Linda Pastan, “Q and A”

Linda Pastan
photo: Margaretta K. Mitchell

I thought I couldn’t be surprised:
“Do you write on a computer?” someone
asks, and “Who are your favorite poets?”
and “How much do you revise?”

But when the very young woman
in the fourth row lifted her head
and without irony inquired:
“Did you write

your Emily Dickinson poem
because you like her work,
or did you know her personally?”
I entered another territory.

“Do I really look that old?”
I wanted to reply, or “Don’t
they teach you anything?”
or “What did you just say?”

The laughter that engulfed
the room was partly nervous,
partly simple hilarity.
I won’t forget

that little school, tucked
in a lovely pocket of the South,
or that girl whose face
was slowly reddening.

Surprise, like love, can catch
our better selves unawares.
“I’ve visited her house,” I said.
“I may have met her in my dreams.”

Traveling Light is the thirteenth collection of Linda Pastan’s poems. “Ash” appeared in The Atlantic, while “The Burglary” was published in The New Yorker. The New Republic published “Years After the Garden,” and The Paris Review published “Eve on Her Deathbed.” Nimrod published “Counting Backwards,” but it’s available online through the Poetry Foundation’s website, which also hosts “On the Steps of the Jefferson Memorial” (first published in Prairie Schooner).

Plus, you can hear Pastan read “Acorns” at Slate.

26 July 2012 | poetry |

Paula Bohince, “Pinot Noir”

Paula Bohince
photo: Patrick Mullen

Drinking deeply on the globe, waiting for blackness
to overtake romance completely,

eyes roaming the faded amphitheater of woods, I breathe in
pine pitch, admire columns of pines everlasting

against the crumbling columns of the burned-down smokehouse,
its three steps leading up to nothingness

but where grass still holds the essence of pig fat
and summer’s adrenaline. Now it’s a stage

for the imagination: my father, seven, feeding his beagle
beer, laughter of the uncles resounding through air

as his pet topples over, lifting its leg to piss, exposing
its pink and hairless stomach, the child,

at last, approved of, taken in their circle, laughter caught
in the ch-ch-ch-waah of locusts.

The Children is the second collection of Paula Bohince’s poems. “Milkweed” and “Lenox Aubade” appeared in Agni; “Mother’s Quail” was published in The New Yorker. “Gypsy Moths, or Beloved” appeared in Orion, and “Entering the Ouse” in Poetry. You can hear her reading “Clothesline” at Slate.

In the Pittsburgh City Paper, which is where I found this conveniently already laid-out cover and headshot, Mike Schneider writes, “This is not… Billy Collins, or many other contemporary poets, who generally keep the tone on the light side and the situations familiar. With Bohince, we are drawn into an interior network that at its best sets off Plath-like, compressed-energy depth charges of imagery, but that also can produce the uncomfortable feeling that the poem is a puzzle to solve.”

19 July 2012 | poetry |

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