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poetry | Bethany Suckrow
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The Nature of Things.

It is the great echoing of the universe that comes back to you, in your loneliness, to remind you that this vast, complex longing is what gives you belonging to this world. The ocean ebbs and flows, the weather rages and quiets, the day rises and falls to the light and darkness, with you. The trees burst and lose their leaves in a pattern of life and death as a reminder : this mournful, barren winter is real; this small bud of hope called spring is real. This substance of your self, skin and blood and bone and water, is the universe in and outside of you, too. It is your companion, the honest one that does not ask you to keep shining brightly when your day has ended and it is time to rest. When the tide is out, the slender white heron lands gracefully in the twilight, in the soft sponge of the bay to eat; everything at home in its time. Nature is an invitation: the world is yours, and all the seasons in it, you.

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Poem : Topography.

I remember the first time poetry really moved me.

Of course, I already owned the words of Dickinson and Dunn, thinking of them as a vague echo of my experience. But.

Until this moment, I knew nothing of poetry. Not the way it sounded on a tongue or the way it silenced a crowd of college kids, nor the way it opened me and my pages to not just words, but feeling.

It was early spring, my freshman year. Linford Detweiler played a lovely, quiet, sparsely attended piano concert in the chapel, lights dimmed, stage bare. He paused between songs to read poems, tell stories, charm the crowd.

He closed with this poem, Topography by Sharon Olds.

He fingered the piano keys, tossed his music pages to the floor and read the words. And I sat there in silence for minutes afterward, thinking… Oh. That’s what it’s for.

Topography
by Sharon Olds

After we flew across the country we
got in bed, laid our bodies
delicately together, like maps laid
face to face, East to West, my
San Francisco against your New York, your
Fire Island against my Sonoma, my
New Orleans deep in your Texas, your Idaho
bright on my Great Lakes, my Kansas
burning against your Kansas, your Kansas
burning against my Kansas, your Eastern
Standard Time pressing into my
Pacific Time, my Mountain Time
beating against your Central Time, your
sun rising swiftly from the right my
sun rising swiftly from the left your
moon rising slowly from the left my
moon rising slowly from the right until
all four bodies of the sky
burn above us, sealing us together,
all our cities twin cities,
all our states united, one
nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

Poem : Penumbra.

I think now to the velvet coat, the mug, to the snowflake-small diamond stud in my ear, to the prized Michael Khors dress that somehow magically fit me that you never got to wear, though we oo-ed over it when Lisa dropped it by. I think to the tiny paper and tin music box I bought you as a gift in Austria that plays, “The Sound of Music,” to the worn VHS of that film, which we watched every Saturday, a ritual we held even unto the two days before you passed.

These things, they mean nothing and everything to me at the same time.

Penumbra
By Amy Lowell

As I sit here in the quiet Summer night,
Suddenly, from the distant road, there comes
The grind and rush of an electric car.
And, from still farther off,
An engine puffs sharply,
Followed by the drawn-out shunting scrape of a freight train.
These are the sounds that men make
In the long business of living.
They will always make such sounds,
Years after I am dead and cannot hear them.

Sitting here in the Summer night,
I think of my death.
What will it be like for you then?
You will see my chair
With its bright chintz covering
Standing in the afternoon sunshine,
As now.
You will see my narrow table
At which I have written so many hours.
My dogs will push their noses into your hand,
And ask—ask—
Clinging to you with puzzled eyes.

The old house will still be here,
The old house which has known me since the beginning.
The walls which have watched me while I played:
Soldiers, marbles, paper-dolls,
Which have protected me and my books.
The front-door will gaze down among the old trees
Where, as a child, I hunted ghosts and Indians;
It will look out on the wide gravel sweep
Where I rolled my hoop,
And at the rhododendron bushes
Where I caught black-spotted butterflies.

The old house will guard you,
As I have done.
Its walls and rooms will hold you,
And I shall whisper my thoughts and fancies
As always,
From the pages of my books.

You will sit here, some quiet Summer night,
Listening to the puffing trains,
But you will not be lonely,
For these things are a part of me.
And my love will go on speaking to you
Through the chairs, and the tables, and the pictures,
As it does now through my voice,
And the quick, necessary touch of my hand.

I decided to tackle my overflowing library, starting with Woodlief’s Somewhere More Holy. I found Penumbra in its opening pages. I have a feeling it’s what I need most to read right now.

Have you read any good poems lately? 

Poem : The Self-Unseeing.

