Sunday, October 05, 2008


Most poetry is a personal thing. Much of my poetry has been written for Pam, since it is the format that I find most comfortable to express emotions that defy rational, declarative sentences. Thus, I 'publish' my poetry for her in cards and letters, intended for her as an audience of one.

I have discovered that poetry is also a very selfish thing. I write it because I need to. The creative impulses are driving the act of writing, and they are only satisfied when I complete the poem. As one poet said (durned if I can remember who), you be true to the words first, to yourself second, and the reader third. Words develop into lines intended to express an image, and sometimes that image or thought is very inward and personal. That's why much poetry seems incomprehensible and difficult -- the only one who could explain it is the author. Makes one wonder why it is published for general reading!

I have published poems on this blog, and I do enjoy that. Most of them are words, lines, images that I feel I could share, and might mean something to someone else. Some of my readers have replied and reacted to them, which is fun. Other times, I'm sure, my poem does not connect. That's fine, too.

None of this diminishes my desire, like many writers, to be recognized and to be published. So I am very excited, and flattered, that one of my poetry submissions has been recognized! I submitted three poems to the Hauser Poetry Competition at the Chautauqua Institution (a wonderful place, maybe more on that later), and got a letter last week informing me that one of the poems had gotten 'Honorable Mention' -- one of six poems selected in the contest. Here's the link to the announcement:

Yup, I get a sentence. And nope, I don't think they are publishing the poem anywhere. But that's OK -- I will always be thankful to the Writer's Center at Chautauqua, particularly to the poet Susan Grimm, who led the poetry seminar that I attended there. And to Pam, who pushed me to sign up for the seminar. And to Jan, who never stops challenging me to write more. So here it is.

Violent Mortality

Terror arrives in the soul
when death moves from a distant probability
to an immediate potential act,
especially when accompanied by violence
with its likelihood of pain:
the noise and scream of battle,
the screech of highway tires and metal,
the roar of searing heat and flame.

You have the fleeting thought that
you are not yet done with life,
but the book has suddenly finished
without a tidy sentence or summary chapter;
your fork still hangs in mid-air
replete with untouched dessert.

Your mind looks for an escape
that you believe is just outside the door,
or through that window,
or beyond that river bank.
The soul searches for peace that transcends sheer quiet.

If this were a movie, and your lovers watched,
the screen would only display sterile color pictures
that leave out the invisible darkness
carrying your life away.