a guest blog
by Susan Delaney Spear
Poet ♦ Teacher
Welcome once again Susan Delaney Spear—Rocky Mountain bloom, rhetoric instructor, grammar maven, good friend, and poetry MFA classmate—who occasionally joins us on blogopus to discuss prosody, ‘cause metrics matters.
While I attended the annual New Jersey SCBWI conference last weekend, Colorado Susan was versifying in West Chester, Pennsylvania at the annual West Chester University Poetry Conference.
Participants in my conference sessions, “Summoning the Muse: Let Poetry Add Precision and Punch to Your Novel/Picture Book” may recall a comment I made about writing being all about paying attention. Perhaps I’ve attributed this to the wrong author (although I’m certain he was French), but I recall learning in ninth-grade English class that Guy de Maupassant—a father of the short story—said that a writer should sit in the town square every day for three years straight people-watching before putting a single word on paper.
Colorado Susan’s latest post reminds me of that remark—and underlines how poets are accustomed to exploring what we write from every possible angle.
I am a formalist. I write sonnets, villanelles, blank verse, triolets, tritinas, and their like. Because of my inherent love of meter (rhythm) in poetic lines, I will never stray too far afield from these received forms. This formalist just spent a week at the West Chester University Poetry Conference, which is devoted almost entirely to the pursuit of form and narrative. This year I wanted to fuel my right brain so I chose a workshop in Experimental Form. During the brief three days of the workshop, my right brain, my left brain, my fountain pen, and my rear end all got a much-needed kick.
I have considered a poem’s space on the page, but until this week I had not pondered the poem’s place in the literal space around me. Our instructor handed down the gauntlet. Leave something somewhere and watch what happens. Among the things left by the group: a blue magnetic butterfly, a hand-knit hat, a newly penned poem, a bag of olives from Greece, and a boyfriend! (He had it coming.)
When a friend invited me to take a joyride to the home and garden store Terrain, I accepted. The WCU campus was swarming with successful and aspiring poets. In other words, this was not a typical space. I had hand copied one of my poems, and I wanted to leave it where it might surprise, dare I say bless, someone.
I placed my poem on the middle of a beautifully set table in the outdoor restaurant. Actually it was two wooden tables put together to create a table for four. The linen-wrapped tableware, the glasses of ice water, and my poem “Impediment” waited for hungry diners.
My friend and I sat at the indoor coffee bar and watched through a window. My heart actually started beating faster when the waitress seated an older woman and a younger woman and her male significant other (no wedding rings, but clearly a couple) at the table under surveillance. The older woman picked up my poem, gave it a dismissive look, and stuck it in the crack between the two wooden tables.
The time they perused the menu felt like forever. Seriously, who sets poetry aside to ponder food? When at last they put down their menus, the younger woman plucked the poem from between the tables read it. The farther she read, the broader her smile grew. She laid her hand on the man’s arm, said something, and held the poem in front of him. Immediately he held up his right hand as if to protect himself from this sudden sonnet attack. If I had to guess what I saw him say it would be akin to, “No Brussels sprouts for me.” She laid the poem aside and her smile disappeared. They continued to chat.
I enjoyed this noontime prosodical espionage and the further challenge to fill the space in my life with poetry, with art, and with beauty. When autumn rolls around and academic work and my serious life takes over my senses, would one of you please kick me in the right brain?
Readers, we invite you to post your thoughts in the comment section.
Colorado Susan‘s next post will bloom in July.
Share and Enjoy