On Sunday, my best friend and I took a day trip to southern Michigan to enjoy the beach, the local vineyards, and one of my favorite restaurants. The Stray Dog is the first exit in, last exit out pit-stop along I-94 of the Michigan/Indiana border, complete with rooftop dining that looks out over Lake Michigan.

So I was utterly heartbroken when Rach and I walked up to a chain-link fence that surrounded my beloved eatery’s charred remains, now a collapsed heap and a bulldozer parked in its stead. It burnt down last month.

“But who will give me my fish tacos and Oberon?!” I cried, to the amusement of the ice cream parlor patrons up the street.

We found someplace else to eat, a little Italian cafe with great pizza and a giant berry tiramisu in a wine goblet for dessert. It more than sufficed, but still, as we walked past the the Stray Dog’s ghostly lot with full bellies, I contemplated how life never waits for us to be ready for change, ready for gratitude, ready for healthy perspective. Even faith in the small things, like where to enjoy a good taco and the sunset, is more fleeting than we realize.

The Self-Unseeing
by Thomas Hardy

Here is the ancient floor,
Footworn and hollowed and thin,
Here was the former door
Where the dead feet walked in.

She sat here in her chair,
Smiling into the fire;
He who played stood there,
Bowing it higher and higher.

Childlike, I danced in a dream;
Blessings emblazoned that day;
Everything glowed with a gleam;
Yet we were looking away!

 

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Poem : Lost

Lost
David Wagoner

Stand still. The trees ahead and bushes beside you
Are not lost. Wherever you are is called Here,
And you must treat it as a powerful stranger,
Must ask permission to know it and be known.
The forest breathes. Listen. It answers,
I have made this place around you.
If you leave it, you may come back again, saying Here.
No two trees are the same to Raven.
No two branches are the same to Wren.
If what a tree or a bush does is lost on you,
You are surely lost. Stand still. The forest knows
Where you are. You must let it find you.

Kerouac The Poet.

Kerouac’s On the Road is a crazy trip of people and places and substances and Sal Paradise drinking it in like he’s been thirsty all his life, but there are these paragraphs where you can feel Kerouac sink into a rhythm of writing and you feel real, honest longing. Poetry pours out of him and it feels like time and madness have stopped for a brief moment, and then you’re off and running again, to the next town and party and the madness of the road goes on. I have a feeling that whichever book I choose next, I’ll still long for the crazy whirl that is Kerouac The Poet…

These are my favorite passages :

“Trains howl away across the valley. The sun goes down long and red. All the magic names of the valley unrolled – Manteca, Madera, all the rest. Soon it got dusk, a grapy dusk, a purple dusk over tangerine groves and long melon fields; the sun the color of pressed grapes, slashed burgundy red, the fields the color of love and Spanish mysteries.”

“I wished I was on her bus. A pain stabbed my heart, as it did every time I saw a girl I loved who was going the opposite direction in this too-big world.”

“What is that feeling when you’re driving away from people and they recede on the plain till you see their specks dispersing? – it’s the too-huge world vaulting us, and it’s good-by. But we lean forward to the next crazy venture beneath the skies.”

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Poem : My Cocoon Tightens…

Emily Dickinson isn’t always my favorite poet. As I’ve grown older and explored my taste and the wide world of poetry, I’ve found other poets who use language like sharp knives that cut straight to my core – Mary Oliver, Mary Howe, Julia KasdorfWalt Whitman. Dickinson’s words often need deciphering, and I’m not always patient enough for that.

But this poem spoke to me when I was sixteen, barely out of my own coccoon, wings still wet with adolescent angst. I even wrote an essay around it for advanced composition, which is hiding somewhere in an old desk drawer.

Pulling my small collection of Dickinson off the shelf last night, the page fell open to this and her words, like they did nearly a decade ago, reach the deepest parts of me. I cloak myself in the imagery, remembering who I was and how I related to it then – like my pink converse sneakers and endless supply of black t-shirts. Somehow the poem feels a fitting reminder that while she was not yet me, I am her; I am the sixteen year old me that still roves over this particular passage of Dickinson, wondering at my own wings and what it all means.

Time and Eternity, LVIII

My cocoon tightens, colors tease,
I’m feeling for the air;
A dim capacity for wings
Degrades the dress I wear.

A power of butterfly must be
The aptitude to fly,
Meadows of majesty concedes
And easy sweeps of sky.

So I must baffle at the hint
And cipher at the sign,
And make much blunder, if at last
I take the clue divine.

