Now with Five Full Pages of Poetry!
Featured Poem of the Month
Stories of My Father’s Absence
I learned to dust when I was eight years old,
when grief and hope were equally sensual places.
I followed my mother around the house,
holding a clean, cloth diaper, cool with lemony sadness.
At the redwood cabinet filled with curios,
I dusted the stories of my father’s absence.
See how the dust settles in the lines of the ancient-faced
rickshaw rider, his cart laden with miniature fruits?
Between the pearls baked into the pearl diver’s lap?
Around the blown glass gills of the carp?
In the crannies of a bamboo tea strainer?
On top of a river stone darker than midnight?
On Saturdays, we polished these artifacts
tugging like the tides in the Bay of Bengal.
We handled them as gently as we would a newborn,
a wish, a sorrow. This story, this life of my father.
Cynthia was the middle school librarian at Sidwell Friends School in Washington, DC for 14 years. Now she writes, gardens, sews, and makes music, in New Mexico.
This Month: "Hardcopies and Hard Time"
The BTS Interview with Michael R. Burch (this is a repeat of our January Interview)
Vera: What inspired or impelled you to become a poet? Was it tied to a defining event in your life?
Michael: I think the first influence came very early in my life, when my mother would recite "The Highwayman" by Alfred Noyes to me and my two sisters. This was when I was a very young boy, perhaps six or thereabouts. I later learned that Noyes died the year I was born, an interesting synchronicity. But I didn't think much about poetry, in terms of writing it, until my early teens. I had some friends who were in a rock group, but I had no musical ability. I had, however, become a fan of poet-songwriters like Bob Dylan and Paul Simon. Then one day I started leafing through the pages of my high school Literature book, reading the poems independently, and something clicked. Some of the poems, by poets like William Blake and A. E. Housman, seemed quite magical to me. If I couldn't write songs, perhaps I could write poems. That was the beginning of my love affair with writing poetry, because it seemed to me that I did have a talent for writing poems. I remember sitting in the break room of a McDonald's where I worked to earn money for college, looking at a poem I had written, thinking, "Did I just write that?" It seemed that I had produced something a bit magical, at a fairly early age. Now that I have been published around 2,500 times, it seems that I may have had some talent for writing poetry.
Vera: You are known as a Formalist, yet you also write free verse. Do you have a preference between the two?
Michael: In one way no, in another way yes. I don't think that one genre is superior to the other. There are great metrical poems, and there are great free verse poems. As a reader, I simply like great writing, and it doesn't matter to me how poems are constructed. However, as a writer I find myself writing more metrical, rhyming poems. And I think most readers still enjoy meter and rhyme. For instance, most popular songs are metrical, rhyming poems set to music. Why not give readers what they like? If a poet who claims free verse is "superior" to metrical, rhymed poems is asked to name his top ten songs with words, chances are that all ten will have rhyming lyrics. And I remember reading a book called Touchstones in which a number of free verse poets discussed their favorite poems. If I remember correctly, most of the poets named rhyming poems. And the three best-known founders of English free verse -- Walt Whitman, Ezra Pound and T. S. Eliot -- all wrote rhyming poems. Ironically, Walt Whitman's best-known poem may be "O Captain! My Captain!" The world is full of those sort of ironies. In short, I value both genres equally, but when I write poems they usually end up with meter and rhyme.
If you know a literary sort, a poet, an author, a teacher of literature, or just a truly all around interesting character, and you think it might be fun to get their thoughts down on "paper". Let us know, if you have contact info, all the better, but we have our ways....