The next excerpt from my PYI keynote in a series that started in December 2011…
I would never write another poem
if only I could show you
in a few perfect lines
what the touch of your fingers
on my aging cheek
That’s “Poem for Sonia” from Hold the Rain in Your Hands: Poems New and Selected by Glen Sorestad.
I came to know Glen’s poetry because he published my first young adult novel, and my second, and my first young adult short story, too, come to think of it. He’s both a poet and co-founder of Thistledown Press.
If Glen could, through his writing, show his wife what the touch of her hand on his aging cheek means, he would, he says, never write another poem. Intended or not, there’s an implication that this is what he’s been trying to do in everything he’s ever written, whatever he seems to be writing about. And if he could just get it right, he would stop. The poem certainly reveals what matters to him, most deeply.
What do you most wish you could express through your art?
When I ask myself that question, the first things to come to mind have to do with my children: how it felt to be separated from my firstborn child after his birth. He was born at 2 in the afternoon and it was 9:30 the next morning before I held him. How it felt to nurse my daughter in the quiet middle of the night and later, to pack away her baby clothes. And I wish I could use words to make certain people who have been important in my life known to others. Like Lois Gordon – Antilo to those closest to her, whether she was their aunt or not. She may feature in my writing someday, but she hasn’t yet. In planning this talk, I found I couldn’t even come up with a sentence or two that might give you some small sense of who she was and what I would and wouldn’t like to emulate about her as I grow older. But maybe someday, when I can shuck off my fear of getting her wrong, I’ll muster up the courage to take a stab at it.
But perhaps the title of Glen Sorestad’s poetry collection, Hold the Rain in Your Hands, sums up – poetically but rather pessimistically – what all writing is. Perhaps we are all trying to hold the rain in our hands each time we write, and that’s why our manuscripts somehow fall short, year after year, of becoming what we know in our heart of hearts they could be. And would be, if only we had the skill. Even those that get good enough to be published and get nice reviews.
What keeps me going as a writer is the belief that, maybe someday, if I keep on practising my craft, maybe someday I’ll write something as wonderful as I know it could be.
I have a poem in my files that I’ve sometimes thought might be coming almost close, but several lines continue to elude me. I wrote it after Peter and I traveled to Scotland with Antilo in 1997. She was 91 years old and full of life, but not mobile enough to get down to the beach near the cottage we’d rented.
You can read the poem I wrote her in “An Intimate Examination of Sock Fluff” – Part 10 the first week of next month.