Bio Note: After 22 years of teaching in the prairies of Wisconsin, I now live in the Berkshires with my husband and two dogs where I'm grateful for mountain views, swims in as many lakes as possible once the ice thaws and before it returns, and teaching people 50+ for OLLI (Osher Life Long Learning Institute). I am co-editor (with David Graham) of After Confession: Poetry as Autobiography (Graywolf), and published widely in journals and anthologies. Recent publications include a pantoum in Raintown Review and 2nd Prize in the 2019 Muriel Craft Bailey Contest sponsored by Comstock Review.
The Poet and The Bee
She swayed as she read She looked strung out Her brain a honeycomb of words strung together, her hair a halo around her moon-face, pale, holding all meaning just beneath the surface of her skin. I’m in pain, she said, as she kept swaying like dandelion fluff that might blow away. I’m in pain she repeated. We would not fall for it. This poet put it on big. Like an actress playing a part. But she sounded like hell-fire. She sounded seared, her skin pollinated under some black dahlia spell she might never return from as we watched, and listened, trapped in our chairs. When she finally confessed she’d been stung by a bee shortly before she’d begun, she did not say where on her body. It could have been anywhere. For all we knew she could have been lying, or believed her own lie. Or telling the truth. Her swoon a kind of venom filling the room. Call it style. Call it a singer whose ghost was a missing guitar. So this was poetry.
Before It Was A Poem
Corrections needed discernment, misspellings, missing commas, lack of agreement between pronoun and antecedent. The long list travels backwards at the speed of light to thousands of mixed constructions in the land of errors where homonyms on holiday happily take a break from all their subtle and not so subtle distinctions. In the house of do-over dreams the writer sleeps on pencil shavings and eraser dust, unlearns standard grammar skills, relinquishes any obsession with formal elements of syntax, diction, parallelism. In this world, only meaning counts. In a world of content hands relax, manuscripts fly un-stapled in peace, unnumbered, untitled, unfinished. Papers flutter folded-over into origami birds sun-struck with photosynthesis, return to their original ecology of wood and forest. Branching trees hug you for leaving them rooted among a million ferns in untampered soil, sending out new buds like messages each April, every one of them singing a little song to itself before it was a poem.
Take these hip openers, eagle arms, backward hand clasps, cat/cows, downward- and upward- facing dogs, my lips’ attempts to curl into a smile, a disciple searching for legendary teachings hidden, left under rocks for future generations, my eyelids heavy as Himalayan curtains, my S-shaped spine elongating into tree with every breath and twist, each contortion an offering to the room, to the troubled world, my heart opening, opening, and still I see no sign of Buddha, no sign of Second Buddha no third or fourth or fifth.
©2020 Kate Sontag
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