Greetings, dear Wordsmiths!
Did you all see Lavender Street, early 60’s by Cheong Lee San (dsnake1) which he posted on Sunday April 11 for our Writers’ Pantry #65? In complimenting him on it, I called it a ‘poem of place’, adding that it was also a poem of time. Yet it is rich in other content too, evoking not only a place and an era, but a particular lifestyle, the boy he once was, the father he had at that time….
So what makes a poem ‘a poem of place’?
One of my Aussie friends once attended a workshop on ‘Poems of Place’ and was very disappointed. She sent me a copy of one of the teacher’s own poems which he had used as an example of the genre, and I agreed it was awful: pretentious and dull. Though it did describe a place in some detail.
‘THIS is a poem of place,’ I replied to her, sending the following. It was from a book I’d just bought which had recently won the Walt Whitman award: Black Aperture by Matt Rasmussen. I was currently in love with that book, and this poem most of all.
pushed me into my locker
right after I found out
my brother had killed himself.
He didn’t know yet.
A few years later,
a winter dusk in the field
behind our high school:
he, too, pushed a cold trigger.
The next night I walked
through snow to where
the northern lights
fell over the dead field.
The sky crackled in blue ash
above the police ribbon
strung around some stakes.
His sprawled imprint
had melted a little.
It looked like his life
had fallen asleep.
On the white plate
my flashlight made
on the snowfield, the blood
flickered. I turned
my light off and cried.
— Matt Rasmussen
You might remember it. I used it in ‘I Wish I’d Written This’ in the old Poets United on June 6 2014.
It’s not about place, is it? Nor time. It’s about grief. It’s about the effect on a boy of a brother’s suicide, and later a schoolmate’s. And yet, how it conjures that place! Somehow we get a whole world from it, a particular community, a certain part of the country (of one specific country) – just as we do in Lee San’s Lavender Street.
It’s just my opinion. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe poems of place should be just physical description and nothing else?
One which does that successfully, which I also shared in Poets United back in the day, is Christine Strelan's about her home in the bush (not so very far from where I live) in this video:
I guess what defines a poem of place is whatever brings the place to life.
So I’d love you to think about places which are special to you for any reason, and bring them to life for us in whatever way you choose, in poetry or prose.
- One per person
- New or newish, or very much rewritten
- Prose needs to be a maximum of 369 words, excluding title
- Link us to your specific blog post via Mister Linky below
- Read some other people’s and leave (encouraging!) comments when you can.
- Leave us some feedback here too, if you’d like. (We’d like.)
Material shared here is presented for study and review. Poems, photos, and other writings and images remain the property of the copyright owners, usually the authors. (Older material may be out of copyright).