…But Cannot Find the Words
Poem by Jackie Craven
Bernadette Mayer set me on fire! In a workshop at the College of Saint Rose in Albany, NY, the avant-garde poet encouraged us to abandon all logic. We wrote jabberwocky-style poems that experimented with sound and rhythm. We toyed with gobbledygook and laughed hysterically. But I didn’t have a finished poem… yet.
My readers needed an anchor… some way to make sense of the nonsense words. A couple years later, I began reading Chen Chen, who is famous for poems that begin with wildly long titles, such as “When I Grow Up I Want to Be a List of Further Possibilities.”
I decided to imitate Chen Chen’s approach. My own poem seemed to express a frantic mix of anger and romance, so I titled it, “In Which I Try to Leave My Husband, But Cannot Find the Words.” This title provided some context for the garbled words and guided me as I shaped the narrative.
The poem still makes absolutely no sense, and yet readers (and listeners) often say they know exactly what I mean. Do you?
“In Which I Try to Leave My Husband, But Cannot Find the Words” appeared in the Spring 2019 issue of The Massachusetts Review.
- “[Sonnet] name address date” by Bernadette Mayer
- “When I Grow Up I Want to Be a List of Further Possibilities” by Chen Chen
- Art & Writing — How We Draw Inspiration from the Visual Arts
Image: Detail from a painting by Louise Craven Hourrigan
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