Poetry Classroom: Kansas

Welcome to this month’s poetry classroom, with poet and professor David Wright. We invite you to respond to the poems we’ll share here—their forms, images, sounds, meanings, surprises—ask questions of David and each other, and write your own poems along the way.

Kansas (Little Fugue)

The small gatherings of lights
give a sense of purpose
on the dark road. You’ve found
a road that seems right, with no map.

Give a sense of purpose
and a body will follow
a road that seems right. With no map
the names of places escape you.

And your body will follow
the hum of a rhythm you recall.
The names of places escape you
like the lyrics of old folk tunes.

The hum of a rhythm you recall,
the small gatherings of lights,
the lyrics of old folk tunes
on the dark road you’ve found.

Photo by Steve A. Johnson, via Flickr. Poem by David Wright, author of A Liturgy for Stones.


Discussion Questions:

1. Wikipedia notes, “In music, a fugue is a contrapuntal compositional technique in two or more voices, built on a subject (theme) that is introduced at the beginning in imitation (repetition at different pitches) and recurs frequently in the course of the composition.” In what way is this poem like a fugue? If you are familiar with fugues, do you get a similar feeling from this poem as you do listening to a fugue?

2. The poem seems to promise a sense of purpose. What purpose do you feel, if any, as a result of reading the poem?

3. Small gatherings of lights confront a driver on a lonely road. Have you ever had that experience? Was it a comfort or an interruption?

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  1. says

    This poem brings me a sense of calm… The purpose I feel from it comes in the form of confidence… the poem feels like gesture of faith in our ability to notice the signs (guideposts?) (the small gatherings of light) and follow our intuition toward what we need, even if we aren’t clear on what that is. And I think it says, to me, “stay open and flexible and you will be fine”. I also have a sense of a thread joining lifetimes together… “the hum of a rhythm you recall” makes me thing of “soul” and an inner knowing.

  2. Elizabeth W. Marshall says

    Admittedly I had to revisit the definition of a pantoum because of my fuzzy memory. In this phantom I see repeated yet faint references to rhythms in life and aging. It appears that there is a veiled sense of moving forward while recalling bits of the past. The doubling back while continuing forward mirrors life lived forward. It seems the pantoum, with echoes and repeating phrases is perfect for the themes addressed here. Memory and aging come through the loudest for this reader. Hauntingly brilliant.

  3. Marcy Terwilliger says

    The words are so easy going, laid back like back in the 70’s. What came to mind was “Easy Rider” and “Going Up to the Country” by Canned Heat. Your just driving alone and I’m going up the country Babe, don’t you wanna go? Repeat, I’m going to some place where I’ve never been before. Water tastes like wine, we can jump in the water and stay drunk all the time. I’m gonna leave this City, Got to get away. All this fussing & fighting man, you know I sure can’t stay. This is what went through my head as I read what you wrote, It’s simple, leave it all behind, go somewhere else. It’s just a feel good poem.

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