 

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Guest Post | Writing Poetry with Andrea Beltran

This is part 2 in a guest series featuring Andrea Beltran. Yesterday she shared her poem, Finding Baby. Today she shares thoughts on the process of writing poetry. Thanks again, Andrea! 

While in college and really tapping into the world of writing poetry, a few of my professors repeatedly told me,

Read, write, then read some more. The writing will come to you.”

I didn’t listen. I would read a few pages of the books they gave me and classify it as read. I didn’t allow myself to be immersed in poetry the way I should have been, but there is a lesson in everything, and now I know better.

These days, I read, read, write a little, then read some more.

The more I read, the more I find myself sitting in front of a clean sheet of paper with pen in hand.

I don’t have those moments of not knowing what to write as often. I don’t feel myself forcing myself to write something down on the page. I always start and end the day with a poem.

I begin each morning with some light reading. Taking a cue from Jack Myers, my poetry professor in college, I write something every morning after my reading period. I don’t force a poem out onto a page. If a poem isn’t ready to be written, I write a few notes down about what I’ve read, moments that stood out to me from the day before, or thoughts about certain things or people in my life. Sometimes, it’s only a few lines. Other times, it’s a few pages. No matter the volume, I’m grateful for the words, as I can come back to them later and maybe weave them into a poem. Oh, and there is always a cup of coffee and music involved.

Revision is something I never did, but that’s because I didn’t fully understand poetry. It used to pain me to do massive revisions on a piece. Now, I’ve found that revision is key to writing. One needs to learn to look at their work objectively to make it better. A few close and honest writing friends help.

The writing process for me has become a habit. It’s ingrained in my eyes, my hands, my mind.

Read, write, revise, listen. Repeat.

Focus more on the reading and listening and the rest will find you.

Andrea lives in El Paso, Texas and moonlights as a poet. Her poems have recently appeared in flash quake, Rose & Thorn Journal, and Referential Magazine. She blogs about poetry and writing at andreakristen.blogspot.com.

Above photo taken from Andrea’s Instagram. Don’t forget to follow her on Twitter.

Guest Poem | Andrea Beltran

Today’s guest poem is Part 1 in a 2-part guest series featuring the lovely Andrea Beltran. Folks, she is the real deal – a wonderful wielder of words for both prose and poetry, and I love following her on Twitter for her positivity and kindness. I followed her tweet to this poem she wrote for Pyrta Journal last week, and was captivated by it, so I invited her to share.  Don’t miss tomorrow’s post, where she will share thoughts on the process of writing poetry.

Finding Baby
He’s not in a basket wrapped
in blue and white blankets
at our front door nor in the screen
we glare at during the first ultrasound
unable to translate letters and numbers,
notes the doctor makes without elaboration. He’s not
in the six vials of blood they take from my right arm or the eight
removed from yours. He’s not in
the second ultrasound or your biopsy
nor in the parenting magazines
we never ordered coming in the mail.
He’s not in the silence growing
in between bread loaves
and pot roasts in our poorly lit
home. He’s not here but I can hear him
calling from different rooms,
this unending game of hide-and-seek.

 

Andrea lives in El Paso, Texas and moonlights as a poet. Her poems have recently appeared in flash quake, Rose & Thorn Journal, and Referential Magazine. She blogs about poetry and writing at andreakristen.blogspot.com.

Poem : When I Am Asked

We always lament the rain when we want sunshine, when we want the weather to match our mood. There are times, though, when a sunny day doesn’t quite touch our emotions, either. It’s June. Six months into the new year. It doesn’t seem possible. And I’m happy for sun and warm weather and dresses and the way that I always feel younger and the days always seem longer in summer. But this season can also feel nonchalant, detached, like the world around me has forgotten. I know it’s all in the process of grieving… and maybe that’s why I find such deep comfort in words, and this poem in particular.

When I Am Asked
By Lisel Mueller

When I am asked
how I began writing poems,
I talk about the indifference of nature.

It was soon after my mother died,
a brilliant June day,
everything blooming.

I sat on a gray stone bench
in a lovingly planted garden,
but the day lilies were as deaf
as the ears of drunken sleepers
and the roses curved inward.
Nothing was black or broken
and not a leaf fell
and the sun blared endless commercials
for summer holidays.

I sat on a gray stone bench
ringed with the ingenue faces
of pink and white impatiens
and placed my grief
in the mouth of language,
the only thing that would grieve with me.

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