One of the most intriguing elements of poetry, to me, is form. What really interests me is how the subject of a poem finds its form. It may be found in a traditional form such as a sonnet or villanelle, or an experimental form such as the prose poem. Whatever form the poem finds, this is the structure in which we experience it, and this structure ultimately becomes the way in which the narrative of the poem moves. The structure allows the narrative to pause, or to take a journey down one path to another, by way of what may seem something simple like enjambment or section breaks. But these aren’t simple devices; they are the signposts by which the poet leads us through the poem. And here, moreso in prose, every decision on that road from the beginning to the end of the poem matters. Each is decisive in the way a reader experiences the poem. A well-structured poem makes a poem memorable.
Our featured poet for this month, Simon Perchik, uses form in a way that I find memorable and intriguing. I’ve been a fan of Simon’s work for years, admiring not only his use of structure, but his use of imagery to create an emotional landscape. It was a delight to talk with him not only about the form of his poems, but the way in which form influences a poem’s progression.
We have two poems from B.B.P. Hosmillo whose work constructs a comparison between what others want to see and what really is. “There’s no substitute embodiment and there’s no other way / when you can’t leave your first impression of me, a definition / used for anything unthinkable.” The speaker takes us inside a world of loss and memory that is both dream-like and pulsing with life. The imagery in these poems is striking and raw; you won’t forget these images, nor should you.
Hannah Oberman-Breindel creates new meaning from the imagery of boats in her poems: “The river says, / everything can be lost. The boat says, everything / can be recovered.” Oberman-Breindel takes us through loss and gives us a bit of hope, but doesn’t forget the past—“ The ghosts wail, I have not yet learned / to banish their voices.” These poems are beautifully structured, creating narratives that are as stunning as they are heartbreaking.
Associate Poetry Editor Davon brings us work by two more wonderful poets this month:
Daniel Lassell’s poems are riveting journeys into the loss of one’s place, position, and identity. The poem, “Kalo”, especially explores the liminal space of a Japanese American during and after WWII. Daniel writes, “your family was taken / to an internment camp until / after the war when / even then, / the U.S. would not claim you.” And while this poem is a narrative, it is also a ballad to the leftovers of war and catastrophe. Both of Daniel’s poems expose these effects of misplacement.
Sam Herschel Wein’s poems are packed with such cadence that each line reads percussively—amplifying and echoing Sam’s very lyrical voice. There are no unnecessary words or punctuation; rather, the diction and syntax is calculated in order to engage the ear and the heart. In his poem, “Put Down the Book,” Sam writes, “I want to spend time counting / the chances I’ve missed because I was / scared.” And Sam’s work does just that—demands us to put down our books and other distractions, and give him our full attention.
Thank you for visiting our column this month. We value our poets and our readers, and hope that you continue to find forms and narratives in poetry that energize your heart and mind.