Category: salem writes

On Some Reasons for Writing Poetry

by James Merrill The reasons for why a poet faces the blank page—these are more important than the words that the poet will put on that page. And then, after the writing, the words he or she puts down are all we have. They are the traces or the breadcrumbs, only the dust we have left of what was experienced by the writer. Non-poets don’t know this, and this causes a lot of consternation—perhaps even fatigue, weariness–both for the poet and for the reader.  But why? Some or perhaps many poets want this not to be true … so for them, it is not the case. For them, the artifact on the page is the only thing that matters. They have written “set pieces” or still life paintings with words. And they can be very beautiful. And when they have achieved beauty this way, through word pictures – they have given something to the world. A piece of art, and it is a nice gift. But it is usually not a Picasso, or a Van Gogh, or even a Keats poem. This kind of art-piece poem is often done to get the recognition that comes with producing fine art in any genre. There are fine arts colleges—even in writing. So there is a market for this kind of training, and it can be very exciting, even fulfilling to go...

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Sacred Waters

Poems by Franca Hernandez Poetry opened doors to me for political activism and lately activism brings me back to poetry. “Water Is Life”, a poem of protest, is my visceral reaction to a picture of teepees on the prairie against a relentless backdrop of miles of snow. The quiet reflection it communicates after a season of violence struck me deeply. Water is Life Frozen landscape of protest Brilliant in its seething purity A site on which outsiders have found meaning Like pilgrims we gather at this sacred spot Where our atavistic memory seeps under our skin And will not let us go Here seekers linger gazing on the white horizon Unmindful of the Artic breath that wants to kill us Here one is frozen with one’s thoughts Compelled to ponder Washing away hyperbole One focuses on what is important and fundamental Essential in its whiteness It strips the unessential Under the snow there is strength A muted time to contemplate one’s death Our bones under the virgin prairie Content to lie still Listening with gladness to the padding steps of children And the flow of sacred water In the Italian Alps, land of the ancient Celts prior to the settlement of the Lombard peoples, I discovered a small ancient temple within the halls of a monastery.  I saw this as a suppressed memory of the Celtic goddess Danu’ and...

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THE ARTIST, THE LOOKING GLASS AND OUR TOWN -A REFLECTION

      The Library of America, publisher of many of the great works of American literature, recently issued as Volume 281 The Complete Orsinia, a collection of works by Ursula Le Guin of Portland. The volume includes a novel and related stories from the first half of her career. More volumes are to come. This distinct honor enshrines Le Guin’s work as part of America’s literary canon and when combined with a Distinguished Contribution medal from the National Book Award and a feature in the October 17th edition of The New Yorker establishes her as one of Oregon’s most celebrated authors.        Her fame came first as a writer of science fiction but her work is broader than the genre and includes fantasies like A Wizard of Earthsea, the influential novel The Left Hand of Darkness, historical novels and poetry. Perhaps her most famous piece is the disturbing tale The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas, first published in 1973 and since frequently anthologized and discussed in literature classes around the world.        The parable describes the mythical city of Omelas set by the sea; it is summer festival. People wear robes but also ride trains. They enjoy spacious parks and listen to sweet notes of a child playing a wooden flute. There are no soldiers and no kings. Yet this happy existence comes...

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Breaking Through, with Inspiration from William Stafford

by Kelley Morehouse    William Stafford’s writings speak more deeply and clearly with every passing year.  And every year there are more celebrations of the poet, with readings of his poems.  He was born January 17, 1914, and grew up on the Kansas prairie.  A conscientious objector, he was a pacifist but not passive, according to his son, poet Kim Stafford.  He moved to Oregon in 1948 and taught at Lewis and Clark College. Nearly every morning of his writing life, until his passing in 1993, he got up early, sat down with pencil and paper and started a new poem. Kelley Morehouse describes her experience reading William Stafford’s poem “You and Art,” and writing a poem in response: “I didn’t study the poem in depth and I didn’t fully understand what he was doing with it.  He talks about mistakes in life.  There is a forgiving tone from the very beginning, ‘Your exact errors make a music’….”    Breaking Through by Kelley Morehouse You’ve walked the tightrope. Sliding between order and chaos, the movement was smoother some days and other days arrived like a cyclone beating at your feet. You’ve slipped down those narrow passages and still emerged an outlined shape in the haze. Clues were few  of the spring- green side of things. Stones you followed led to peace-filled trees, to dimensions ever-present, finding a way of...

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America Was Never Great

By Kendra Moe    The night of the election, my three roommates and I sat in our living room, our hearts beating and eyes glued to our phones. We checked the polls excessively, barely speaking, waiting and watching in horror as our worst nightmare became more and more real.    Through false or grossly biased news outlets, it seemed that more of the country’s youth were deciding who to vote for based on their facebook newsfeed. Trump’s crude and discriminatory behavior towards women, the mentally ill, people of color, and religions other than Christianity, has sparked a resurrection of hate that eliminates the time and effort that went into some of the most powerful social justice movements in our history.    Being in Oakland during the time of election made the fear of the future so much more real. Oakland is very diverse and social justice oriented, and the despair and rage is obvious in every despondent face I see. The night of the election, I was so sure that the future was female, that Trump’s campaign was too ridiculous to even consider, that I was utterly shocked and offended when the results were finalized. My roommates cried together, I wasn’t able to sleep. I could hear the riots already starting in the streets of Oakland, and I knew something had to be done. I have attended a few...

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