Welcome to our continuing blog series here on Poetry Fridays, Dodge Poet Spotlight. We are turning the focus over to the individuals who make our programming what it is in the schools, with teachers in Spring & Fountain, and on the ground at the Dodge Poetry Festival — the Dodge Poets.
Each week, a Dodge Poet answers some questions about themselves and provides a selected poem of their own work. We hope that this will be a way for you to get to know the Dodge Poets a little better, and you can get an idea of why we love working with them so much.
Without further ado, today’s Dodge Poet is Lois Marie Harrod.
What are you reading?
I like reading several books at the same time, switching from one to the next, letting them speak to each other. Right now I am reading James Salter’s All That Is, Alice Munro’s stories (I am trying to read her complete work for a course I am teaching in the fall for Evergreen Forum, Princeton Senior Resource Center) and Washington Irving’s Tales of the Alhambra (we traveled to Spain in the spring of 2013). I just finished Sharon Olds’s latest book Stag’s Leap, Bruce Duffy’s The World as I Found It (the world of those philosophers Wittgenstein, Lord Russell and Moore) and Richard Ford’s Canada (a disappointment). I read magazines (The New Yorker, American Poetry Review, Poetry, Harpers, Scientific American, Discover—among others). I am crushed, too, that Weekly World News with its rumors of aliens and werewolves is no longer available at my supermarket. I loved reading that.
Richard Hugo said we’ve written every poem we ever loved. He was particularly proud of having written Yeats’ “Easter, 1916.” What great poem are you proud of having written?
I know that Richard Hugo says that, but I have never been sure I completely understood or completely agreed with him. True, to love a poem is to let that poem take over your mind, become you, as Bachelard suggested, and even more, make you a part of its poetic community. A poem you love shapes your mind or gives you “assisted creation” as Sartre suggests. In other words, learning to read poetry informs the way you write poetry. However, I love Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia —but it’s too much of a leap to say I built that vaulting basilica, both touchable and mysterious. Preposterous. Once saying that, I will claim Pablo Neruda’s “Ode to the Piano,” no, in fact, all of his odes. Ask me tomorrow, and I will have written something else.
What is your favorite place to read?
I like my living room—with good lighting and a footstool.
Tell us about any personal habits, rituals, ceremonies, superstitions that are part of your writing practice.
I am one of those uninspired daily writers. I usually get up early every morning (c. 5 am), put on some Bach or Haydn, read some poetry (often what’s on Writer’s Almanac, Verse Daily and Poetry Daily), and by then I have an idea. I usually work about an hour, generally finishing up with revising something in my “In Progress” file. This method creates a lot of lousy poems, but I am at my computer when the good one comes.
What are your favorite writing tools? Paper or computer? Are there special brands, papers, pens, etc. that are important to you?
I have used a computer for a long time. It’s kind to arthritic fingers. I quit hammering words in stone several centuries ago. Then holding a pen got painful too.
Tell us about your favorite experience reading for an audience.
Almost every reading is a “high” for me. I love to read my work—a kind of performance. That said, I belong to a poetry performance group, Cool Women (including Dodge poets, Judy Michaels, Betty Lies and Gretna Wilkinson among others). We have been doing readings for almost 15 years now. We pick a theme for each reading and bring 6-8 poems that connect with the theme. We start reading, one poem each, for 3 rounds. The rules: we must connect what we read with what went before. I am always so delighted, hearing how the poems speak to each other. We discover ourselves in each other’s poems.
There they were–when we stopped on the ridge, there–
on a flat table of rock, a pair of binoculars, Zeiss,
not cheap, better than the little Bushnells
I left at home, always the one to remember
birding books and walking stick halfway through the hike.
And the question was whether to leave them
or take them. You argued that the person
who forgot them an hour ago would remember
up the trail and come back, for you are the sort
that never picks anything up, no finders keepers
losers weepers in your morality. No too bad,
c’est la vie as our three-year-old granddaughter
walked around saying the year after her father left.
I argued that abandoning them was destroying
precious belongings, and that at the least,
we could turn them in at the ranger station
though I suspected someone there, too much like me,
would quietly claim them as his own. Let’s be honest.
If I had been alone, I would have lifted them
as I have glittering objects from time to time, advertised them yes–
obscurely, and when no one answered, kept them.
And once, I lost the same silver bracelet I found
in a park in Portland, it hung around my wrist until Houston
and disappeared. Of course, nothing we have is of much value:
remember when our house was broken and entered,
all our jewelry riffled through, and the only thing
the thieves found worth taking was our tin can of pennies.
We shouldn’t leave the Zeiss here, I said. But we did.
It’s the way we often are, uncertain of the right thing to do.
Noli me tangere. By now we had finished our sandwiches
and were ready to move on. They would have been
heavy to carry, I said, and the clouds were growing close.
I think of them sometimes though lying on that rock,
at just the angle a mouse might scurry up,
peer through the wrong end,
see everything diminishing.
–Lois Marie Harrod