I was reading Gerald Stern while I was on vacation.
I was reading This Time by Gerald Stern because I’d read Kathleen Graber, and she has mentioned him as a mentor.
Early on, Stern’s poems made me think of Dean Young’s poems. I looked that up and could not find a direct line between the two, although maybe there’s a meandering line through the New York Schools 1 and 2.
Poems that make you think of other poems, other poets—that’s one kind of conversation. I remember hearing in a class that if you put a fly in a poem, the reader will think of Dickinson. Really? Always? That was intimidating, because I wondered what other things I was supposed to be thinking. But I also get to draw my own connections, listen to what I’m reading and hearing.
Then there’s the conversation that poems within a book are having. I especially enjoy the conversation between poems that have similar titles. Think of the titles in Louise Glück’s The Wild Iris or in Oliver de la Paz’s Furious Lullaby.
Music can make a soundtrack for our lives. We hear a song and remember what we were doing the other times when we heard that song. Or the lyrics remind us of a past moment.
Poetry’s sounds, rhythms, and imagery can evoke similar memories. While I was on Maui reading Stern’s poem “Here I Am Walking,” I thought of my friend Laurie and my days living in New Jersey. Then I sent her the poem. I read Melissa Kwasny’s poem “The Sentience of Rocks” in Pictograph and thought of Joshua Tree (many of the poems in Pictograph brought memories to the surface, bucket after bucket pulled up from the well’s depths).
All these conversations, these connections–and we need only to read, to listen.
What are you hearing between poets, between poems, between reading and the rest of living?