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Thursday, December 15, 2005





Sometime I would love it if you would answer these questions, genuine questions: why do you capitalize the first letter of each line in most of the recent free verse poems that I have seen? If you were to gather your recent poems, say after 1997, into a collection, where would "Winter. 1969" go?

The central wonder of "Winter. 1969" lies in the way the poem moves back and forth through time and space from the seemingly simple vantage points of the hospital window and, presumably, the father's eyes.

The movement becomes radical--swooping--until "Tonight" when we are grounded momentarily before being literally cast up and out into a skyline, into a sky, that is at once "beautiful" and melancholy, like shattered coal (and from coal there sometimes comes diamonds, yes?).

In addition to coal-like, the word "bituminous" brings "bits" to my mind and the poem's closure performs a final troubling act of temporal and spatial movement: rupture. Remembrance and premonition are the opposite of nostalgia and fortune-telling in this poem.

About "My voice soon among them": the speaker of the poem projects himself into the premonition and remembrance that the poet makes the father have. [My italics.] These reversals are complicated. They make this poem share in the theme of proxy--speaking for, by, and with a beloved--that your other poems (apparently) from this period engage. And birth (the poet-speakers and his sisters) somehow mitigates injury and death (obliquely referenced in the words "there in Korea." The Korean War was an American-Asiatic war that we should not soon forget as we contemplate the connection between the debacles in Vietnam and Iraq.

Most importantly, your poem performs all these things with a clear sense of phrasing--the fluid language of an epistle. All the temporal and spatial figures make sense.

You have wonderful friends. Brandon and Jesse seem like wonderful people.

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