Wednesday, April 6, 2011

A Word for Wednesday: Poem (A Series of Posts about Words)

My poetry teacher in high school used to make poem a verb. "You need to take these words, this idea, this image," he would say, energetically leaning forward in the green armchair around the fireplace where we had class (we had class in an old house that had once belonged to part of the Coolidge clan). "You need to take this image and poem it." He meant by that we needed to do the hard work of scalpel-to-the-page editing, where we sliced off the unnecessary words, the parts of the poem that cluttered the clean white and black pattern. Once he suggested I ruthlessly delete 20 lines of a poem, leaving only the last three.

Today our word is poem.
(Photo Credit: Mandie Sodoma)

Definition: A verbal or written composition, conveying images, sound, meaning to us through verse. It is lyrical, focuses on meter, metaphor, and rhythm. Poem is intense, carrying a story forward to us in everything that is not written as much as everything that is written.

In the spirit of poetry, today, friends, I'm going to restrict my definitions to just one line. Condense the words so that they breathe poem, into your day and mine.

Poem, verb. To make the world repeat its singing.

Poem, verb. To spin with oak seeds towards open soil.

Poem, noun. The gasping candle, sputtering flame.

Poem, noun. The crinkled hands at their piano, muscles remembering what the mind cannot - warming the concertos to her fingers.

Poem, noun. The chaos of fireflies.

Poem, verb. To lace your soul with words.

I leave you with this discovery - a poem by Edward Hirsch (one of my very favorites). 

The Widening Sky (Edward Hirsch)

I am so small walking on the beach 
at night under the widening sky. 
The wet sand quickens beneath my feet 
and the waves thunder against the shore. 

I am moving away from the boardwalk 
with its colorful streamers of people 
and the hotels with their blinking lights. 
The wind sighs for hundreds of miles. 

I am disappearing so far into the dark 
I have vanished from sight. 
I am a tiny seashell 
that has secretly drifted ashore 

and carries the sound of the ocean 
surging through its body. 
I am so small now no one can see me. 
How can I be filled with such a vast love?


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