Friday Jan 19

JulieBrooksBarbour 2015 March 20th, the first day of Spring, is not far away. Where I live, the landscape is slowly changing. Snowbanks are melting and rain falls instead of snow. The ground is visible in patches. I no longer have to wear a hat or a heavy coat when I go outside which makes me giddy. I know I’m getting ahead of myself, as spring is still a few months away in the Midwest. Bob Hicok’s poem, “A Primer,” describes the beginning of spring in Michigan:


There’s a day in May

when we’re all tumblers, gymnastics
is everywhere, and daffodils are asked
by young men to be their wives. When a man elopes
with a daffodil, you know where he’s from.


As soon as the setting in Hicok’s poem changes, so do the people. As I watch the landscape change where I live, I also think about landscape in literature, how it can set the mood for a story or novel, and mirror the internal conflict of a character. In poetry, it’s necessary that the exterior landscape reflect the interior landscape. Due to the economical form, there is so little time to set mood or establish setting in a poem.

Imagery can do each of these things, as well as create landscape. We recognize places and objects in poems while we empathize with the speaker, but the imagery tilts the world for us to re-see (even revise) a small part of our lives. The more we practice this way of seeing, we not only view and experience the world with more clarity and depth of emotion, but watch it with interest. In this way the landscape of poetry changes us, little by little.

Our poets this month tilt the world to make us see it anew. Our lead poet this month is Kathleen Rooney whose poems take us on an ekphrastic, aesthetic, and philosophical journey into the surreal world of Rene and Georgette Magritte. The speaker of these poems will surprise and delight you. I had a wonderful conversation with Kathleen about her poems, her choice of form, and her interest in Magritte’s work and life.

Karina Borowicz gives us the shore, the sea, and the sand. It’s a world we know, but it’s as if we’re seeing it for the first time. Who knew the sand could have an appetite? “With effort/ we pull every step up/ out of the hungry sand.” The word “why” blisters the skin, not the sun. In these poems of longing at land’s end, the setting is not one we know not only from sight but from our hearts.

The color blue infuses the poems of Sandra Marchetti. Whether it’s the blue of uniforms or an ocean, she takes us to landscapes filled with desire: a baseball field where the speaker’s team wins every game; a map where land and water separate two people. Each poem fills with possibility as it bursts with yearning.

I love the nature imagery in the poems of Gigi Marks and the ways in which these images connects us as humans. In one poem, she uses the overlapping branches of trees to discuss closeness, and in another, a tadpole under a pond’s surface to mimic breathing. The quiet power of these poems is their beauty, and it’s tempting as spring arrives to want to inhabit these lines.

We close our March column with a poem by Kevin Casey, where a single leaf is placed in a late winter landscape. “Scalding gales and sleet-whipped nights” have permeated this setting, though the leaf “curled to a cocoon” and persisted through the season. As the sun lifts frost from the leaf, lingering on the last bite of winter, here’s the promise of spring despite the wait. It’s almost here.