Last Friday evening, Trina and I were discussing “the long poem” over a glass of wine. Well, actually, I had four glasses of wine, but who was counting? I certainly wasn’t, at least not after four glasses. We were talking about “the long poem” because Trina recently rejoined our bi-weekly Po Group, and she has given us the writing assignment for our next meeting. The assignment? Write a long poem, at least four pages. As a confirmed sonneteer, the thought of writing one word past the end of line 14 gives me heart palpitations, so I was seeking her advice…not only on how to accomplish this goal, but why I would even want to try. We talked about T.S. Eliot, Wallace Stevens, and Gerard Manley Hopkins, among other long-poem-y folks, and it struck me in the middle of our conversation that my favorite poem of all time is “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”, followed by (in a very close 2nd place) Stevens’s “Sunday Morning”. How could my two very favorite poems be long poems when for nearly a decade I’ve been eschewing the long poem as nothing more than a meandering pathway to bloated self-aggrandizement?
Meanwhile, my friend Cat (who was in the MFA program with me and who now lives in New Hampshire) sent me this link, saying that as of late she has been “seeking out some pomes [sic] of religious fervor”.
I take all of this as a sign, and it’s put a bee in my bonnet, so to speak, about this long poem assignment. I’m actually kind of looking forward to writing the damn thing. I might add that one of the reasons I adore Cat is that she uses words like “pome”. Another is that she writes amazing poems . She also loves cephalopods.
I’ve been in possession of my MFA (from the University of Washington) for two years now and, ever since we graduated and Cat moved away, I’ve been craving this gentle but very insistent nudge to write outside of my comfort zone. Or to write anything at all, actually, given that I can probably count the number of poems I’ve written since graduation on both hands.
Amy Schrader holds an MFA from the University of Washington. She was a semifinalist for the 2006 and 2007 Discovery/The Nation poetry contests and her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Tin Parachute Postcard Review, Willow Springs, Pontoon, and the Tupelo Press Poetry Project. She lives and works in Seattle.