Poetry takes work—poetry is work—and it’s also a house filled with windows, enabling the poet to look outward and the reader to look inward. Two recent collections underscore both points.
I’m always looking for stories about poetry at work, and invariably finding them. I found quite a few in Nurses Who Love English (2013) by Paula Marie Coomer. I found quite a few other things as well.
Coomer is a poet, novelist, and essayist. She’s previously published a poetry collection, Devil at the Crossroads (2006), and a chapbook, Road, containing one poem. Her novel Dove Creek was published in 2011, the same year she published a collection of short stories, Summer of Government Cheese. She’s even written a memoir about food and published a cookbook based on the memoir.
Nurses Who Love English, however, has been my introduction to her writing. My favorite poem in the collection, “Of Toughness, ” also happens to be the longest. It reads like the 23rd Psalm in the Bible, except it also reads like a personal history, from growing up near the Ohio River in a home with an outhouse to first love (ended because her parents’ disapproval of her love’s religion), and first marriage, children, divorce and career. It’s a remarkable poem.
I also enjoyed this poem, possibly because it reminds me of the poems created during Tweetspeak Poetry’s poetry slams on Twitter.
Take me. Take me to a heathen specialist
who unwinds done things. Take me to space
where I can breathe deep as a blue newborn.
Calculate my pins and needles. Cover them
with threads and down silk and whatever soft
you can find and pretty smells. Don’t balk
at my request for layers of paint. Don’t willow
away. Push your bushel apart from yourself.
Hear me bleed properly. Hear me shake the rattle
of mystery. Seize us into our starting days.
Start the honey dawn. Start the trembling.
Let the binary winds swirl joined and make us
taut and inseparable. Be an occasion. Be
a romance. Drink from the history cup. Wave
a silver wand like magic in my hair. Drape
me in ermine and cherry slippers. Start
to dance. Start to sing. Sing with fragrance.
Sing with the fragrance of petals violet
* * * *
I particularly like Coomer’s use of imperative verbs in this poem.
Nurses Who Love English is an accomplished collection of poems by a writer clearly comfortable in multiple writing genres.
The title of A House of Many Windows, published in 2013 by Donna Vorreyer, is taken from a quote by Robert Louis Stevenson: “The body is a house of many windows: there we all sit, showing ourselves and crying on the passers-by to come and love us.” That quotation frames the collection, with the metaphor of windows being something we can use not only to see out but to allow others to see in.
And see inside we do. The poems read like fragments of a memoir, revealing a life that is intensely personal and self-examined.
Capture the moon, and keep it
tucked in the folds of your robe.
You have hidden more than this: in
small drawers, in boxes, in creases
no iron can flatten. Others have tried
but weakened at its pleading, its
insistence on returning the sky.
Pay it no mind. You now rule all tides
and cycles, and you have learned
to be hard. Stand at the window like
a woman staring at the sea. Admire
your black handiwork.
Who cares if the night is blind,
its white eye plucked and hooded?
Swathed in fleece against your skin,
the moon births haloes at your feet.
Vorreyer is the author of Womb / Seed / Fruit (2010), one of six chapbooks she’s published in the last several years. A middle-school teacher, she’s currently the poetry editor at Extract(s). Her work has been published in several literary journals and anthologies. She blogs at Put Words Together. Make Meaning, where she recently featured poet Jeannine Hall Gailey, author of The Robot Scientist’s Daughter, which was featured here at Tweetspeak Poetry earlier this year.
Several of the poems in A House of Many Windows have been previously published in various poetry and literary journals. But all of them are exactly like windows, some clear, some colored and paned, all of them fully aware and alive.
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How to Write a Poem uses images like the buzz, the switch, the wave—from the Billy Collins poem “Introduction to Poetry”—to guide writers into new ways of writing poems. Excellent teaching tool. Anthology and prompts included.
“How to Write a Poem is a classroom must-have.”
—Callie Feyen, English Teacher, Maryland