Elizabeth Kirschner

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August 11, 2009


Someone once said that writing a poem meant riding upon the pulse. It is a cataclysmic happening with all the synapses firing at once. In order to achieve the lyric poem, one must build a sky bridge, be connected to deep red earth and moody, bluesy stars. Create a cosmos and step into it. Get in, get out, get your pain over with, was Raymond Carver’s advice and it has stayed with me for decades.

With the lyric poem, there’s no stretching out on the backbone of narrative. The poet must fall up, not down, way up, let each line be a tree limb veined with bronze honey. Some limbs snap under the freight and weight of too many blossoms. Likewise the line—if it’s too ornate it will break. The violence of the mind, its maelstrom, can also destroy it. We are our own best enemies of the poet.

And in all that bronze honey, a flow of music, vast, celestial or a dirge, lament, elegy. The lyric poet must make music out of rough tools, be it a tin drum or the lyre in the sky amid winged migrations. Each word a bird in formation. It is this music that rules the form of formal formation in lyrical verse most of all.

I think: storm surge and purge. I think: poem as a tiny trauma. There’s some sort of act of survival involved. A drama, then, an inward explosion that sets off sparks that light up the lit lyric. Media res at the beginning, then leap, leap, leap line by line wherein language is always under the pressure of time and space. Perhaps creation is always in crisis. A risky business at best, a willingness to be flailed by failure. At least for me.

Always and evermore, the tension between first breath, last breath. Endings do come, sometimes swiftly like the lash of a whip. Other times, it’s more like a swan song in a destitute denouement. I’m often done in by getting it done. At the other extreme—ecstatic revelations. Or, the final end stop as a stab in the heart caused by a stab in the dark. I want to be beautifully demolished by the poems I write, to be impoverished by the riches I must bear. I end with this—the end of the poem is a crucifixion of the poet by which the reader is resurrected. A paradigm of paradox in a paradise lost, but finally, hopefully regained.

~~Elizabeth Kirschner