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Nov 28

Art Talk with NEA Creative Writing Fellow Toni Jensen. I’ve never been to a wedding or inauguration where a theater performance was prepared in celebration; I’ve rarely been compelled to post a novel on Facebook. William Carlos Williams wrote a verse addressed to his wife in the poem "January Morning,": All this—                           was for you, old woman. Consider this situation, a true story, of a poet who found a "text" at the San Mateo coast in northern California. Here’s a useful analogy. So treating Ms. Harjo’s selected poems like a greatest hits—a series of excellent, but not always narratively linked poems—allows us to appreciate the power of her individual works while also getting a glimpse of her poetic evolution between 1975-2001. Despite the routine, the drone of familiarity, the daily preparation of meals and doing of dishes, the conversations we’ve had before, we hope to find a sense of discovery, of surprise. Do you jump around? I purposefully skip a linear reading approach in these instances, and instead skip ahead or move backward. There it would be seen and would shout its protest from the very foundations of the oppressive system. After this, reread the poem and focus on each stanza—go stanza by stanza. Literature is, and has always been, the sharing of experience, the pooling of human understanding about living, loving, and dying. What circumstances gave rise to the poem? I wanted to write a poem     that you would understand. Playing the same character night after night, an actor discovers something in the lines, some empathy for the character, that he or she had never felt before. Playing or listening to a song for the hundredth time—if it is a great song—will yield new interpretation and discovery. The first is assuming that they should understand what they encounter on the first reading, and if they don’t, that something is wrong with them or with the poem. The best poetry has a magical quality—a sense of being more than the sum of its parts—and even when it’s impossible to articulate this sense, this something more, the power of the poem is left undiminished. Lines are often determined by meaning, sound and rhythm, breath, or typography. A life partner, a husband, a wife—these are people with whom we hope to constantly renew our love. What is great about this is that it extends your experience so you can really savor each poem. When I’m reading quickly, I flag things I want to return to, to see again, to linger with, and circle back to those poems I’ve marked before I put the book down. Williams admits in these lines that poetry is often difficult. The more broadly you read and recognize where your attention goes, the more you’ll develop a sense of taste—what interests more, what interests less, across one poet’s work, or across broader swaths of contemporary or historical poetry. In my experience, I cannot read a large poetry book like I would read a novel, devouring hundreds of pages in an afternoon's sitting. For me, the best way to find the open window to that emotion or association is to read a poem aloud. but you got to try hard—. It’s good to admire each sequin (and we should!) But lines that are not end-stopped present different challenges for readers because they either end with an incomplete phrase or sentence or they break before the first punctuation mark is reached. Reading to the end of a phrase or sentence, even if it carries over one or several lines, is the best way to retain the grammatical sense of a poem. If the poem is a question, what is the answer? [Poetry] is a chance to celebrate and elevate language. The book pulls together poems from the first 26 years of the poet’s career, showing the range and breadth of Harjo’s poetry over that period of time. An inauguration? The text was not out of place. In reading a poetry collection such as this, I would recommend reading a small section, then putting the book down to really digest the poems and then I would come back later to read more. "Locate I" seems to indicate a search for identity, and indeed it may, but the next line, which continues with "love you some-," seems to make a diminishing statement about a relationship. Poetry is language, and we use language all the time, every day. MEIER: When I read a new collection of poems that isn’t explicitly a survey (like an anthology or a collected or selected), I always try to read the book cover to cover. In fact, you can learn quite a few things just by looking at it. Can you remember the last time you heard or read a poem? Responses that move away from what is written into personal anecdotes or tangential leaps should be gently urged back into analyzing the text. TYLER MEIER: Above all, let curiosity be the guide. There is, of course, more than one answer to this question. Maybe we’ve bought the book but we don’t own the poem. Fill in the gaps about Young and about the themes of the book and of Young’s work more broadly. As she scrambled over rocks behind the beach, near the artichoke fields that separate the shore from the coast highway, she found a large smear of graffiti painted on the rocks, proclaiming "La Raza," a Chicano political slogan meaning "the struggle." Magnetic fridge poetry by Flickr user Steve Johnson. Beginning with a focus question about the poem, the discussion addresses various possible answers to the question, reshaping and clarifying it along the way. But what if the lines aren’t metrical? BRUMBACH: Everyone knows how to talk about poetry because everyone is part of the human condition and poetry is an art that truly speaks to the human condition. With each reading you will pick up more and understand more than you may have realized you would at the start. Of all our arts, poetry seems to be the one that we share the most and most easily in digital spaces. Most readers make three false assumptions when addressing an unfamiliar poem. In that case, the punctuation and the lineation, and perhaps even breathing, coincide to make the reading familiar and even predictable. With poets who use techniques drawn from music—particularly jazz, such as Michael S. Harper or Yusef Komunyakaa—or poets like Walt Whitman who employ unusually long lines, there may be another guiding principle: breath. Published in partnership with the Great Books Foundation.

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