Writer, Reader, Reviewer


Poetry is Conversation

Posted by nancyfreund11 on February 24, 2017 at 5:25 AM

Poetry, like music, is a conversation. I love a good, quiet one-on-one, whether it’s in the coat room near a busy party or a corridor outside a classroom, or sitting on a big slab of warm mountain rock after a hike, and all the others are settled in elsewhere with their open backpacks and bottles of water. Sometimes the most important things are said just outside the perimeter, the lovely periphery, and sometimes just in passing. Often, the important conversation is the one that follows the main event, and not necessarily with the person in the event’s spotlight. Art’s the same.

What do I mean about conversation and poetry? It’s the way one thing leads to another, unexpectedly. For example, at Necessary Fiction my friend Michelle Bailat-Jones picked up an intriguing photo by Margaret Fletcher Saine, wrote a short story in response, and then let me have a crack at a poem taking into account Margaret’s original photo and Michelle’s short story. That upswelling trio of muses at Necessary Fiction invites a wonderful leap, one stepping stone to the next, in the creative conversation. Filmmaker Richard Curtis said the other day “if you want to make something happen, you have to make things.” Putting words -- or images -- on a page and showing it to others makes something important indeed.

Two things happened this week. First, I wrote a fairly personal blog post about my recent poetry workshop in Key West with Billy Collins, a poet I have admired for years. The workshop was tough. One of the pieces I brought really didn’t work for most of the workshoppers. Discussing it in depth was an excellent, useful conversation to have, and I appreciated their generosity and attention. The post I wrote about the experience describes that poem’s original intention and the reason I don’t want to revise it a whole lot (if at all). The comments on the post brought new perspectives to the conversation – some surprising, some less so, but all gratifying. I continue to think that poem may reach out only to a select few readers, but for those few, it’s a strong piece just as it is. If no big name literary magazines would publish it this way, so be it. The conversations that might arise from that piece will rightly remain in the lovely peripheries.

But something else happened. Taking that stepping stone metaphor a step further (not pun intended, just overworked metaphor intended… ) new stepping stones have appeared in the journey with video game surrealism. Firstly, the aforementioned comments.  Secondly, a number of people have mentioned not the poem itself but the blog post as a new form of prose poetry, or a launch pad for a new form prose with haiku, perhaps. My good friend Michelle took it even further. She rearranged my words on the page in a new form, encouraging me to see it for the new poem that it now is. She calls it my work, I’d call it hers. Point is it’s the conversation itself that’s the beautiful thing. If you want to see where it comes from, click back a post or two. But even without doing that, read on. This is amazing in and of itself, and the gift of it.

I originally called this blog "hold hands, dive in" referring to my cover photo and philosophy of life -- both creative and real.  Writers and artists do their work in the dark, on their own, in the quiet times we carve out, away from our family and friends.  But also, some of the best work comes when we invite others in and connect.

Wishing you creative abundance like what’s come from this. Wishing you a big slab of sun-warmed mountain rock when you’re ready to sit down with someone.   More – wishing you deep, meaningful friendship with people who get you, take what you’re making, and make something more.


I Said

Nancy Freund/Michelle Bailat-Jones


I said, well, do you want to know what it is?

And I told them.

Told them about the Lufthansa lounge between flights.

This wasn’t very long ago.


You know the smorgasbord of finger

foods you take from the buffet—

all fabulous and appetizing but you

always end up with a weird blend on your little plate. So.


I was there and my back was killing me. How I was sitting.

There’s that piece of fucking fat free angel cake,

and I’m trying to stretch my back out.

I’m sitting all contortionist in this stupid chair,


trying not to call attention to myself,

but it is really agonizing.

Who would ever want angel-food cake to be fat free

unless they have an eating disorder like my mom.


Who I just hugged goodbye before I flew to LAX

and her hands are claws now, she’s shrinking

into herself, even though she’s finally eating more.

So it’s that angel cake, that stupid angel cake that’s going to make me sob,


If I start in this airport lounge, I’m never going to stop.

They’re even getting her to drink Ensure

if they give her the right straw, at least she hugged me,

she really hugged me; it seems a benefit of the dementia.


She’s been there one full week now.

I have to go home to my family, my own family,

I can’t stay here, I have to go.

I have my own family now half a world away.


I don’t know if I’ll ever see her again,

this woman, this tiny woman with those claws around my back

is not my mother, she’s my mom.

She was. She still is.


At least now she’s not concerned about her weight.

The decades’ long vegetarian is now eating beef stew,

albeit with her fingers, those sloppy,

filthy fingers I’m helping wash.


And she’s so fucking tiny now,

this woman whose thigh I used to hold,

whose every word I hung on all my life,

who I might have just hugged goodbye for a final time.


And I’m staring at this fucking square of gouda.

It’s this perfect one-inch block of orange cheese,

it’s now the thing that wants to make me cry.

This is what I told them.






Categories: writing & publishing, coincidence, connection, chance, education & literacy

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