What a grave and fickle thing is memory. With little collaboration, it can betray or redeem. It can make of us the fool, the saint, the criminal, the victim. It can create itself anew, and be lost with none wise of its going. And then there are the daily duplicities—the facts that aren’t quite right, the images that are selective at best, invented at worst.
Fortunately for the poet, facts aren’t essential, and the slanted truth is often preferred to the straight. But who is immune to the alternate realities of another’s memory? Who can still the startling in his bones when a lover says, “No, your suit was blue and the sky was gray”, “It was the week before her funeral, and the one after our sheets were stolen from the Laundromat, and your keys fell through the storm grate at the park.” Continue reading
It’s the last day of my introductory poetry writing class, and my students are giving their recitations and presentations for a final project I call “Live with a Poem.” One student, originally from Singapore, has chosen Carol Ann Duffy’s “In Your Mind.” She offers highlights from a conversation with her friend, another international student, about how the poem speaks to the experience of living in a foreign country. The next student, after doggedly making his way through his recitation of Richard Siken’s long and sinuous “Saying Your Names,” presents a slideshow of photographs he’s taken in an attempt to capture the poem’s mood, which he describes as one of “intimate distance.” I’ve had student’s pair poems with pieces of music, wear them on T-shirts, and use them as inspiration for oil paintings. One person even did a statistical analysis based on the lines in his poem of choice, that passersby responded to the most. The assignment is to choose a poem that’s personally meaningful to you, and then “live” with that poem by incorporating it into your life in a creative way. Continue reading