Thursday, December 15, 2011

Morning of Sonnets and Cinnamon Bread

This morning, I thought I would write a poem that somehow combined elements of zombies, hospitalized Grandmas who aren't eating, and Advent, based on my post of a few days ago (and for those of you who want a more theological approach to zombies, see today's post on my theology blog).  It wasn't going well. 

I thought about writing a blog post here about whether or not I miss teaching.  I always answer that I miss the classroom and the interactions with the students--but I do not miss the endless grading of essays.  I thought about all the teachers out there who are finishing up autumn terms.  I thought about posting this sonnet from my 2nd chapbook, I Stand Here Shredding Documents:

Posthumous Existence

All during that penurious winter,
while struggling to breathe and coughing up blood,
Keats wrote lines so achingly tender
and letters that came as if in a flood.

What a thing of beauty would be such letters,
so different from that horrid e-mail
that seeks to chain her in these fetters
with the quest to leave a paper trail.

Once she read the great odes.
Now she reads prose that’s spectre-thin.
She teaches all the Composition modes
to students with ears of tin.

How she yearns for poetry’s beaded bubbles.
But she gets incomprehensible sentences for her troubles.

I wrote this poem in 2009, during an autumn that included reading Stanley Plumly's biography of John Keats, Posthumous Keats, and seeing the wonderful Keats movie Bright Star (see this post and that post for what I was thinking at the time).

I returned to my morning zombie/Grandma/Advent draft and notes and rewrote it in sonnet form:

I want to believe in the power
of a kiss to wake the comatose.
I want to believe our love won't sour
if we pay attention in a daily dose.

Will you recognize my face
when you lie dying?
Will you call my name?
Will I come flying?

I think of my grandmother's favorite foods
that she now refuses to eat.
I got through a variety of moods
as I tempt her with her favorite treats.

What a lie these narratives weave;
from death we will be granted no reprieve.

Here's what I first wrote for the last couplet:

What a lie these narratives weave;
we forget that everything we love must leave.

I'm not sure I'm happy enough with this sonnet to do much more with it, which truth be told is why I posted it here.  But I thought it would be interesting to people who wonder about the writing morning of a poet.

I have been dipping in and out of Nikky Finney's Head Off and Split, a wonderful collection that won the National Book Award this year.  Her sprawling poems make me feel like I'm writing spare, sparse little things.  Of course, the sonnet form lends itself to spare, condensed writing.  And I firmly believe there's room in the world for all sorts of poems.

Still, reading Finney's book makes me wonder if I should experiment with longer poems.  I tend to write poems the length of a page of 8 x 11 paper.  What if I went for 5 pages?  What if I wrote a series of poems?  I'll keep these ideas in mind.

I've also been making cinnamon bread and cinnamon rolls this morning.  Yes, it's been a busy bread week in my kitchen (go here to see a photo essay about my Santa Lucia Day bread).  And it's been a busy work week, and a week of increased family phone calls, as we try to keep updated about my grandmother's health.  I'm grateful to get a poem of any kind--and a kitchen full of bread fills me with gratitude too!


Kathleen said...

Good thoughts to you and your grandmother. I'm sure the baking and breaking of bread is soul healing, as is the reading and writing of sonnets!

Kristin said...

I have, indeed, always found bread baking to heal the soul! Back when I wrote letters to friends on paper, I'd sign off:

Love, Peace, and Homemade Bread,