Gretchen Steele Pratt: “When I first started writing poems, I read a letter (in a book) that I believe was from James Wright to Richard Hugo—I can’t be sure because I have never been able to find the letter again. The letter was written while Wright was on vacation and he describes a particularly beautiful night to Hugo. It is implied that the night was too beautiful for Wright to ever write a poem about and so he was giving the details to Hugo in case he could use them. I will always remember how Wright graciously offered up these details to his friend—he said, ‘Here are some fragments of my hammer that broke against a wall of jewels.’ Although I have never been able to locate the letter, this quote has remained at the forefront of my mind and always reminds me why I love writing poems.” (website)
Alison Townsend: “I wrote this poem in a fabulous online class called ‘The Language of Color’ with California poet and essayist Elizabeth Brennan. During the course, we worked our way through the entire color spectrum. The poem emerged when we were contemplating orange. I live in the country, on four acres of prairie and oak savanna. The huge tree outside my study window, a constant companion, was my starting point. When my mother (who died when I was a child) entered the poem and each line presented itself as an end-stopped sentence, I saw a possibility for using form. I turned to the pantoum, which I love for its slow mystery, back-and-forth movement, and non-linear narrative. It’s a ruminative form and a melancholy one—exactly what I needed to evoke the on-going presence of the past in the present, and the way even great loss can be illuminated by beauty. The tree, the autumn season, my mother’s spirit, the color orange, and the form all combined magically to make the poem possible. Poetry is a calling for me; moments like these are the reason I write.”
2020 Rattle Poetry Prize winner Alison Townsend was the guest on Rattlecast #79! Click here to watch …
Why Tower Air? I ask as my husband packs a suitcase to get ready to attend his mother’s funeral.
Because it’s a bargain, he says.
Wouldn’t you rather fly a major carrier?
I pull a card from my Tarot deck. Out of the 78 possibilities, it’s the Tower that shows up. Flames shoot from the top of a crumbling brick tower while a couple with shock imprinted on their faces falls through the air, crowns flying. There’s no soft landing in sight.
I plead with my husband to book with another airline, but he says he’ll be fine. I shouldn’t put such faith in divination.
As I entertain a couple of acquaintances, the phone rings. My husband’s voice sounds far away.
dusk signals the jasmine to release its scent
I’m at Kennedy. We had to make an emergency landing. While flames shot from the engine, the pilot told us to put our heads in our laps and brace for impact. The silence was so thick, no one could make a sound. I took my wallet from my jacket, placed it in the seat pocket facing me, just in case my body couldn’t be identified. And then I saw a newspaper headline which seemed so vivid and real—son dies in plane crash after attending mother’s funeral. It was the most bizarre experience. I thought my life was over, that I’d never see you again. When we got off the plane, some people actually kissed the ground. Everyone is shaken including the pilot’s wife. It was her husband’s last flight before retirement.
While my guests stuff themselves on tacos and guacamole, I try to regain composure. Don’t sweat the small stuff, they tell me. Get over it. Move on. Come eat.
I want to throw them both out but instead I bite my tongue until it aches. I count the minutes until they’re out of my space.
the cat brings home a screech owl
I sense disappointment in my brother-in-law’s voice. Had there been a fatal accident, he’d inherit all of the mother’s estate. I so need to vent, but my next-door neighbor, who caught a blip about it on the news, is nonchalant.
During break in qi gong class, my husband tries to tell a classmate about the incident, but the instructor glares at him as if to say, keep your sad stories to yourself.
Alexis Rotella: “My husband and I were living in Los Gatos, California, a few months when he flew a low-budget airline back east to attend his mother’s funeral. The reaction of dinner guests, a neighbor, my brother-in-law and qi gong teacher taught us how a near tragedy can bring unexpected reactions from others as well as an education in human nature.” (web)
Austen Leah Rose: “Rilke wrote a lot of letters, especially to his wife, Clara. He had to, because he was always running away from her, isolating himself in windswept castles perched on rocks by the sea. I suppose he required a certain amount of distance in order to feel intimacy. In one letter, he describes an ideal relationship: ‘I hold this to be the highest task of a bond between two people: that each should stand guard over the solitude of the other.’” (web)
Jessica Lee: “For years, I tried to write a poem about this particular time in my teenage mind/bedroom, but the drafts never felt like they encompassed everything I wanted them to hold. Then one winter, during a trip home to visit my mother, I watched our dog lick herself in the middle of the living room while we were watching Pride & Prejudice and—just like that—the poem unfolded in my mind’s eye. I stopped watching the movie and Daisy, went in search of a pen.” (web)
Lance Larsen: “In a poem over twenty years old, I describe floating in a swimming pool late at night: ‘I kept the lights off to blur my edges.’ In childhood, the demarcation between self and world often felt smudgy, as if I was on the verge of dissolving into something beautiful or terrifying. It was never entirely clear which. How to center yourself on this darkly turning planet? When I try to rewind the clock via poetry, that strange opaqueness, that lovely permeability often returns. And mystery, once again, is everywhere.”
Lance Larsen is the guest on Rattlecast #97! Click here to join us live at 8 p.m. EDT …