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Saturday, February 20, 2016

Developing that special 'attentiveness'


“My poems always begin with a metaphor, but my way into the metaphor may be a word, an image, even a sound. And I rarely know the nature of the metaphor when I begin to write, but there is an attentiveness that a writer develops, a sudden alertness that is much like the feel of a fish brushing against a hook. – Stephen Dobyns

“Masculine,” “witty,” and “humane” are terms frequently used to describe Dobyns’ poetry.  He has published 10 volumes of poetry, including Concurring Beasts, The Balthus Poems, Cemetery Nights, and the poignant and fun-filled Pallbearers Envying the One Who Rides.   His poems been anthologized in Best American Poems.  A successful fiction writer as well, he has had two of his short stories chosen for Best American Short Stories. But, it’s his poems that are his forté.

“Many of my poems try to use a comic element to reach a place that isn't comic at all. The comic element works as a surprise,” he said.   “It is unexpected and energizing.


For Saturday’s Poem, here’s Dobyns’

Loud Music

My stepdaughter and I circle round and round.
You see, I like the music loud, the speakers
throbbing, jam-packing the room with sound whether
Bach or rock and roll, the volume cranked up so
each bass note is like a hand smacking the gut.
But my stepdaughter disagrees. She is four
and likes the music decorous, pitched below
her own voice-that tenuous projection of self.
With music blasting, she feels she disappears,
is lost within the blare, which in fact I like.
But at four what she wants is self-location
and uses her voice as a porpoise uses
its sonar: to find herself in all this space.
If she had a sort of box with a peephole
and looked inside, what she'd like to see would be
herself standing there in her red pants, jacket,
yellow plastic lunch box: a proper subject
for serious study. But me, if I raised
the same box to my eye, I would wish to find
the ocean on one of those days when wind
and thick cloud make the water gray and restless
as if some creature brooded underneath,
a rocky coast with a road along the shore
where someone like me was walking and has gone.
Loud music does this, it wipes out the ego,
leaving turbulent water and winding road,
a landscape stripped of people and language-
how clear the air becomes, how sharp the colors.




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