Thursday, December 10, 2020

Poetry Friday -- Spark!


In the podcast Poetry Unbound, Pádraig Ó Tuama always begins with something like "One of the things I love most about poetry is..." and that thing he loves leads to the encapsulation of the poem he's featuring. With that small bit in mind, we listen to the poem, then he zooms in and deconstructs the meanings and the craft moves in the poem. After he takes you deep inside a poem, you get to hear him read it one more time, and it's almost like hearing a new poem.

Let's try it.

One of the things I love most about poetry is the way it sometimes works like postcards or snapshots from another time. With just a few words, the poet moves us through time and space with their words and images.

SIX WEEKS ONE SUMMER

1985

After the first job,
before the second degree.
Between.

Blue Highways
South -- tobacco fields
West -- Navajo Nation
North -- regal mountains

Soundtrack
box of cassette tapes
meadowlark on a fencepost
AM radio

Souvenirs
single finger wave
small town hospitality
sense of direction


The longer I've written poetry and read poetry, I realize how often poems are about journeys of one kind or another. One thing that stands out for me about this poem is the stanza titles, which seem almost like notes scrawled on the backs of photos that have been tucked in an album. They also give each stanza a particular job within the poem, first letting the reader know the setting in time and place, then giving sensory details, and ending with a list.

In each of the stanzas, the details are concrete and vivid. Each of the places in the second stanza are iconic to the region, yet one can imagine that experienced from the "Blue Highways" of the stanza's title, they were more than simply stereotypical. The cassette tapes are a reminder that this is 1985, and the meadowlark and AM radio give a sense of the isolation of the journey. In the last stanza, the alliteration serves to stitch the three images together.

The title of the poem, "Six Weeks One Summer," gives one version of the time frame for the poem, while the first stanza pans out to the big picture of the speaker's life trajectory. The second stanza gives a sense of the scope of the journey in the poem. The final stanza brings the reader and the speaker back full circle with the list of souvenirs from the trip. The last line returns the reader's attention to the beginning, where the speaker is in a place "between," and lets the reader know that after six weeks of circling the country, the speaker has gained perspective and a sense of direction.

SIX WEEKS ONE SUMMER

1985

After the first job,
before the second degree.
Between.

Blue Highways
South -- tobacco fields
West -- Navajo Nation
North -- regal mountains

Soundtrack
box of cassette tapes
meadowlark on a fencepost
AM radio

Souvenirs
single finger wave
small town hospitality
sense of direction


©Mary Lee Hahn, 2020


Thank you for "listening" to my Pádraig Ó Tuama-style "podcast" about my poem. Here is the inspiration piece via Amy Souza's Spark project that I was provided for my writing:

"Finding Your Way" by Victoria Nessen

Buffy has this week's Poetry Friday Roundup at her blog Buffy Silverman, and there's ONE spot left on the roundup schedule for the next 6 months.

Happy Poetry! Happy Friday!


21 comments:

  1. Thank you for the introduction to the Pádraig Ó Tuama-style, Mary Lee. Your 'podcast' and poem were a wonderful "postcard or snapshot from another time" - the perfect poetic diversion. :)

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  2. Thanks for the commentary and the poem! The stanza "Soundtracks" brought back so many memories of a few years earlier, but for me: cornfields and woodlots, creeks and gravel roads. (And an 8-track player!) I loved the snapshots. Thank you.

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  3. You are brilliant, Mary Lee! I love everything about this post. I may have to borrow this format!

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  4. I enjoyed this journey through the poem very much! And your observation about poems being journeys -- I often think of poems as "experiences." Sometimes "encounters." But I want them to be experiences. :) Thank you! xo

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  5. I love everything about this post--the poem, the discussion, the inspiration, the podcast. Knowing what lies ahead for you, I am wondering if a another road trip is coming.

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  6. Hmmm, I think you need your own podcast now, Mary Lee. Thanks for this interesting and enlightening post!

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  7. I would join you on a podcast any day! I'm amazed at how you took us on a journey through this poem and changed our reading experience.

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  8. Thanks for the intro to that podcast, Mary Lee, & your own commentary of your poem. What touches me is that "single finger wave" from my small town childhood. I see it now from so many years ago.

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  9. Very cool! It slows the reader down in a fruitful way.

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  10. I love that podcast too, Mary Lee. And oh my word, you're a natural! When are you going to start your own?!

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  11. I love this so much! For the beautiful words, amazing structure, and that poem is so small and perfect for the image. I've been slowly writing memoir poems. I want to steal this as a mentor text.

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  12. It felt risky and a little bit weird to deconstruct my own poem. Sometimes I was telling you what my intentions were when writing it, but other times I truly discovered something new in what I'd written. Now that I've done this with one of my own poems, I want to try it with a poem from another poet. And if you haven't listened to an episode of Poetry Unbound, do so. You're in for a treat.

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  13. I love Padraig O'Touma's Poetry Unbound. Whenever it comes on my earbuds I literally smile and relax. His voice is such a soothing element in addition to all that you describe above. Of course, now I want to try this. Such a great post. And, I love your connection to journeys. What a beautiful reflective piece. A+ with a star for you. This post is a keeper!

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  14. Oh, gosh, I didn't mean to hit Publish yet. Anyway, thanks for this time travel poem and also reminding me of this podcast, which you mentioned in our Zoom follow-up conversation. I just subscribed and look forward to trying it out!

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  15. This is a wonderful post, Mary Lee. I love Poetry Unbound, too. You reminded me that I haven't listened to him in a while.

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  16. Cor! Now THAT's a poetry exercise...not only write your poem, but pretend that you are someone looking in at it in the overall scope of Poetry, giving it the lovingly respectful academic treatment it deserves. Thank you for inviting me to your TED talk. Also, the SPARK pairing is gorgeous.

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  17. Thanks for taking me across your "Blue Highways" with the window wide open and "AM radio" trailing on– I loved all your "Souvenirs" from the journey, the art, and the podcast of Ellen Bass–I'm filled full.

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  18. This podcast reminds me of the New Yorker's poetry one - although it's always another poet and Kevin Young reading/interpreting the poem. Loved you poem, and the comfort of that last stanza.

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  19. This post is wonderful, your poem, your discussion of your poem and the podcast of Ellen Bass. Poetry Unbound is a treasure for someone who wants to learn more about the approach to a poem.

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  20. I love this format of exploring and going deep into a poem, Mary Lee. And the "single finger wave" so reminds me of time spent in the countryside in Ireland!

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  21. I really love Padraig as host, don't you? The "Soundtrack" especially made me smile. AM radio! Cassette tapes! That's one long drive back into the past...

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