Viva Poetry!

In today's overwrought way of speaking, a new pair of sneakers is as likely as the starry sky to warrant words like awesome, incredible, amazing, great, fabulous, wonderful.

Time magazine essayist Lance Morrow wrote that exaggeration is "an intoxication of words." He said it's what happens when "Language temporarily loses its self-control; it veers around the room making drunken passes at reality ...." Indeed, emptied of their rich meanings, words formerly substantive and distinguished become floppy and interchangeable clich├ęs. In the process, our language is impoverished.

Meanwhile, there's poetry. It is precise. No empty words allowed. Ironic that the language of image and metaphor -- poetry's decidedly unscientific stock-in-trade -- after being turned and refined for hours or days or more in the poet's mind, can strike us so powerfully as to make us catch our breath, and with such resonance that it sometimes lodges, even unbidden, in memory. - Mary Pattock

Portrait: Peter CampionAssistant Professor Peter Campion directs the English department's Creative Writing M.F.A. program, one of the most highly regarded in the nation. He has published two books of poetry, Other People in 2002 (U.S. Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky called it "thrilling"), and The Lions in 2009. "Letter from Ohio" is from El Dorado, due out in October. Campion edits Literary Imagination, the journal of the Association of Literary Scholars and Critics.

Campion has won some of poetry's most distinguished awards: a Guggenheim Fellowship, Wallace Stegner Fellowship, the Pushcart Prize, and the Joseph Brodsky Prix de Rome, awarded by the America Academy of Arts and Letters.

Photo of trees and clouds reflected in waterLetter from Ohio

The green so green it must be chemical.

Faint drift of charcoal smoke. Rock radio.

The pink azaleas thrusting at the blue.

And all the same desires come crashing back:

incredible x-ed out scenes and afterward

the whoosh of traffic surf, our bodies bathed

in the whole sweep of towers and freeways and

meadows of blanket flowers. I want it all:

heat puddle in the chest, moments like handfuls

of honeycomb, split, dribbling. . . . Enough.

We've lived apart for weeks now and your voice

cracks from the cell reception, hums and dips

and breaks for seconds, as evening peaks to orange

in the sycamores, and the need to see you stretches

into the days that follow: stray lifetime spent

in office rooms and parks and station halls

as they fall to the curve of earth, the ocean.

- Peter Campion

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This page contains a single entry by Colleen Ware published on July 1, 2013 2:10 PM.

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