- Dr.Pragya Suman
Poem of the Week
Editor’s Ink/Dr Pragya Suman
This week, the poem of the week, The House Where Winter Begins, has an exciting background. David Thane Cornell wrote it in the stanzaic form, but his smartphone precluded the line breaks and allowed him only to post in the paragraph. David used virtual notation to denote his line breaks.
He re-edited the poem the third time removed the virgule notation, and finally, converted it to a beautiful prose poem.
There could be arguments that by merely effacing the line breaks, poems transform into a prose poems. It could be a conjecture, but there is a nuance difference between poetic prose and prose poetry. Every great prose is poetic at the core, but that doesn’t mean it would be re-edited as a prose poem. I think it is a subjective perception and depends upon the reader's vital receptors. Charles Simic wrote many fragmentary prose pieces in a notebook and was uncertain about the categorisation of his creative pieces. Finally, these prose pieces were published in the book The World Doesn’t End and won Pulitzer Prize. Upon its release in 1989, this book was lauded by critics and readers as a masterpiece of prose poems. The House Where Winter Begins is an evocative and nostalgic narrative prose poem. At the right margin of the verse, the enjambment of metrical lines pauses in the form of virgule notation, caesura, colon, and semicolon help create white space. It also leads to pause, or in Charles Olson’s word, Breath. The white space resonates with a metrical, and syllables chimes on the tune of breath holding.
The effacement of pause doesn’t form a prose poem always. It all depends upon the intensity, integral quality and potency of poetic impulse. In its sharpened form, the poetic impulse comes like a wind that effaces the breaks and floods most white spaces. In the final version, it is not derogatory and distortive to poetic justice but better to call it a postictal effect of a creative wind. The fabric embellishes in a horizontal box, and the condensed chiming of white spaces spreads throughout the whole box in the whiff of wind.
In The House Where Winter Begins, we see a strong imagist feature of prose poetry wrapped in a nostalgic frame. Wading through the poem, one gets a visual reflection of a landscaped shape photograph. We see mother and father reviving in the poetical arc. Words are simple and lucid, far off poetical traffic. Dark and bright are two phases of life the poet encounters in his father and mother. One could feel the stark and nude winter sprawling in this house, where the mother is like a torchbearer for a child groping his path through the deafening cold. The metaphorical dimension is extended to the remote past and explicitly stated. Magellan was a Portuguese navigator in the service of Spain who wanted to be the first to circumnavigate the world. Here the father is not Magellan, living in a lacklustre shadow with no ambitions. A child learns to search for himself and his existence between the two of them in the liminal phase of twilight.
THE HOUSE WHERE WINTER BEGINS:
There are two rooms I visit often in the house where winter begins. There's the bright room I see as my mother's heart; genealogy charts and books about Ireland. In the dark room, I see my father's purgatory, built on empty cans of beer and a broken mandolin. My mother was navigating my future, my father, no Magellan, was anchored in shadowy corners. That was the weather in this place. I know that's what I'm made of, darkness and light. I put my mother's glasses on, for a moment there's sunlight. I switch to my father's glasses, and the world is dark and tinted. I know I have a choice here, they made more of me than they could have possibly imagined. I go from room to room, I am my mother, I am my father, I am the best and the worst of them. I am a wise child at last. I have a compass that points to who I am, the way that daybreak remembers starlight.
--DAVID THANE CORNELL
Bio: David Thane Cornell is the author of 7 volumes of poetry, including an anthology(editor). He was a monthly poetry contributor to San Francisco Tenderloin Times, a newspaper nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in Journalism. His How to write poetry remains a work in progress, featuring Guest Poets and having its own FB page. David outside poetry is now a retired relief worker for The Salvation Army. David has been writing and publishing poetry for more than 60 years. His first published poem, at the age of eleven, was featured in the Fordham University Monthly in a symposium on Ezra Pound and Jack Kerouac. David was mentored by the late Siv Cedering Fox.