Mary Jo Firth Gillett
A Few Thoughts on Poetics
Solitude is a necessity for most writers but it can be very helpful to share ideas and get feedback from others. Of course, not everyone lives near other poets and in that situation solitude can become isolation, contributing to a feeling of being cut off. Although every writer is and must be alone with the words, below are a few musings and writing prompts which I hope will be helpful in moving beyond the terror of the blank page.
“Thimble, Penney, Fork”
Chilean poet and diplomat Pablo Neruda won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1971. His work epitomizes the power of language and imagination to transform even the most humble objects. In the world of poetry, nothing is beneath consideration. Neruda’s leaps of metaphor and image transform even the simplest daily objects so that we see them in formerly unimagined ways. In his Odes to Common Things (trans. By Ken Krabbenhoft, Little, Brown and Co., 1994), Neruda presents new “takes” on that simple household item, the scissors. Here is how it begins:
Ode to a pair of scissors
you are as polished as a knight’s
Two long and treacherous
crossed and bound together
for all time,
thus was born a creature for cutting,
a fish the swims among billowing linens,
a bird that flies
Similarly, the first four lines of a poem by Charles Simic describe another unassuming household object,
This strange thing must have crept
Right out of hell.
It resembles a bird’s foot
Worn about the cannibal’s neck…
See how easily and comfortably Simic embraces humor in this poem. Likewise, Neruda’s “Ode to the cat” opens with a description even the cat, himself, would approve:
Ode to the cat
There was something wrong
with the animals:
their tails were too long, and they had
Then they started coming together,
little by little
fitting together to make a landscape,
developing birthmarks, grace, pep.
But the cat,
only the cat
turned out finished,
born in a state of total completion,
it sticks to itself and knows exactly what it wants…
If you’re stumped for how to start your next poem, look around you and choose a simple something to elevate with your own ode or tribute poem, taking that object, plant, or animal into new territory.