Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Thinking about Your Tu Fu Poems

Three of you sent me poems written from the prompt I gave you a few days ago. All were remarkable first drafts--very individual to the poet and his or her world yet sharing an immediacy and a patience that shows me how much richness you have absorbed from your study of Tu Fu's work. Not all of you cared to share your work publicly, but I hope you don't mind if I quote brief passages from each poem.

Poem 1 is set at a historic village in New England. These lines appear in the latter half of the poem:
Suddenly the light shifts,
fields glow, and through open doors
windows on the bare stone walls slouch
into gloom.
"Slouch into gloom"! What a vision! And the transitions within this sentence--from "Suddenly" we move from light, to fields, to interior, to darkness. This is a stunning moment, mirrored by a beautiful sentence. The poem began with much simpler sentence structure, so, to me, this shift into complexity almost feels like a volta--the point in a sonnet when the discussion or argument turns toward revelation.

Poem 2 is set at an airport in a Canadian city. These are the opening lines:
From a high ceiling ad banners
hang silent over vast floors.
Outside in the dark,
cars wait for planes to land.
Immediately the poem conjures up an image of cavernous quiet. At the same time the poet is also constructing two settings at once--inside and outside--which will allow him, in the rest of the poem, to play with the ideas of seen and unseen, isolation and community. His sentence structure and word choices are plain and exact, with a somber elegance of pacing. 

Poem 3 is set at at Atlantic beach. These are the closing lines:
Grit, salt, and sweetness.
Why would I wash this all away?
Throughout the poem, the poet has been pondering the physical immediacies of sand, salt, and sugar. Her speaker is happy and grateful, and the poem focuses on the pleasures of the moment. Yet it ends with a question: the poet introduces an ambiguity that doesn't necessarily equate with pure joy. In other words, she gives the reader the choice of imagining either option: I won't wash this away. I will wash this away. This, to me, feels like a step into fear: a risky question, and one that the poet doesn't necessarily want to face. Yet framing a Tu Fu-like question has pushed her toward that cliff.

These three first drafts were powerful responses to your reading. I'd be interested to hear more from you about the experience of writing and also what aspects of Tu Fu's work resonated most with you as you worked.


Ruth said...

Mine is on its way!!! I enjoyed doing this.

carlene said...

I like the spareness of the Tu Fu poems and I found that, after reading and focusing on them as intently as we have done, using the simple language was liberating. It gave me the permission to, as you said, let the emotion seep out...I was able to construct the space and let the content dwell, somewhat unadorned. This exercise translates well to all types of writing, I think.