I’m a memoirist, and whether I’m writing poetry, essays, or book-length pieces, I write memories. My style, as such, comes from loving words: words that define meaning more precisely. I spend a lot of time with the thesaurus, and my favorite right now WordNet, an electronic source out of Princeton University. So even when I write prose, I want my words/sentences to sound right. I’ve spent more years reading and writing poetry (most of it badly done) than I have publishing poetry.
The below poem from the collection At the Boundary may say more about my style than any words I can write about “style.” When I wrote this poem, I was working with the concept of writing lines as phrases and clauses that would only require commas and no full stop until the end of the poem. I don’t always write like that. Often my sentences are short and blunt, again for sound and rhythm. I don’t listen to music as I write but I like my sentences to have music in them. The below is one long sentence and related to the time after my mother died.
The Virtue of Beauty
If I’d remembered each fall flinging itself
hard at my chest with this same aching beauty,
the red not just red, rather revolution
and blood, flames unfurled against a sky blue
no painter could paint without its looking false,
impossibly real, perhaps, to an artist,
without one imperfect cloud suspended
there, beyond towering oaks bronzed green-gold
by Hephaestus, forging eternity,
as if to remind me of beauty lost
between Duluth and Des Moines in last year’s
dirty snow stacked against some highway
entering or leaving winter, my eyes
scrived with grief, blinded to any virtue
in dying to live again, the loss fresh
in the blood’s flow severed from your heart
to mine (I am a child abandoned, in the end,
as each child must be) I might have recalled
beauty and glory, not dried as leaves will dry
flung from the tree, but lifted and yearning,
in a fresh flood of color filling my wings.