I read the above line this week in The Poet’s Companion (one of my resolution books) and definitely agree with the authors’ assessment of one of poetry’s functions. Certainly, the act of writing in many forms can be a machine for memory: diary writing, recipe writing, memoir writing. Even fictional stories often serve the purpose of capturing true memories of historical periods, people, cultures, or emotions.
This week, I’m remembering a spectrum of things. Some hidden deep behind expired canned goods, some there just under the daily ‘to do’ list. Skiing as a child; last winter in Denver; a regret from this December; and family recipes. Most urgently, I’ve been remembering my grandmother who passed away this week. When I received news that she was gone, my first instinct was to open a new document and start writing down everything I could remember about her in numbered list format. As soon as a person is gone, we can panic that our memories will follow. In an age of ubiquitous photography and personal blogs (including minute by minute accounts of our days), perhaps the fear of forgotten memories fades. However, my grandma didn’t keep a blog and I have significantly less photos of her life (almost 90 years long) than I do of my daughter’s life (only 2 years short). So, I started to panic when the list seemed an inadequate representation of any grandmother, much less my grandmother.
A couple days later, I looked at the list with calmer eyes and could see it, not for its length or completeness, but as small things that happily remind me of my grandparent. More timid memories will present themselves on their own terms I’m sure. And of course outside of poetry, my family’s collective memory will contribute much to the continued process of getting to know someone even after her death. At the most local level of my grief and celebration, however, poeming will play an important role. While currently I have a list – rough and chilly, I know some of it will transform into poems, or that pieces will fit into the puzzle of other poems — poems not about my grandmother, but some how related.
To share just a little, here are a few things I remember about my grandma:
- She made amazing Monster Cookies — AH-mazing. The texture and balance of sweetness was perfection. Seriously, it was really difficult to share a batch of these.
- She enjoyed, and took very seriously, card-playing. Some of her fingers wouldn’t straighten all the way, so this made declaring her bids for tricks interesting.
- She always wanted to know if I’d been playing the piano, even when I was thirty and had not taken a lesson since I was twelve.
- She signed her letters “MN Grandma.” Even on the phone, she’d say, “Jessie? Hi, it’s Minnesota Grandma.”
What memories could a poem bring to life for you this week? Shy about poeming? — try starting with a bulleted list!
Updates on 2013 Writing Resolutions
- WRITE – Complete happy draft of full length poetry collection (Current Status: WIP A Confusing Season. This week, began note section on individual Growly pages to start tracking recurrent themes; revised and added a few new poem drafts)
- SUBMIT – Submit original poetry at least 12 times this year. (Current Status: Second submission sent to Third Coast Poetry Contest).
- EXPLORE & REFLECT – Read and complete exercises from 1) The Poet’s Companion: A Guide to the Pleasures of Writing Poetry and 2) The Portable MFA in Creative Writing (Current Status: Beginning Chapter 7 in The Poet’s Companion, feeling excited to see how the context and suggestions provided in this book affect my poetry).
Favorite WIP line to date: “He’s gone, popping away/under the pressure of a tiny man.”