The notion of time in poetry is a slippery one. Time doesn’t function on the page in the same manner as in the world—to begin with, it’s controllable. We shorten decades to a few lines and stretch seconds to whole poems, shrink and taffy-pull, rearrange and compare. Time ceases to be linear once a poet gets his or her hands all over it—mixing and matching, creating whole new meanings and connections no one could have ever seen in the midst of the commotion. Whether historical or personal, epic or lyric, poetry is inextricably linked with time as the poet uses his or her craft to place herself inside, outside, or in conjunction with the experienced world.
However, time is slippery. We think we know what those most important moments are—until we sit down to write them out. Then, it’s not us controlling time, but time controlling us. As we do our best to make the time to write in balance with our exterior lives, we find we can’t always regulate what spills out on to the page. We find we can’t always know what time has done to our memories. We find that time has changed us, made us both less and more, and thus, our experience with time has changed. The perception of time in poetry will always be warped—but warped in a way that reflects the emotion impressed into the poem, emotions we may not have even felt if not for writing, or for reading.
Poetry will always live as a condensation of time, one feeling pocketed into one moment that exists only as the reader lives it. Thus, there is an enduring communication that exists outside time in the writing and reading of poetry. In this issue of Mason’s Road, we are proud to present to you seven poems that exemplify this concept. All make an honest and sincere attempt to communicate with their selves and the world, using time as both a theme and a method of understanding memory and experience. Though all these poems exist within a time frame—of writing them, reading them, when they were written, or how old the person was who wrote them—they all throw their tentacles out into space, bridging gaps through their universality of human experience.
As Mark Doty says in his poetry craft book, The Art of Description: “People slip out of the story they’re living all the time; daily life is full of small moments of rupture, disappearance, and interiority. But sometimes these experiences are more lasting, and more profound.” A poem is the fruit of that kind of moment, the end result of the profound briefly stopping time. A poem is a personal line thrown out across time that ties each person that reads it and connects with it together. A poem is human and ultimately, that makes each poem timeless.
Devon Bohm and Barbara Wanamaker
3 thoughts on “Letter from the Poetry Editors – Issue #6”
I consider myself a picky reader. I easily find faults and flaws in other people’s writing, and am easily turned off. Especially with poetry, as I find it is far too often the author’s interest to become self absorbed, rather than outwardly expressive. As I came to this page, I expected this letter to be much the same: wordy, self-indulgent, conceited. These were all the judgments I brought as baggage before even reading, and I was happily proved wrong. Very glad I decided to give this a chance, as it was incredibly well put together.
Bram – many thanks for your kind words. Glad we were able to waylay your prejudices for a while. Hope you enjoy reading “Mason’s Road.” We look forward to your further commentary.
Question for Devon and Barbara:
Is it true that the richest, most inspirational and celebrated poetry over many hundreds of years is “non-rhyming”? Do you and Barbara feel perhaps that poetry written with a set meter (and somewhat musical cadence) is “cheaper” to the reader?
My poetry thus far has had that ” limerick” like quality to it! Mind you the messages are good ones but is it quite possible that true, modern day poetry aficionados are turned off immediately by poetry that beats along like a ” pop-song”?
Looking forward to your response and hope you will share some names of poets who have succeeded with rhyming poetry over the centuries!
Peace & Blessings, Andy