Poetry: Poems and Conversation

Imagistic Ars Poetica
Isa de Quesada

Poems climb the branches of trees

to reach the moon

and slip and slide

on iced ropes.

Poems dance on the white-wash of a beach

with black grains of sand

and fall and flip

on surfboards.

Poems whirl in the wind of the wide desert

with sporadic saguaros and ocotillos

and speed through highways and stop

on the hot concrete.

Poems bake in hot ovens

with pot pies and pot roasts

and cool to the touch

when one reads too much

into lines —

the mirage of the desert,

the washed away shore

the broken branch.

“Contemporary poets prefer…concrete, particular images; and conversational (though carefully chosen and arranged) language” (Erin Keane, Lecture 1). As a poet I have strived  to use concrete images and common language in my poems.

I agree with Ezra Pound: “An “Image” is that which presents an intellectual and emotional complex in an instant of time… It is better to present one Image in a lifetime than to produce voluminous works” (A Retrospect, 2).

I was trained in the 80’s when the New Criticism was still big but Deconstructive Theory was becoming the new wave of criticism. I have often fought my urge to include either the poet’s or the reader’s background even though I felt texts are not created in vacuums. So, I felt a sense of relief when I read Wendy Bishop’s comment, “Recent literary critics emphasize other ways of reading [besides the New Critic’s way]. They assume that reading a poem one way (just the text…) and then in other ways (informed by biographical information…) deepens our understanding of a poem” (Bishop, 2).

For me poetry has always been about images and evoking a feeling. My Ars Poetica seeks to express that sometimes too much figuring out kills the poem. Sometimes a poem ought to be just taken in, felt and allowed to unfold in one’s mind rather than letting the mind take over and make the poem be something just so we have a concrete idea of what it means. A poem can have more than one meaning. It ought to have layers of meaning. It ought to be fresh with an element of surprise in its use of language and images.

The first 4 stanzas play with the idea that poems can be found anywhere and that images can be used as symbols in simple yet fresh ways. The last three lines of my poem express my idea that a poem should not border on what is  fake or not real, depleted or broken. It’s topic could be about illusions and hallucinations, it could be about destruction or the depletion of certain resources, and it could talk about broken items, but the actual language, structure and form ought to stay clear of clichés, vague analogies, telling, and conventions that have been overused.

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