Poetry/Creative non-fiction/fiction

Ars Poetica: “To Write A Poem” September 1, 2013

Filed under: Poetry — jessicacolleenmcdermott @ 3:38 am
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“To write a poem,”

you become an axis mundi for the middle class blues – for the steady job your dad lost five years ago, and for your first embrace with the ocean, how you imagined its water like hands connecting you to every place at once, for your mother who snuck stacks of folded laundry into your room while you slept and gently placed them into your drawers, for the last time you locked eyes with a deer in Cache Valley and a shiver wound up your spine. It stood still as stone in the middle of a frozen street, breath pushed like exhaust from its black nose.

For the yellow primroses that shook open in mid-June when you were eight, for the seconds you spent watching them peel open with nothing on your mind. Because when you watched the father in Gaza kiss his son’s forehead beside his rubble bombed home, you saw your brother’s hands, how they cradle your nephew, rocking in the same motion.

For the snap of dying leaves up the Crimson Trail early autumn, for the hum of plastic space heaters in winter, and for the birthday cards your grandmother sent with five bucks tucked inside. Because one Christmas, a box was left on your doorstep: a black sweater for you, lip-gloss, a brown belt for your brother, a pair of jeans, cans of corn, green beans, kidney beans, instant potatoes, a chocolate cake mix, and a loaf of bread.

For your first kiss at sixteen in a driveway, for discovering how wet mouths are, for the electric buzz of running a finger across a lover’s lower lip, for losing your virginity after too much vodka on a mattress on an unfamiliar floor, for feeling regret, for looking in a mirror and seeing your mother’s smile, for the last time your grandpa bounced you on his knee in Victor, Idaho and sang “Pony Girl,” and tickled you until he reached your “bullet-hole” below your right rib.

For only sleeping with blankets made by people you know, for throwing strips of toilet paper into the riverbed past midnight and knowing it was wrong – the white paper falling like bodies into the black water. For wanting to be wanted, for wanting to run away to Europe, for getting a passport, for leaving where you are from, for swimming in the ocean even though sharks have real teeth.

For playing school in your garage with National Geographics and a green chalk board, for kissing your childhood dog, for rocking the orange-striped kitten runt and humming to her until she died, for burying animals in your horse field, for forgetting the date, for spending New Year’s Eve playing Risk with your brother.

For never jogging past an animal without whispering hello, for picking Indian Paint Brush in the Teton Valley and placing them in paper cups, for running while the sun rises, for sleeping in the farm house your great grandpa built below Oxford peaks, for waking to your grandmother’s voice chanting “good morning, good morning” and feeding you homemade bread and oatmeal.

For finding mice in a bag of oats, for sneaking cheese to a neighbor cat, for your pet hen that ran away, for your dead albino rabbit and the black lab stuck in his cage, for knowing loss, for meeting someone who you already feel you know, for shaking hands, for the first letter addressed to you, for watching rows of alfalfa and potatoes bend into a circle when you drive past, for a field of wheat rendered burnt-orange in a sunsets mouth, for the “perfect” shell you found at Dillon Beach. Because words aren’t enough, because the first time you wrote a poem you cried. 


A Poets Contribution February 6, 2012

Filed under: Essays — jessicacolleenmcdermott @ 4:49 am
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A poet contributes to society by reflecting reality. Poets, along with other artists function as creators of the moment. Through their words, poets are able to comment on a society’s social or political structure. Their poems communicate an awareness of a moment and an awareness of the humane or inhumane conditions of that specific moment. Thus, they promote social progress and change.

Some believe that poets only become useful or popular after their deaths, but this is because poets (along with other artists) hover on the outskirts of society. They do not always gain acclaim during their lifetimes due to the fact that they question the main ideas or beliefs of that time. A good poet reminds us of our humanity and our history through realistic depiction. Poet Dylan Thomas said, “A good poem is a contribution to reality. The world is never the same once a good poem has been added to it.  A good poem helps to change the shape of the universe, helps to extend everyone’s knowledge of himself and the world around him.”

This last October I attended a reading by writer Barry Lopez, in which he defined a writer’s duty as giving voice to the silent injustices that people fear to speak about. By writing about what we may fear or do not comprehend, writers make us aware of our world and more understanding of one another.  But perhaps the most meaningful contribution poets make through their writings is that they remind us that society is not life. Life encompasses more than simply belonging to a society, and it is a poet’s desire to express this truth.