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Sunday, June 24, 2012

Most Like an Arch, This Poem

If you go to a children's science museum, chances are that there will be an interactive display for building an arch. There will be a base block which forms the outline of the arch, and loose blocks of various shapes that have to be stacked up and fitted together around and over the top of the base block till they lean tightly together, in a symmetrical outlay with the keystone piece in the middle. Once you have that configuration, you can pull out the base block and the arch will stay together, standing, remarkably stable and without any kind of adhesion holding it up other than the weight of the individual blocks pressed against one another.

Yesterday I was editing some poems, taking out as much of the excess wording and imagery as I could without causing the poem to collapse, and it occurred to me that what I was doing was like building an arch. The foundation, the original impulse around which the lines were placed, could eventually be removed entirely if each line was chosen and placed correctly so that its weight and position was necessary yet not excessive in its contribution to the poem. Everything else had to be deleted, leaving on the essential elements which leaned on one another, but didn't stand alone and demand their own attention.

Then, when all the excess was pulled out, if the poem remained standing, I got the feeling of pulling the base block out of an arch and with astonishment seeing the arch still remain. When you have that feeling, you have a poem.

(The title of this post is a play on John Ciardi's poem entitled "Most Like an Arch This Marriage.")


Sandy Longhorn said...

Lovely description and spot on.

Happy arch making.

Jessica Goodfellow said...

Thanks, Sandy, and to you too. Your manuscript is about finished, isn't it? Or on its way, definitely.

Sandy Longhorn said...

Yes. Very close! Thx.