“The Twenty-Year Workshop” by Lynne Knight

Lynne Knight


I loved hearing the guy on the local station
in the small town where I lived for twenty years:
Here in the foothills of the Adirondacks.
I was trying to become a poet, and I thought
everything I heard could become a poem
if I could figure out how to make use of it,
the way frontierswomen made use of berries
for dyes, or stones for doorstops, if doors
were there at all. And by then I’d be far off
in Kansas, the sun blinding me, the old mule
dying of thirst in the drought, my own lips
so swollen and cracked I could barely speak,
my children woeful at the table. Then Oklahoma,
the Dust Bowl, trying to seal all the openings
from the heavy black night rolling toward me
in the middle of the afternoon. Meanwhile,
the foothills of the Adirondacks, where often
the snow buried cars, farm equipment,
old roads in the woods. I thought my life
was inadequate to poetry, and my mind along
with it, so often I tried to be Eliot, Pound,
all those revered at the time as masters.
And I would despair, because nothing I wrote
sounded as beautiful or profound as the foothills
of the Adirondacks, the word foothills alone
like its own little poem, hidden in the shadow
of the mountains, which, as I drove over them
to visit my sister in Vermont, seemed to taunt me
with their permanence, until slowly the need
to redeem as my own the words of others
became less desperate, and even shadows spoke.

from Rattle #50, Winter 2015

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Lynne Knight: “The older I get, the luckier I feel that writing is such an essential part of my life. It’s like having a lover who can madden and exasperate you but then, out of seeming nowhere, take you places you never dreamed you’d go … a lover who gives maybe too many lessons on how to survive rejection but—huge plus—never makes you fear abandonment.” (website)

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