The genesis of “Channel,” a poem in our Fall 2016 issue.
I grew up along the Susquehanna, and taught for many summers along the Tiber, and today most warm early mornings you’ll find me rowing my shell on the Schuylkill. I learned to row in middle age because I wanted to see my city, Philadelphia, from the perspective of the river and to know what it would be like to be buoyed by its surface. Was this how I prepared? Or was it water plants and buried objects, Whitman and Wang Wei, Charles Cros and Works and Days, rhymes and chants, imagining how we pass in parallel at disparate speeds?
“Channel” began and begins with the words “salt” and “sweet.” I had been churning them in my thoughts for months—streams and the sea, the tears in our eyes, and the moisture in our words. A desire, after a hard winter, to write a long poem about a river. “Channel”: from canna, canalis, a pipe, a groove, a reed, a bed of running water. As I sketched and made notes, I wondered what views the poem could open, and how much history, where it would emerge (somewhere in a spring and in Spring) and where it would end (eventually at Siracusa, site of the sweet/salt legend of Arethusa and dear to my heart). In other words, it started with some words, as most poems start. Read More
Hunting the sound stack in the rondels of D’Orléans.
In the March 1915 issue of Poetry magazine (page 254), the following poem appeared for the first time in print:
IMAGE FROM D’ORLEANS
Young men riding in the street
In the bright new season
Spur without reason,
Causing their steeds to leap.
And at the pace they keep
Their horses’ armored feet
Strike sparks from the cobbled street
In the bright new season.
I first encountered it, seventy or seventy-five years later, in Personæ: The Shorter Poems of Ezra Pound. I did not know at that time whether d’Orléans was a person or a place, nor did I look into it. I was charmed by the poem—more than I knew—but there were many pieces in Personæ that interested me more. By the time I turned thirty, I could recite at least two dozen of Pound’s shorter poems from memory. “Image from D’Orleans” was not one of them. Read More