Poetry reminds us of our lives. It recalls places we’ve lived or visited, plants we’ve grown in our yards, animals we’ve watched from a distance, and weather patterns to which we’ve grown accustomed. But poetry also reminds us of our mortality, of the physical bodies we inhabit for a short amount of time. It details what happens to us while we live in these bodies, or “soul cases” as I once heard a friend call them. We call these details experience. But we can also consider them roads to enlightenment.
Consider the body you do not have. Consider this also as knowledge you do not have, but that you can gain by listening to someone who lives in another body, who has a separate experience. This is what poetry gives us: lives we can be privy to if we listen. Poetry asks that we slow down and pay attention to each breath the body takes as it details the world from its senses. If we listen closely to those breaths, those words, we will step into another person’s life. We will see what the speaker sees. And when this happens, we are enlightened.
Cortney Lamar Charleston is our lead poet this month. We bring you four poems and an interview from this wonderful poet whose work reminds us of the choices we make in the ways we treat one another. Charleston’s use of the body in his work does not let us forget we are humans, nor do we forget our collective history.
We have two poems from Sara Henning for our November column. Among Henning’s beautiful lines, we “never return / from… darkness untouched,” whether it be the illness of a loved one or a sister who was never brought to term. These poems remind us that life is fragile, but also remind us of life’s beauty which Henning restores to us even within dark moments.
T.J. Sandella’s poems remind us of our mortality and the way memory calls the bodies of others back to us: “the blur / that is her tucks a wisp / of hair behind an ear.” We are left in a haunted landscape where “water’s memory is insistent,” and we are held in every word and place we shared with the living.
In ‘Gbenga Adeoba’s poems, the living “learn the alphabets of silence” from loss, but are comforted by a “lone star” that leads them. We also find in these poems secrets of the natural world that gather men together and “fall / in torrents too fast for men to decode.” Adeoba’s poems offer comfort and mystery in their narratives, and I find myself visiting these poems again and again.
We have four poems from Sandy Longhorn this month that don’t flinch from the landscape of the missing person. We visit a place where a terrible event occurred: “The sheriff’s deputy arrives / and calls it in, can tell from the clothes, / the hair, the size of the child.” Longhorn’s poems offer the tale of a town in search of a suspect, where we find witnesses and evidence, and a story we don’t want to stop reading.
Gary Leising’s poems question what we believe and challenge our senses. In one poem, we watch a cook fall from a great height in a photograph: “He /isn’t walking. He is upside down, falling, / he could not stay this posed for 106 / stories, falling.” The speaker urges us to believe what we see is true, even if what we believe in never appears.
We close our November poetry column with two beautiful poems from Terri Kirby Erickson. The women in Erikson’s poems are saturated with water and light. One is “washed clean.” Another woman, while dancing, “[pauses] / like a heron before it dips its beak / in water.” We watch these women move through loss and fight death with dance. They give us hope that we can live just as triumphantly.
Thank for you for visiting our column and for listening to these poets!