Poem of the Week | September 25, 2012

This week we’re publishing a new poem by Jeff Hardin. Hardin teaches at Columbia State Community College in Columbia, Tennessee.  He is the author of two chapbooks and one collection, Fall Sanctuary, recipient of the Nicholas Roerich Prize. A second collection called Notes for a Praise Book was recently selected by Toi Derricotte as the recipient of the Jacar Press Book Award. His poems appear in The Hudson Review, The Southern Review, North American Review, Poetry Northwest, Gettysburg Review, Southwest Review, The Florida Review, Sugar House Review, Poem, Measure, Mid-American Review and elsewhere.

Author’s Note:

For more than a decade, I’ve discussed aphorisms in my creative writing classes, looking at examples, trying to understand the nuts and bolts of how they are “built,” speculating and ruminating and generally having a great time, reveling in how so many writers have these stunning lines tucked away in poems, stories, and essays.  “Half of each hill is underground,” William Stafford says.  “He who has arrived has a long way to go,” Elias Canetti writes.  As a reader, I love the unexpected bristling that happens when I come into the expansive space of an aphorism.  I feel like I’ve entered a thought that might take years to fathom.  I think of the practice of writing aphorisms as a skill I want my students (and myself) to master, every bit as important as meter, rhyme, imagery, metaphor, titles, syntax, etc.  One day I stumbled into writing these three-line stanzas, each line its own “thing,” its own statement plunging headlong onto the page.  I began to be addicted to the unexpected.  I wondered if three lines might hold together and create a mood.  Could the mind be stretched to find, impossibly, a thought just beyond the next reached-for thought?  The writing felt like leaping from one rock in a creek to another rock but not necessarily in a straight line or in the direction most expected.  After three such stanzas, perhaps a final line might serve as a summation?  Oh, I just assumed it would work and got busy.  Over several years now I’ve written close to 150 of these ten-liners, and I’m embarrassed to admit how much fun I’ve had, how many times I’ve laughed out loud with where the next line took me.  Twenty five years (so far) of this writing life, and the whole enterprise—the heightened expectation of wondering what will come next—just gets more enjoyable every year.  Hey, like Frost didn’t say, no fun for the writer no fun for the reader.

Infinity Getting Fainter on All the Radar Screens

Ontologically Kafkaesque would not be my description
of the moment’s build.
Not that she was careless, but a mother has to wander just a bit.
I’m sorry,
but the world you’re looking for just isn’t in our inventory.

 

*

 

We’re on the verge of tracing hunger deaths
to countless anonymous shrugs.
Infinity gets vaguer and fainter on all the radar screens.
Inwardness isn’t in right now—please leave a hushed cry after the beep.

 

*

 

Language,
do you tire of being pestered for the answers?
Answers, do you exist in only words or also in the slope where two fields meet?
Listening to listening listening to listening
won’t drown out nothing there.

 

*

 

The season’s first scent of honeysuckle
deems us no closer to what we dream.

 

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