i've had, i would say, four major phases in my life where i've been genuinely interested in poetry—interested in reading it, as opposed to writing it. because writing it is a very different activity. writing it, it's as if the word "poetry" is a thousand miles away. it's inapplicable. what i'm trying to do is make some new rowland emmett machine that doesn't have a name. i know of course that it's going to end up being called a poem, but "poem" is one of those bothersome technical terms. it's so difficult to pronounce. you either pronounce it "pome," or "poe-im" or "poe-em." it's not an english word, it's a greek word that's had the end chopped off it, so it doesn't fit—it's got that diphthongy quality. —nicholson baker, the anthologist
lucky for me i have a friend who lends me her poetry books. of late i have been reading sharon olds, getting completely absorbed in her words + stories. i remember learning about the art of the short story, reading alice munro and being carried along by her narratives, and realizing the measured, sensitive hand the best short stories require. sharon olds' poems embody moments that flower in my imagination to encompass a larger story, so i consider her something of a short story-writer, too.
in the dark square wooden room at noonthe mother had a talk with her daughter.the rudeness could not go on, the meannessto her little brother, the selfishness.the 8-year-old sat on the bedin the corner of the room, her irises dark asthe last drops of something, her firmface melting, reddening,silver flashes in her eyes like distantbodies of water glimpsed through woods.she took it and took it and broke, crying outi hate being a person! divinginto the motheras ifintoa deep pond—and she cannot swim,the child cannot swim.
—sharon olds, from her book satan says
the great thing about poetry is that you can read just one poem and wind up with a new idea or thought or outlook. another great thing about it is that your new thought may differ vastly from someone else's. whether that thought stays with you forever or just for the day ahead, you've at least managed to get somewhere interesting... if only for a little while.