Monday, March 28, 2011

An Event

On Friday I gave a public reading!  Okay, okay, so it was me and 18 other people, but still.

There's an event at my school every year called Pen and Pigment which is a collaboration between the Creative Writing and Art departments.  Basically, we poets write a poem and the artists create a work of art and then we trade our pieces and write another piece based on the other's work.

This year, the art was typography, so all of the pieces had letters or numbers incorporated in them.  When I received my piece to write on, I couldn't believe my luck.  You see, ever since I wrote that poem about Grandma and Grandpa in my National Red and Pink Day post, I've wanted to write about Pop, my grandpa on Mom's side who died when I was thirteen, but I have such limited memories of him.  The piece of typography that I had been given was a number 4 turned into a sailboat and my Pop had a sailboat named Escape IV (after the first three Escapes of course).  I was thrilled.  And, since I wanted my poem to have lots of details about the same thing, I decided to use the Sestina form.  many poets consider the sestina a very frustrating form, but I love it.  To me, writing a sestina feels like solving a puzzle.  A sestina is a seven stanza poem in which you use the same end-words in every stanza, but in a different order.  The last stanza is called the envoy and traditionally houses the "turn" of the poem.  Sestinas were originally in iambic pentameter (ten syllables per line with an unstressed, stressed, unstressed, stressed rhythm).  However, over the years, they evolved and now they are permitted to have more or less syllables per line.  I love writing them with traditional rhythm (more puzzle fun), but had too much to say this time to restrict myself to that.  So, since you missed my fabulous reading at which I was literally shaking and sounded slightly like I was about to cry the entire time, here is (one of) my (favorite) poem(s that I've written so far):


I’m never sure how much I actually remember
and how much I’ve learned from the pictures we
pull out now, almost every time we get together.
I know I remember the smell of cigarette smoke
and the feel of the stubble on his chin when he hugged me.
And I remember standing on the prickly grass, anxious to get on his sailboat.

I only remember going out on his boat
a few times.  I don’t really remember
the feel of the tiller, but I know he let me
steer it from his lap on those days when we
sailed it far from the flames and smoke
of the refineries.  I remember when we were all together,

even though I know we weren’t always together.
There were times when he went out on his boat,
or went to the Yale Street Pharmacy to smoke
and have coffee with his friends, but I only remember
the long lazy days at the house when we
gathered around to eat seafood.  He instilled in me

a taste for good food which makes me
wish I knew how to throw ingredients together
and make something delicious like he did every time we
visited.  He was always in the kitchen or on the boat.
As hard as I try, I can never remember
him being anywhere else—except on the patio where he smoked

his Camels.  I still recognize that smoke,
the Camel kind.  The scent of it takes me
back to when I was seven.  When I smell it, I remember
the times when we were all together
though now I know his mind was probably on his boat.
while his feet were on the table. We knew we had his love, but we

also knew he loved the bay and Escape IV more than we
ever could imagine.  I think if the house had gone up in smoke,
he would have been thrilled to live on his boat,
a lifestyle that wouldn’t have fit me
then.  Now I wish we’d gone out on his boat together
more often.  The last time I remember

being on the bay was in a different boat.  I watched the shore until we
left it behind.  I remember wishing I could ask why he ever decided to smoke
as the wind blew his ashes back around me.  We were on the bay, but not together. 

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