• Bridge Ladies

    Bridge Ladies When I set out to learn about my mother's bridge club, the Jewish octogenarians behind the matching outfits and accessories, I never expected to fall in love with them. This is the story of the ladies, their game, their gen, and the ragged path that led me back to my mother.
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Which Started the Whole World Living

I went to the 110th anniversary of Poetry Magazine over the last two days. An incredible line up of 11 poets were awarded the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize. I was not an honoree in case you jumped to that conclusion. I was there a sturdy Plus One to my great friend Patti Smith. Just want to say, if you need a Plus One think of me. I’m really good at it. Sandra Cisneros was there. Nikki Giovanni, Sonia Sanchez, and Rita Dove. Respect! I thought a lot about why I stopped writing poetry when I finished graduate school. I’ve never come up with a satisfactory answer. Though being in close proximity to those poets made me see something of what they have that I don’t beside a penchant for flamboyant style. They do more than write poetry, they live it.

What’s your relationship to poetry?

8 Responses

  1. Patti Smith! Wow! I love Patti Smith!

  2. “What’s your relationship to poetry?”

    Strained. The split-up was not bad, but it was not amicable, either. It seems we grew tired of each other.

    When I was in high school, I was a competitive poetry reader. Seriously. There was this organization called the University Interscholastic League — there still may be, I’m not going to look it up, I want to avoid the warrens of distraction — that oversaw such competitions. I even won medals, and a trophy once. We would read poems by such luminaries as Eliot and Sandburg and Frost. Never our own, the UIL knew better than that nonsense.

    I started writing that nonsense in my senior year. I had started smoking a lot of pot, and one day it was like a creative explosion occurred. Free verse started flowing out of me daily, often several times a day. Some of it wasn’t bad, and even got published. My first published creative writings, fruit of my first forays into the literary publishing world. Lots of rejection slips, too, so I was learning that part of the game.

    This went on for a couple years, till I came to feel “I was just turning tricks with words,” as I put it to myself, and I stopped. Occasionally after that, a poem would slither out (including two that were later published), but I had turned to other things. More photography, which I had come to think of as a certain form of poetry.

    After a couple decades, in the late 90s and into the early 00s, I suffered another bout of poetry. Some of this stuff got published, too. There was a local alternative weekly that sponsored competitions, and I came to sweep the awards, year after year. I began reading at open mikes, but bowed out when the slam format took over.

    Then for the most part, the poetry dried up. I had come to write more and more fiction over the years, and along with photography, I was painting and working in mixed media. Had a full-time day job, too, and for part of that time I was a single parent, and then there was a new marriage. My dance card was full.

    After I moved to Chicago ten years ago, the poetry bug bit me again for a few weeks. I would write a poem every day, and post the first drafts to my website. Polished up later, I thought they were some of the best poetry I ever wrote, but I can’t send them around to the litmags, because they’re considered previously published work, which is a category disallowed by the litmags.

    These days, I write very little poetry. I might crank something out real quick and post it on social media, but I don’t even keep a copy. And I don’t shop any of the older stuff around for publication any more. The logistics are maddening. And I no longer paint or work in mixed media, and I don’t often photograph. So those extended definitions of poetry in my life have quieted down.

    I never took any academic instruction in poetry writing. Came to think of myself as something of a poseur as a poet.

    But poetry and I, we loved each other once, very much. But we grew apart. We turned out not to be what the other was looking for, not for a committed, long-term relationship.

  3. Poetry is my eccentric aunt: the one who arrives at all the awkward moments, filling my head with a scattering of phrases and insights before disappearing when life’s mundane distractions intrude upon my thoughts. I chronicle her visits in a separate journal. One day, I may be brave enough to mold them into something worth reading.
    PS to Betsy: if you ever want to be a +1 to an event in NOLA, lemme know!

  4. I think we’re estranged.

  5. Wrote love poems to undeserving boys, wrote a few later, published a few. The great you mentioned are way above me, some over my head, but I keep trying. The more accessible to me are beautiful, comforting, thought provoking, delicious all around.

  6. Once upon a time, I wrote poems. I’d retreat into a zone and the world would disappear. Words would tumble, poems would forge. Nowadays, I read poems upon poems, candy to my soul; write, not so much.

  7. Poetry is my alter ego. So modest in appearance that I forget how wildly exhilarating she is until once again we start to dance together again.

  8. Poetry is my (educational) mother tongue. But see also Jewish guilt…

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