Friday, June 8

15 Lines

Out and about on the World Wide Web, I was looking for something else entirely, when one of the first hits on my search list led me to Embassy of the United States, The Hague, The Netherlands. (Oh, yeah, try saying that five times fast!)
About halfway down the page I spotted this little blurb:

American Poet Mark Strand reads from Dutch-English collection of his works

May 22, 2007.

American poet Mark Strand, Pulitzer Prize winner and former Poet Laureate of the U.S., read his poetry at the residence of U.S. Ambassador Roland E. Arnall.
The recently published Dutch-English book Gedichten Eten (Eating Poetry) contains translations of select poems by Mr. Strand. Dr. Wiljan van den Akker, professor of Dutch Literature, and Ms. Esther Jansma, poet and archeologist, worked in close collaboration with the poet to translate works for the bilingual edition.

And I said out loud, "What are the chances?"

You see, I worked with this writer once. It was about a million years ago when I was a high school student in Salt Lake City, Utah. Mark Strand had received a grant from the Utah Arts Consortium and was an artist in residence at The University of Utah.
I took a one-day writing workshop under his tutelage. I can't say that I remember all that much about his writing. Or much about him per se. But I do remember the creative exercise we worked on during the afternoon session.

The assignment was to write a fifteen line poem. Thirteen lines of the poem had to begin with the same phrase or had to reference the same color. So, I did my thing, dashed off a piece fifteen lines worth and declared it finished.
It wasn't much. I am not really a poet. It was truly a mish-mash of images, and stuff. Not a thing more profound than that. Truly, nothing special. I am such an esoteric poet, usually my writing has very little meaning to others and I can live with that.
But the telling part was when we passed our poems around to one another and asked for feedback from the other participants. That's when my silly fifteen lines took on all kinds of depth and in its analysis became a completely different piece of writing.

I think the readers were grappling for meaning, but nevertheless they seemed to find imagery and substance in a piece that I thought was fluff.

I still think it was fluff.

But when you are in company of a POET, everyone sees something different.

I suppose.

Anyway, all of this is a long lead for today's post. In honor of this poet whom I met a quarter century ago, and who recently came to my town to promote his own work, now in Dutch, I sat down to grapple with the creative writing assignment once again. In half as many minutes, I have produced again a fifteen-lines poem.

Read into it what you will.

I see young writers hunkered over paper,
pencils flying,
images imbed in imaginations
seeking to be seen.

I see into the future something
which they do not yet see.

I see a secret I cannot tell.
Not now.

That youthful group will
never see what
I see now.

I see somehow I became grown up
and left behind that girl who bites the end of her pen,
and flicks the button on her jacket as she attempts
To see.

I see now that we rush too fast to get through it.
I see that as we run and reach,
we forget to notice,
we forget to relish.

I see the way we seek and

I see the things we miss.

I see it now. Clearly.
I stop. I breathe,
and look
To see.

I see the secret, the mystery.
I see me.


  1. Hi!

    Interesting 15 lines.

    Check out my 1st FF!


    Goede weekend!

  2. Hi Pink!
    You speak Dutch?
    Nice to have you join us in the Friday 15!

  3. Jenn-
    I love that poem. I feel the same way.
    Thank you for you comment today. Only a mother can truly appreciate Boy smell!

  4. Hey Jenn! Very interesting! Go check out Babytalkers - you've just been tagged. :) Have a great weekend.

  5. I think it's pretty neat that this man was able to inspire you, twice. I like your poem.

  6. Well I think you did a fabulous job on your poem. Thanks for sharing.


  7. Some friends of mine just had children graduate from high school. Their children are eager for the next step, eager to move away from home, start college, travel; it takes a parent to see and appreciate their achievement. Somehow your poem speaks to all that. What a wonderful experience to work with such an inspiring teacher!

  8. Hi Jenn-
    I already e-mailed you but it bounced back to me too-
    my address is jenaldo at libero dot it

  9. jennifer-
    Thanks so much. I deeply appreciate your kind words.

    Got the tag, thanks! I have another one you tagged me for a few weeks ago. And a couple of others in the hopper from other bloggers. I am tag LAME I tell ya.
    I will see what I can do.

    It's something to think that I remember him so well after all these years. It would have been really interesting to hear him at his reading. Bummer I didn't hear about it until after the event!

    Ah, thanks. You are so kind.

    Like those kids ready to rush off into it, that's what I felt too. And then you realize there's a lot more to it than just rushing to a destination.

  10. My friend Jenn writes a blog that I could have authored, only she does it better.

    My friend Jenn makes me smile, makes me groan, makes me laugh, makes me cry, sometimes all at the same time.

    My friend Jenn makes me a better mother ‘cause she sets the bar so high but is honest about her failures.

    My friend Jenn is a superstar, but also the best person you could ever have in the audience.

    My friend Jenn awakens the green-eyed monster in me, and then feeds it homemade cookies.

    My friend Jenn is so different in her background that I was scared to get to know her.

    My friend Jenn is so similar in her spirit that she is the sister I never had.

    My friend Jenn sees the beauty in the chaos, so she can come to my house anytime.

    My friend Jenn makes me feel like such a good friend, I want to add it to my resumé.

    My friend Jenn is only twenty-six, which is cool because I am only twenty-eight. Too bad our bodies are so confused about their ages.

    My friend Jenn doesn’t really know how great she is, so I have to tell her sometimes. That’s not easy to do when your are as competitive as I am.

    My friend Jenn lives too far away, I don’t get to see her everyday. But I do get to read about her life. A small compensation, but still fun.

    My friend Jenn has so much energy she makes me tired watching her.

    My friend Jenn makes me so proud that I can call her

    My friend Jenn.

  11. A lot of truth in those 15 lines. And I loved Becca's version too.

  12. Becca-
    That was exceptional. Seriously, I am speechless.
    Thank you SO much friend.

  13. author mom-
    I appreciate your comment. Your words mean a lot to me.

    Thanks darling friend. I LOVE your blog. :)