"My Life in Art"

A Whole Month of the “Best Words in the Best Order” (from Samuel Taylor Coleridge)

by Elizabeth Bodien

bodien shapeimage_1What are you doing to celebrate National Poetry Month?

In this month, I like to read an old book of poetry and a new book of poetry.  The old book this year is The Nature of Things by Lucretius, translated from the Latin by A.E. Stallings. The new book is Night Thoughts  by Sarah Arvio.

In April, I go to more poetry events than usual.  I like hearing the Poetry Out Loud competitions. In spite of the ubiquity of electronic devices which offer us instantaneous access to poems, the work of our memorizing them honors the poems and poets while developing that often neglected human faculty.

Also, I am doing a workshop this month with soldier-poet Brian Turner who wrote the award-winning book Here, Bullet and Phantom Noise—which include poems about his experience in wartime Iraq.

And I am writing.

When did you begin writing poetry?

I began as a child and even started a poetry column in my high school newspaper. Then poetry hid in some underground cave until a few years ago when I took a poetry workshop where I was brought back to poetry – its magic, its mystery, the music of words.

Where do you draw inspiration?

The sound of a summer storm, taste of an artichoke, texture of tree bark, the curve of a hill, the rhythm of weaving or walking, anything might bring a poem.  Many of my poems are ekphrastic,  that is, inspired by art, such as painting or music. Or a poem might start with a phrase from some voice.  I like some poetic forms borrowed from the Japanese, such as tanka and haibun, which involve observations of the natural world.

Other people’s poems inspire me.  The margins of my books have scribbled fragments of new poems.  Current events and social injustice inspire me to write but without, I hope, getting boringly preachy. 

What opportunities do you pursue to read your work in public? 

I have enjoyed reading my work at libraries, bookstores, art galleries, colleges, on TV and radio, a weaving gallery, a health fair.

I enjoyed a recent reading,  Poems for Earth Day, on April 21st at Exeter Library, Reading, PA.

What are you currently working on?

Inspired by the work of the artist June Linowitz, I have been writing poems this month based on her intriguing sculptures of heads, each representing an emotion or state of mind .  And I am polishing a long poem of 18 pages.   Also I am reviving hypnotic trance, which I immersed myself in decades ago, to both write and revise poems, with some surprising results.

So much poetry this month!  I recommend the list of activities suggested by the Academy of American Poets  and for those wanting to write, to try daily poem writing .

Photo credit: BCTV

 

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