Many of the poems in this issue seem to coalesce around themes of
darkness and light. In what ratio of shade or illumination do your
poems thrive? Does a dark poem need light, and vice versa?
I like thinking about what darkness can illuminate, and how light and
shadow help us see or make sense of the shape of something we wouldn’t
otherwise be able to recognize. Humans love contrast—we understand what
is shadow by what else is lit, and we understand the shape of something
by the absence of something else, by the space around it. When I write,
I am often trying to understand something—so getting in close to the
boundaries of things (the place where light and shadow meet, for
example) becomes necessary to the poem.
In your poem, nature (in the guise of “the ocean” gifting the child
with a bouquet of decaying leaves) resists our human obsession with
order, tidiness, and structure. The speaker struggles to find the
“pretty thought” that will encompass the magnitude of nature’s power.
Is this struggle—this resistance—where new poems come from?
I like this idea—that poems come from a resistance or struggle.
I’m sure that is true for many writers. I think I tend to experience
the opposite phenomenon—my poetry tends to arise from experiences where
I have stopped resisting and instead turned my body to flow with a new,
sometimes unexpected, current. In this poem, that is what has happened
(although the speaker probably still feels some kind of way about it).
Order and tidiness are certainly not winning in this poem, but the
speaker also doesn’t want them to anymore, and this is a shift. She has
turned in some way, or she has been turned. These moments of moving
into a new current are different from resistance or struggle—less
painful, perhaps, although also striking and necessary in our life