Where poetry-lovers practice poetry
Friday, August 12, 2005
by David Kaneda
maggie and milly and molly and may
by E. E. Cummings
Writing Response Poems
by Thom Williams
*e.e.cummings is so great. I remember distinctly how I felt when I read it the very first time. I was sort of copping an attitude about its childlike ethos. Then, it slammed into me. He deployed a universal theme, a vast theme-the idea that we are alone, yet tied-in to everything. Each thing that the girls found opened their world and made them come back to themselves. I am healed by the simple things: water, a starfish, the otherorldliness of a crab. I have gone to the sea so many times for peace. In the churning of the sea beneath the jetty, I feel the power of life, and I am part of it, too. The sea reminds me of the power I have to make or break my own way. The true genius of the poem to me is the way it leaves you with an idea you already had but you forgot. A good poem sort of wakes you up to something like a recovered memory, a good one.
When I think about writing a response piece to a poem, I make sure to give myself maximim freedom. My intention is not to analyze the poem; this is not schoolwork. I look at the poem and I let myself find a connection without rules. Pick anything; but pick something that pushes your buttons. I might write about the time I got stung by a jellyfish; how I lifted my arm from the sea and saw the tentacles wrapped around it, how I handled the situation, how it scared me.
I might write about the idea that we are alone and are not alone. Sometimes I think life is like a shipwreck where we are washed up on the shore of existence. We have each other and survival. The constellations stretch over head; they turn by the hour. The sea shows me how to survive. It tells me to be blue and keep many things below the surface. The sea shows me that danger is nearer than I thought, but so is beauty.
Let your response seek its own level, like water. Poetry can be like a river that has been flowing always. It is only for the poet to dip into the flow. Let the current of inspiration push you along a bit. Perhaps imagination is just about to come in on the tide. Perhaps in one more moment some healing or some hope might wash up at our feet. Let your response find you. You'll recognize yourself quite soon.