Back to poetry

I’ve been preoccupied with food lately so time to think a bit more about poetry. My cyber scouts have been sending me interesting things to read, so I thought I’d share.

Mary felt I needed to know about the not-quite-yet-born Quarterly Journal of Food and Car Poems, from Washington state, which is seeking form poems for its first issue, and provides a nicely photographed sonnet to a steak for inspiration, as well as a handy list of links to Wikipedia definitions of allowable forms.

And Nancy has been reading the well-endowed (in the most fully figured meaning of that phrase) website of the Poetry Foundation, which is an excellent site and one I hadn’t visited before. She also found an online version of the article on rhyme, meter, stanza and pattern that appeared in a recent issue Poetry Magazine, by George Szirtes.

And as for me tucked up with my million books on poetry, I was reading again a few comforting passages from my heroine Maxine Kumin’s delightfully readable and charming collection of Essays on a Life in Poetry, Always Beginning. In a 1996 interview included in the collection, she was asked about the process of writing a novel on a typewriter, which she began using a very literal cut and paste method, so she had the first page scrolling across the room before she inserted her second page. She was asked if she thought computers had changed the surface or shape of prose, and she replied

“Oh I know it has…It’s dangerous! It corrupts you in midpage because it’s so easy to insert and delete that you take a lot of wrong turns… I’m not really comfortable yet with the computer. I use it for prose, a little warily, and then I print things out and make a lot of changes by hand, and then I go back and put them in.”

Just so. I like to print poems out and write on them (with dates!!) so that I don’t lose those speculative changes. I rarely go back to previous versions, but it can be helpful to have them if I get myself completely messed up. I find the Version Control feature in Word cumbersome and not really workable for me, but on the other hand, just pressing the Save button pretty much obliterates your editing history. Literary researchers of the future should have an interesting time of it.

Have a look at this site if you’re interested in editing history; it shows four manuscript versions of Wilfred Owen’s Dulce Et Decorum Est, and I seem to recall reading we don’t know which was his own finished version, so in anthologies etc. you will find one or some variation on these. To view each draft full-screen, choose right-click a manuscript “button” (A, B, C, D) and choose Open Link in New Window.

Mary wanted to see what I was having for supper last night. It was a mushroom and artichoke quiche from the Steinbeck House cookbook. The crust is supposed to be made with crushed saltines and sauteed mushrooms and butter (chilled till firm), and then you put lightly cooked green onion and chopped canned (not marinated) artichoke hearts on the base, cover with monterey jack cheese and pour on the filling, made with eggs, cream and cottage cheese, pureed with cayenne and paprika.

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