warm pool of crocodiles, as JP Dunleavy
terms it here)
*You asked me about technique or a method of sanity to
my writing. I have been composing poetry for over 27
years. Presently, I am 42. I started writing verse in
my early adolescence. At that point, it was all about
me and my struggle to understand life and my place in
the universe. However, as I aged and became a
teacher and mature poet, I developed some values that
have always guided my work and defined its thematic
(1) I always write with the reader or the observer in
mind. I try to make my images, my allusions and my
messages accessible to people's sense of familiarity.
In other words, I strive to employ words, metaphors
and ideas that people have experienced or encountered
in everyday life. For example, I would not use
references to tv shows, personalities, brand names
that are typically American and only understood by an
American audience. I want to be understood by all readers.
(2) I try never to weigh down my sentences with
multisyllabic words. I simplify my verse and use the
smaller words. Also, I avoid placing too many modifiers
in front of my nouns. Too many adjectives clutter the idea,
take away from the clean lines of the poetic symmetry.
(3) I always wait for inspiration to come to me
randomly. A poem (for me) must happen spontaneously
or it sounds too contrived. I go through periods of writer's
block because of this concept but it's worth waiting
for a good idea to come in the end.
(4) Sometimes, a glimpse of nature, a scrap of conversation
with a friend, a headline in the newspaper or reading
another line from a poem, sparks an idea, an image.
I always write these quick flashes of inspiration down
in a notebook. They can be developed into poems sometime
in the future.
(5) I am not afraid to leave a poem unfinished.
Sometimes I will start a poem and struggle with it for
days. At this point, I leave it and come back when I
feel I am equipped to complete it. And by length of
abandonment, I mean anywhere from a week to even a
year. There are three poems I have left up in the air
for a year each and then returned in another year to
complete them. Some people say how can this be done
when the writer loses her continuity of thought or
original intent over a prolonged absence from the text.
I feel the poet can bring new perspective and insight
especially if he or she has been away from the
troublesome verse for awhile. A break always gives
the mind a chance to rest and re-invests its frame of
reference with new energy and stimuli. Those traits
can help to re-shape a half-finished poem and perhaps,
lead it in a stronger direction.
(6) Always trust your gut instincts and imagination. I
have learned to be myself and trust what sounds right
to me. After all who knows my own self or thought
process better than I do.
I am sorry if this sounds too didactic but I tend to
define my methods in list form. And yet, I must say
have no perfect or set formula for writing a poem. I
mostly follow an idea and develop it into a storyline
or an observation.
I always try to keep my details and images unified. If I start with sea
imagery, I stay within that context. If I use a bird, fire or water as my
main source of meaning, my images and actions feed of that idea. I also
love history and often find creative inspiration in the situations and
challenges of people who faced great adversity or achieved something of
worth in the past. It's hard to define how I write but I work at it with
perseverance and imaginative diversity.
Below are two links that describe my poetic working habits better. The first
is an in...
Well, for now I have rambled on far too long. Again,
Kevin, thank you so much for all your enthusiasm and
kindness. I deeply appreciate it. I hope I have
answered your question about my writing habits to a
satisfactory degree. You know it's difficult for
writers, artists or even musicians I think to define
their own work and the impact it has. At least, it's
difficult for me and I probably should not speak for
I do have to run but hope this has helped you
understand my technique as a writer and my approach to
poetry. And I agree, Baraka is stunning. His work is
intense and powerful. I came across him in graduate
school and found his work riveting and unique. I
enjoyed reading that link to the interview. Thanks for
this is a link to two of her poems