Up & Down Their Hill

Leaf confetti
follows the wind’s will
while fall refrains from rain.

Remnant hedges
confirm where they lived – out of season with
the few beloved books they left us.

So we re-read
these latest restless waves instead,
sweeping up their leaving.

Questions and Answers

Is there a specific moment that inspired you to pursue poetry?

Not especially, but any given moment certainly provides me with a sense of what’s important while I’m waiting for the poem to declare itself. I’ve written for as long as I can remember. In the beginning, poetry slowed me down enough to pay attention, to start listening to my own listening. As I gained more experience, I got better at listening to the listening of others. Then I started to notice that often the really important things are the ones people leave unsaid. In my professional life as a radio producer, I spent a lot of time editing playwrights, helping them to get their characters’ voices off the page. In those days, writing poems late at night helped me to hang on to my own identity as a writer. Now it’s an ingrained habit.

How/where do you find inspiration today?

Something will grab my attention. A phrase, a moment in a conversation, a shift on someone’s face. Almost always it’s real experience, and the poem becomes its grounding. Then the given poem grows out of my attempt to depict it. So the event becomes the rendering of the given moment, and the best of this is beyond self-consciousness. I open myself up completely, becoming the eyes, ears and heart of the poem, letting it speak. When it works best, it feels like the piece is writing itself.

What inspired or motivated you to write this poem?

Read “Up & Down Their Hill” for Carole Galloway & Neil Munro. Based on a spooky moment: Charlotte Street, Niagara-on-the-Lake. Their house was razed years ago, but the old hedges remained. The skeletal feel was extremely clean and precise, which I tried to preserve on the page with a deliberate terseness. That allowed me to deploy the language riffs–on leaves, leaving, and pages left over–to address the larger mystery: turning grief into grace. How many friends can we remember like this?”

This poem “Up & Down Their Hill” originally appeared in Meanwhile, Home. Spec. issue of Canadian Literature 232 (Spring 2017): 99.

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