April is national poetry month. When was the last time you read, wrote or remembered the words to a poem? Like Mark Twain’s, poetry’s death has been greatly exaggerated. In fact, it is alive and well in print and online journals, open mics and poetry slams all over the world.
Few poets dedicate their lives to the art, living in penury like Dylan Thomas, toiling in academia like bell hooks, or scribbling with the sponsorship of a beneficiary like John Keats and Rainer Maria Rilke. Most have day jobs as professional writers like me or Michael Dylan Welch, a haijin (haiku poet) and technical writer at Microsoft or Roberta Beary, attorney and award-winning poet.
Many of us who write professionally to pay the bills write creatively on the side and know the ups and downs of pouring our stories and souls onto the page. The poem I chose to feature by Richard Wilbur beautifully captures this full-body experience most of us will identify with.
In her room at the prow of the house
Where light breaks, and the windows are tossed with linden,
My daughter is writing a story.
I pause in the stairwell, hearing
From her shut door a commotion of typewriter-keys
Like a chain hauled over a gunwale.
Young as she is, the stuff
Of her life is a great cargo, and some of it heavy:
I wish her a lucky passage.
But now it is she who pauses,
As if to reject my thought and its easy figure.
A stillness greatens, in which
The whole house seems to be thinking,
And then she is at it again with a bunched clamor
Of strokes, and again is silent.
I remember the dazed starling
Which was trapped in that very room, two years ago;
How we stole in, lifted a sash
And retreated, not to affright it;
And how for a helpless hour, through the crack of the door,
We watched the sleek, wild, dark
And iridescent creature
Batter against the brilliance, drop like a glove
To the hard floor, or the desk-top,
And wait then, humped and bloody,
For the wits to try it again; and how our spirits
Rose when, suddenly sure,
It lifted off from a chair-back,
Beating a smooth course for the right window
And clearing the sill of the world.
It is always a matter, my darling,
Of life or death, as I had forgotten. I wish
What I wished you before, but harder.
Source: From New and Collected Poems, published by Harcourt Brace, 1988. Copyright © 1969 by Richard Wilbur. All rights reserved. Used with permission.
A prose poem I love (and I think you will too) that captures a passion for language is Words by Dana Gioia (another moonlighting poet). Knowing the nuances of meaning and using just the right word is a pleasure Gioia shares with us wordsmiths.
Nora Chisnell grew up near the Tetons in Wyoming and resides in Atlanta, Georgia. She is a senior technical and copy writer (LinkedIn) who has written hardware and software documentation for major corporations and now writes the signature blog for ncr.com. She started writing haiku in 2007 as a discipline and creative outlet.
Nora’s poems have been published in The Heron’s Nest, Frogpond, Simply Haiku, Magnapoets, contemporary haibun online and more. She was the first runner-up for The Heron’s Nest 2009 Reader’s Choice Poet of the Year.
The ProEdit team is thankful for Nora’s contribution and the interactions we get to have with all of our fans.