Poet-a-Day: Meet Maureen E. Doallas
Maureen E. Doallas is a tireless supporter of literature and the arts—celebrating, blogging about, and sharing with her wide audience, work and news from countless artists and writers. I’ve always been impressed by how authentically she carries out the lifestyle of literary citizenship. And she’s an impressive poet herself. So I’m thrilled to have her pantoum “Breath-Sound While Meditating” in How to Write a Form Poem.
Here are the first few stanzas to mesmerize and delight you; you can catch the rest in the book!
Breath-Sound While Meditating (excerpt)
The sea retracts its breath-sound,
gathering into itself the voice resisting.
Inhalation’s held within each Om.
Mist piles up as clouds. Zeus wheezes.
Gathering into itself, the voice, resisting
sea’s mouth, swallows noise. Undulating Oms
in the mist pile up in clouds. Zeus wheezes,
his cry an alarm and joyous and thin.
Sea’s mouth swallows noise. Undulating Oms,
lungs sound their hunger for air. In exhalation
his cry — an alarm and joyous and thin.
The becoming full in the letting go. It rains.
—Maureen E. Doallas
Tania Runyan (TR): Tell me a little about the origin story of “Breath-Sound While Meditating” and your decision to write it as a pantoum:
Maureen E. Doallas (MED): As I recall, Tweetspeak Poetry had made the pantoum a theme-of-the-month offering, and I decided to try the form again, not having used it since college. At the same time, I was practicing meditation (my practice is a bit more fitful now), and so began thinking about breathing control and breath sounds and then how the sea ebbs and flows, comes in and goes out, just as our lungs.
The movement of waves has a visual aspect as well as an aural aspect that I like, and so I decided on the “breathing” of the sea as my poem’s subject. Once I had my first line, I was off and running with this sense of the sea as alive and breathing, moving forward but also always going back, mimicking the steps in meditation. Everything worked surprisingly well, and I was happy with the result. I have to admit that most of the time when I write, I just write, or start with a line that has come to me; I don’t always have a subject until that first line. I very rarely “think out” the full scope of a poem, as I did with this pantoum, and many times, inexplicably, my poems write themselves. In fact, the poems I don’t “plan” seem to be my best.
I fell in love with this form after trying it again, and ended up writing at least a half-dozen pantoums over that theme month.
TR: What do you hope poets can learn from a book like How to Write a Form Poem?
MED: One of the things I think we all eventually learn is that it is only after you master the rules of an art that you can justify breaking them. That’s freeing. Writing according to form helps make us better poetry writers. It teaches us discipline with its requirements; shows us new ways to create poems with the qualities of image, sound, and other essential elements that give our listeners and readers delight; and enlarges our understanding of other cultures’ “tools of the trade.” By their examples, form poems help us think about how to think about poetry and its uses. They also, I believe, give us opportunities to experiment with what we write about and how we write it.
The better we understand the latter, the more fun we can have writing poetry.
About Maureen E. Doallas
Maureen E. Doallas has published poems in Poets Reading the News, Rattle Poets Respond, Every Day Poems, Broadsided Press, Silver Birch Press, Escape Into Life, The Found Poetry Review, and other online and print periodicals. Her work has been anthologized most recently in The Dreamers Anthology, A Constellation of Kisses, Is It Hot In Here, Or Is It Just Me?, and Alice in Wonderland Anthology. Her debut poetry collection is Neruda’s Memoirs. Doallas is the editor of the Artist Watch column for the international online arts magazine Escape Into Life.
Photo by Joe Hayhurst, Creative Commons, via Flickr. Post by Tania Runyan.