Sara Wallace: Smoke in Streams of Light

Sara Wallace
photo: Rose Ann Franklin

Sara Wallace writes poems with vivid details, immersing you in her scenes, whether it’s a walk through the narrator’s grandparents’ farm in “Take This Old Coat” or the unflinching depiction of an abusive relationship in “You.” But her poetry can’t be reduced to “naturalism” on the one hand or “raw emotion” on the other; it’s the two elements in tandem that make the poems in The Rival stand out. It’s a point she takes up in this guest post, with reference to some of her own favorite poets…

I wanted to start with noir.
A woman’s dress like a tight shadow,
her fingertips dipped in darkness.
Beauty reduced to Glamour and made Suspect.

I am endlessly fascinated by Reality and Imagination and my favorite writers comment on and complicate this supposed binary. On one side, we have Reality—the commonplace, the solid, common sense, “salt of the earth” people and the hum-drum comfort of greasy spoons, where we “burst the bubble,” and “come back down to earth,” but where we also see “the cold light” and “hard truths,” where humankind’s greed and brutality are mundane givens. On the other side, we have Imagination—that imaginary get-away with a longed-for yet imminently unattainable Beauty, the “mystic visions and cosmic vibrations” (Allen Ginsberg, “America”) of faith, encounters with inspiring art, where there is charm, elegance, and wonder but where there is also affectation, ostentation, pride, “spells and incantation” (Keats, “To…”), and the constant danger of aesthetic failure (“I am going to dream up a tiger,” Borges writes in “Dreamtigers.” “Utter incompetence! A tiger appears, sure enough, but an enfeebled tiger…” )

Indeed, each side of the binary actually has multiple binaries within it, like the fractals studied in chaos theory. The most interesting contemporary poets play with this “hall of mirrors” effect. For example, Jack Gilbert’s poem, “Alyosha,” opens with a quasi-Gauguinian moment, with the narrator seemingly fetishizing locals: “the sound of women hidden / among the lemon trees.” The work as a whole, however, is hardly a simple celebration of primitivism (which, after all, exists in the imagination of the beholder). Gilbert’s disillusioned narrator knows that the reality of Beauty’s life is often terrible even as he covets her: “He is not innocent. / He knows the shepherdess will be given / to the awful man who lives at the farm /closest to him….”

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7 July 2015 | poets on poets |

Diana Raab & the Power Poet Couple of Santa Barbara

Diana Raab

Diana Raab’s latest poetry collection is Lust, including recent verse like “The Wave” and “Shivering.” In this guest essay for Beatrice, she recalls two of her friends and colleagues, and the love they shared.

Many of us are hard pressed to identify the most important influences on our literary lives. For me personally, there is a core of poets whose works have always inspired my own, and who I simply cannot get enough of. They include Billy Collins, Stephen Dunn, Charles Baudelaire, Sharon Olds, Rumi and Pablo Neruda, to name a few.

Other influences are like special friends—their warm words enter into our lives at just the right time, when we crave a special sort of transparency. Sometimes a personal encounter with an admired poet can initiate a sense of interconnectedness—meeting them face-to-face, hearing them read, listening to their nuances, and watching their facial expressions.

Most times, a poet’s works stands alone, but sometimes there are power poet couples who should be honored together. Not only are they wonderful individuals, but together they inspire and motivate so many people in so many ways. For me, this power poet couple is our beloved Kurt Brown and his beautiful wife, Belgium-born Laure-Anne Bosselaar.

I had been living in Santa Barbara for about seven years before first meeting Kurt Brown. We met through a mutual friend who said he and Laure-Anne were relatively new to town and needed an extra printer that I happened to have had in storage. The timing was right and before long Kurt pulled up in my driveway. Shy, gracious and appreciative, he loaded the printer in his trunk, expressed his deep gratitude and well wishes and drove away. Both of us predicted that in this small town of poets, our paths would cross again before long.

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15 April 2014 | poets on poets |

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