{pf 2019: p7 jumps in}

welcome to another poetry friday!


We ended the year pretty quietly here, with an unexpected, but well-enjoyed little break. I’m glad to be back and participating in another year (YEAR ELEVEN!) of writing with Tricia Stohr-Hunt, Liz Garton Scanlon, Laura Purdie Salas, Andromeda Jazmon, Sara Lewis Holmes, and Kelly Ramsdell Siegel, and occasionally John Lewis. (Do I want to call him Little John, because he is Sara’s little brother, and having our own Little John makes us sound like a Robin Hood girl gang? Yes. Yes, I do. Will I restrain myself? …er, maybe?)

Our January poem is the ekphrastic, chosen by the one and only Tricia who gently prodded us out of holiday hibernation with a clarion call of “are we doing something for January or naw?” The ekphrastic is one of my favorite poetic forms for its combination of imagery and imagination. Examine an image, be inspired, and create a poem: what could be easier? (Wait, why are you laughing?)

The images we used come courtesy of Tricia via Bon √† Tirer Prints & Monotypes: From the Center Street Studio Archives on view February 22 through May 11, 2018, in the Joel & Lila Harnett Museum of Art, at the University of Richmond in Virginia. I chose an image by the American artist Janine Wong called Color Equation 2. I dearly wish that I could see this in person. That’s the only potential drawback to the ekphrastic. Ah, well.

This image is a single impression print embellished with etching; aquatint, which is a copper plate etched with nitric acid; chine coll√©, which is a technique imported from China which uses a tissue-thin paper cut to the size of the printing plate and a larger, thicker support paper below to create a neat background effect; and hand-sewing on paper. Aside from learning a great deal about printing just from studying up on this piece, I examined it for other details and associations it could spark. The clustered circles reminded me of connections – first, between the artist and Paul Klee, or between mentors and learners, or parents and children… even families in a family tree. It reminded me of outlines and flowcharts. Of, weirdly, biology — something about this is kind of floral. (Eggs? Seeds? Puddles? Cells? DNA clusters?) It also made me think of Tech Boy, because it made me think of snooker. Billiards. Pool.

One very memorable day, Tech Boy pool sharked an entire group of relatives. It wasn’t a fun game, but a grim one, where various parties challenged him to play, in an attitude of “you’re not as good as you think you are.” After he methodically wiped the table with them, one after the other, we went home. It was a Pyrrhic victory, and he hasn’t played pool with them – or publicly, that I know of – again. And he used to be good – very, very good. Good enough to bet on.

In 2017, the number one star of the ranked trick shot world (yes, this is apparently a Thing?) was a man ESPN called “The Gentleman.” (He could join our girl gang. I’m just saying.) William “The Gentleman” DeYonker has perfectly recreated and invented thousands of trick shots with a singular focus that he says comes from seeing the table in his head in three dimensions. This is not the way the “neurotypical” thinker sees the world. The Gentleman sees a trick in the abstract, and instead of having to practice it endlessly, he …just does it. That ball will need to go there to make this ball do that to get these balls to go there. The geometry proofs run in his head: click, tap, spin, rebound. The Gentleman’s mother loves to see him play, and is his personal sponsor, and cheerleader. The lines between them are strong; she is with him, all the way.

Snooker in the UK is televised …and is about as interesting to me as watching golf (which is also televised in Scotland, go figure). But, things pick up when the commentators stops analyzing the players and follow the ball. The sports channels project possible paths the ball will travel over the green baize, forecasting a series of perfect angles for perfect outcomes. In today’s image, the lines the artist stitched in between and through the circles bring to mind possible paths for a ricocheting poeple. Tap, bump, spin, dunk.

There are lines between us — lines that tell us what connects us, strings that pull taut and outline a path, maps to show us how to claim the treasure of our best selves. As we trace those lines between ourselves and those we claim, may we be authentic – neurodivergent, maybe, weird, perhaps, but honest – following our course, action and reaction, cause and effect, straight and true.


Poetry Friday is hosted today at the blog of poet Sylvia Vardell. Please don’t forget to seek out the work of the other Poetry Sisters participating today – Laura, Tricia, Kelly, Sara, and Liz.

Additional Poetry News:

* The National Poetry Month poster contest for high school students is on!

* It’s a great year for poetry everywhere – tons more is in the public domain.

*I got a giggle out of this poetry written by people waiting for SF Muni buses. (Dad drove for them when I was wee.)

*NPR’s poetry recommendations for 2019.

*Leonard Cohen’s last poems released by his publisher – to a rather blunt review that says it’s for fans only. Which would be many of us.

*Officially, U.S. poet laureate Tracy K. Smith’s podcast began this past fall, but as of this month, The Slowdown is on public radio stations! A perfect replacement for other poetry programs on public radio you may have missed. (Also, anyone want to buy a bookstore? As long as we’re replacing things, we need somewhere to put all those new poetry books, right?)

9 Replies to “{pf 2019: p7 jumps in}”

  1. Here’s a cop-out, but it’s true: I love everything about this post. Like LPS, I love the story almost more than the poem. And yes, here’s to neurodiversity and to the lines and angles and shots that (sometimes improbably) connect us across time and place.

  2. First, I could read a book of the prose that introduces your poems. Seriously, they are so damn amazing.
    Second, I used to use pool examples when teaching geometry and vectors in physics. There are so many great examples. I couldn’t get beyond Klee when I saw this image. I’m so glad your mind went to other places.
    Third, I adore the opening of the poem, “the simplest physics/is meeting and parting.” It is brilliant and beautiful.
    Finally, you and your poems are incredible.
    Happy new year!

  3. It’s been quite illuminating reading all the Poetry Sisters’ poems today, two for this one, the others for the alphabet. Like others, I enjoyed your intro very much, too, used to enjoy playing pool long ago with some friends who had a table, and learned a bit about those special shots, which you’ve placed so beautifully into relationships, perhaps not always among people, maybe extending into all the animal world? I love ‘two objects in motion/that start up a spin”, feels true to me. Thanks for all the links, too!

  4. I dearly wanted to write to this image too (guess I still could) but I kept having flashbacks to chemistry class diagrams. Ugh. Never would’ve seen billiards in this. (In the Air Force, we play a cue-less game called Crud on a snookers table. Kind of like rugby in its physicality, but you still have to know how to play the angles…)

    Anyhoo….the path you took to get here is as illuminating as the poem is to read. I love the ideas behind it, but even more, as Laura said, I delighted in how you let the words bounce off each other, trusting the reader to make connections, too. You, FTW.

  5. I love your story almost as much of the poem. I love the way there are so few connecting words, and instead, the words themselves just connect and bounce off each other. You and Tech Boy should go out and shoot pool! Don’t let the damn relatives ruin his enjoyment of the game:>)

    1. @laurasalas: I was remarking to Himself that ekphrastic poems always end up with such long posts because I have to explain how I got where I landed – but I loved the process a great deal this time! Thanks for the kind words – we are endeavoring to repair a lot of damage from the past – by owning all the beautifully unique ways our brains work, for one thing, and owning the powerful, unusual things we can do with them. All hail the neurodivergent!

  6. I cannot tell you how hard I love this poem (and mourn Tech Boy’s days running the table) but wow do I love this poem! I too found something scientific/biologic/botanic/spacial about this piece of art (and I’m glad you shared more about the piece and its process). I adore ekphrastic prompts that give us a place to jump from and then we all land so differently….

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