Thursday, August 2, 2007

the shift of my landscape

The route to school today was not as difficult, sardined, or frustrated as I had anticipated.

Crossing the Mississippi is an accepted movement in the Twin Cities; it slices through Minneapolis and major roads bridge between banks.

I used to think how amazing it was to cross the Mississippi on the Washington Avenue bridge, moving from the east bank of campus to the west.

Class was still good today. All members accounted for, two staying home. One had wanted to stay with her children, which made sense. We continued with critique, the bridge coming up in conversation, and if we looked out the conference room window, we could see the line of media vans, their antenna spiraling up from this safe place, my college.

I thought of how Carolyn Forche is a poet of witness, one who has recorded the newsworthy. I think of how, in the days after 9/11 we spoke of the comfort of poetry, and every September 11th, in my classroom, we read "Keeping Quiet" by Pablo Neruda out loud.

And I think of how writing about these things is so difficult, when you see the scope and range of your own geography shift like this. Yes, I am writing now, and I've written words about yesterday, and I wonder about those 9/11 poems, the ones with true reference in the afterward, and if those poems will ever work, when we have our own freight for that day. How these become history, and sometimes it is distance we need the most to write well.

I will leave you with another poem I scribbled in my notebook. I need to note: Sharon Olds is considered a poet whose personal life is opened up for the reader. She claims the things in her poems did not actually happen but instead, she twisted the truth. Carolyn Forche, in workshop, has told us that we sometimes go where the poem takes us, sometimes it isn't rooted in truth, but something based on truth. I won't tell you how much of this poem is true--how much is created. I say this, not only because I know my mother will read it, but also because I recognize it as important to change things, to alter, in order to create a better story. I am the kind of person who forgives James Frey his lies in A Million Little Pieces because I want the story to be good. I am OK with being betrayed with the truth. Of course, the whole poem could be truth. You'd never know. (It feels incredibly rough, but I thought I'd share anyway, since generating and revision are parts of the importance of workshop.)


I always believed my parents met
on a blind date, the one in which
my mother was the replacement for
the girl who was sick. I imagined
them in the back of a tan Duster,
a white corsage clipped to my mother's wrist,
knocking against each other
on the slippery upholstery at each bend
in the road. They were never driving.

But this isn't how it happened,
and I'm learning so much about
my parents isn't true. I haven't slept
right since the night my father slept
on the pulled out mattress and I knew
about the divorce before she did.

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