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Tuesday, April 2, 2013

House on Fire II

Earlier today I wrote a post about my childhood home burning down. And I wrote about how after some years of watching the video again and again, weeping over the loss, dreaming about my house burning down, talking about it, worrying about it, finally the image has found its way into a poem.

What I didn't mention is that it is one line in a poem about a larger topic. All that straining with emotion, all that angst, all that cogitating over the meaning of the loss of a childhood home, particularly in such a spectacularly violent manner . . . all that is manifest in a single line of a poem about something else anyway. (Actually part of a line, not even a complete line.)

This is not unusual. People wonder why poets take so long to write poems, why such short pieces take so long to write. That's why. Behind every word choice, there is a history, or there should be, if the choice of words and images is to leave an indelible and only partially explainable mark. That is where the power in the poem comes from, from all the history between the poet and the word and the world that is allowed to show only barely.

Which isn't to say I won't someday write a longer poem about my childhood home burning down. But I'm not counting on it; I've spent that currency, and it was a fortune for such a few words.

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