Thursday, August 24, 2006

Poetry Thursday; Cleaning Up My Poetry Files

Poetry Thursday has asked for poems about time. Here's mine:

By a Lake

The stumps stand sentinel upon the shore
to watch the diamond splinters of the moon
infect the lake with cool electric sparks
dancing in time to some unearthly tune.

The wooden army waits through summer nights
though all its jagged mouths are rotted dumb.
The waters quiver with the worming lights,
announcing some epiphany to come:

For when the last sun's dying coppery disc
shines like a penny in the lake's blue hand,
those lifeless sticks that stood their dogged watch
shall tower like beeches in the promised land.

(Published in Arkenstone, 1979)


I have thought about time in the last week, during which I cleaned up my poetry files from the last ten years. Here are the stats:

Light Verse: 77 poems, 13 published. (17%)

Poetry: 606 poems, 396 published. (65%)

Most of these publications came between 1998 and 2002, after which I lost interest in net publication and began responding only to queries, an attitude that increased while living in Mexico. I do want to continue publishing, but more selectively. I'd like to get into a few high rep journals like Poetry, Ploughshares, American Poetry Review and the like. By the time I do, it may be my luck that some online journals will have become better credits than the formerly vaunted print journals.


A number of poets have asked me, “Why publish?” My answer is, “Why write?”

If a poem appears in a forest and no one reads it, does it exist?

Poetry presupposes an audience whether you write for one or not. While writing a poem I don't write for myself or an audience, I write for the poem itself. Once the poem takes on its identity I try to get out of its way. If an early draft looks good enough, I show it to my first audience member, Kathleen. If it passes her scrutiny, I may have a poem.

At 0 or "Rodent Neutral" today,



  1. I agree with your answer-- Why write. That is the fundamental purpose of the writer. Second to that comes such things as understanding & communication. Then, publication. Like you, I'm interested in having a poem in Paris Review ... But, that's not as important as the process of writing-- cleaning out my head.

    The music of stanza 1, "By a Lake," has the rhythm and sound of Yeats. Actually, that's true for all three stanzas. I would say that's a compliment.

  2. Thanks Sam, esp. the comparison with Yeats. I was what?-- 23 or 24 and in medical school when I penned this. I published in forgettable journals long before the Internet arrived. The funny thing is, through blogging my work gets read more than it would in a respectable online journal like the now retired Melic.

  3. I agree... half of writing is having someone else read it. One of the reasons that I like blogging. ;-)


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