Style

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.

.

Thinking of Accidents

This morning I’m reading from a book of poetry by Peter Everwine titled, from the meadow. The following lines are from the poem, “Accident.”

The trick is to risk collision,/then step back at the last moment:/that ringing in your ears/might be construed as the rush of stars.

I found Peter Everwine’s work by accident. I read one of his poems in an email I receive every week or so with American poetry and ordered the book. Recognizing his voice in that one poem I read in an email was like a “ringing” that said, this one. Get this one. By the miracle of Internet search, I found his address and will write him a thank you note. He’s retired from teaching at Fresno State.

I’ve been thinking of accidents lately. Two weeks ago, a lady in the Whole Foods parking lot backed into me as I was passing and caused some damage to the passenger side door. Not bad and no one was hurt, annoying but not drastic. This week I took the car into the collision center to be repaired and they gave me a rental 2010 Camry. Nice car and all, but not mine.

I’ve been concerned all week about accidents in an unfamiliar car that wasn’t mine. I took Cliff’s Honda to school because the rental doesn’t have school parking stickers, so again I was in an unfamiliar car – at night – thinking about accidents. I want MY Camry back. I want to feel safe in my car again. 

And yet, an accident isn’t necessarily bad – a collision might be – but accidents come in all shapes and sizes. Finding Peter Everwine’s work was an accident that’s brought joy and the sound of rushing stars.

If we get in the habit of closing ourselves off to any accident, we miss the small beauty right in front of us; pretty soon, the stars disappear. That’s when we get blind-sided by collisions.