Friday, June 6, 2014

the little pool of light

"We have many shelves of poetry at home, but still, it takes an effort to step out of the daily narrative of existence, draw that neglected cloak of stillness around you—and concentrate, if only for 3 or 4 minutes. Perhaps the greatest reading pleasure has an element of self-annihilation. To be so engrossed that you barely know you exist … What is it precisely, that feeling of ‘returning’ from a poem? Something is lighter, softer, larger—then it fades, but never completely."

-  Ian McEwan

“First you need talent, then the energy to find and sustain a story, then the energy to receive harsh rejections and return to the little pool of light where one works.”

- Frederick Busch

Hello, dear readers. I know I need not tell you what it feels like to return from a poem. There are similar feelings, as you might imagine, writing poems, and well, yes, short essays, poem-essays, whatever we'd like to call my recent work. In spite of beginning the week with a rejection, and in spite of things breaking/stopping (my watch battery, the car battery, and lastly the toaster!), and in spite of the noise Rob has been making in putting down the floor boards in our year long / room by room floor replacement, I've still managed to write something every day so far this week. I'm really rather proud of myself, and have some hope for this last day as well.

Oh how I've enjoyed dwelling in my little pool of light this week!

And. Let there be toast.

From my new and shiny toaster.

For good measure, a spot of tea.

And just to further the connection between toast and poetry, an excerpt from an interview with Michael Earl Craig:

Let me paraphrase the question Tina asks in your poem “Bluebirds”: What does it take to understand poetry? I know this is a mighty open-ended and mostly goofy question, but it is one that lots of poets have attempted to answer at some point. Care to take it on? 

Ah, this is a good question. It reminds me of the question, “What does it take to understand toast?” When we come upon toast, it’s like we have this intuitive understanding of it. But why? We are probably familiar with toast, that’s true. But what does toast mean? And how can we understand it? I’m not trying to be cute here. I am asking, seriously.

I’m glad you used toast as your metaphor. There was period, almost forty years ago now, when I believed I could live off of toasted seven grain bread with peanut butter, honey and banana. That said, let’s move from meaning in poetry (or a poem) to what do you get out of a poem? Eating’s one thing, but reading a poem? Why do that? Let me flesh this out a little —in our bookstore we have literally heard “poetry saved my life” said by people that believe it, metaphorically but ardently. Poetry isn’t for everybody but for some people it works. But what is working, anyway, when it comes to a poem?

I don’t know, John. I honestly don’t know what it is about poetry (some poetry) that “works” for/on people. Everything I might say sounds like a cliché: It speaks to them, etc. But maybe that’s it. We want to be spoken to . . .

{read the whole interview here}

Lastly, there's a story about fancy toast that I read a while back, that's stuck with me. There is poetry in toast, you see. Take a read here.

Wishing you all a wonderful weekend, some toast, and a pool of light all your own.

- Shawna


  1. Hi Shawna .. I loved the first quote..Since college I have kept a copy of The New Yorker Book of Poems by my bed..I have always read poetry before sleep. Do have a copy? If not please let me gift one to you!

    1. I think that's a wonderful thing to do - read poetry before sleep. I haven't seen The New Yorker Book of Poems - I'll see if it's in our local library! You're lovely. Thank you, Katie!

  2. You can go on Ebay USA and have it used for $3-5..includes shipping. It's a big fat yellow (think taxi yellow) paperback. A jewel really.


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