Poem in Memory of an Earlier Poem

A moment ago
the light was perfect

& the poem itself
a perfect memory—its occasion

another light, perfection

so confusing I was there
without getting there.

They have clocks now
that talk back to you.
Malcolm Lowry
always wrote standing up,
for his soul needed to avoid
being fixed—

I sympathize, my whole face

The sky presses 5 colours
down against
the horizon, I wander

the yard with a bag of tulip bulbs
looking for earth.

Enough noise is made.

I swam in the sea a couple
of times, peering at freighters.

Those days it seemed
I was quicker to judge & fragile
like a rock.

Questions and Answers

What inspired “Poem in Memory of an Earlier Poem”?

This poem seems quite literally to have been triggered by the writing of a previous poem. Something about the way the light felt in the room made me think of this other poem. I don’t remember what the previous poem was, or even whether it was published. “Poem” in this poem means more than a physical, literal poem; it’s about something that suffused the moment then and the remembered moment also. It’s a sort of nostalgia for a certain feeling we sometimes get, which we remember having had before. The ability of the mind or consciousness to move so quickly, without actually seeming to move at all, between past and present, or two states of being, is not possible to record in writing, or to measure in clock time. I suppose I was alluding to some new technology that involved clocks that would literally tell the time. The conflict between clock time and what we might call soul or poetry time is incessant, and our slavery to clock time can make us sad. At some point, the cycles of nature take over (a time to sow, a time to reap, etc.) as, in the poem, the speaker begins looking for somewhere to plant tulip bulbs. The latter part of the poem puzzles me a bit now, but I think the experience described in the poem is making the speaker rethink her position on things; not to be so “quick to judge,” as she feels she was in the past—a habit that actually made her both harsher and more vulnerable.

What poetic techniques did you use in “Poem in Memory of an Earlier Poem”?

The technique in this poem seems to be in swift moves through dashes, line breaks, and stanza divisions. There isn’t much internal coherence.

This poem “Poem in Memory of an Earlier Poem” originally appeared in 25th Anniversary Issue. Spec. issue of Canadian Literature 100 (Spring 1984): 310-311.

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