Poetry Pause: Catherine Black — Forcing Poems

Poem Author: Catherine Black Poem title: forcing Poems Poem: I’ve been forcing poems again, which is like gripping the crocus bulb and screaming at it for a spring flower. I dig at the meat of acorns and root around in the winter earth for tubers of poem, and come up with the dead finger-bones of a long wizened shrub, something I killed last summer with too much water or with negligence in the heat wave. Stir your ice-cubes and look on. My, what pretty gardens. I force poems from the moon like begging it for a sonata when all it sings are sea shanties and maybe the occasional hymn, but deeply off-key, tone deaf. I force poems from the panties of girls passing by, which is to say, I force poems in a perverted way, in a way that should have me incarcerated, and the girls, they provide nothing. They don’t even flip their skirts to moon me. There have been other attempts that are just as damning, just as ridiculous. I demanded a poem from the subdivision one night as the snow came down in blots that hypnotized drivers on two-lane roads. I asked the identical rooftops for something monumental, something universal, and what they gave me was a kind of sideways glance and then they kept on in their suburban dialect, a conversation I could only make out from their swallowed burps and harrumphs. They closed their curtains in a manner most egregious. I got nothing, and deserved it. I demanded poems form the power lines where the children ride their bikes and the starlings are energized, lines that sizzle and pop like words. I got this funny sunburn on my cheeks from gazing up, imagining tightropes strung between our circus lives. nevertheless, I will persist with my requests of the stony shore, the lighthouse, the bawdy yachts, the garrulous sea become tempest, become Lake Ontario. She’s bound to give up something—if only the dead man’s chest of zebra-mussel shells, and maps to other places. End of poem. Credits: Copyright © Catherine Black from Bewilderness (Guernica Editions, 2019). Catherine Black is a Toronto-born writer and graduate of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago’s MFA Writing program. Currently, she is the is the Chair of the Creative Writing BFA program at OCAD University. Catherine is interested in a transdisciplinary approach to the teaching and practice of creative writing, and her own work tends to straddle genres (experimental memoir, prose poetry, lyric essay) and span media (audio/video recordings, guerrilla poetry). Her fist book, Lessons of Chaos and Disaster, was published as part of Guernica Editions’ “First Poet Series” in 2007. Her second book, an experimental memoir entitled A Hard Gold Thread, was published in fall of 2011 as the first book in Guernica Editions “First Fiction Series” and was nominated for the ReLit award. Catherine’s latest collection of prose poetry, Bewilderness, was published with Guernica in 2019. Catherine lives with her family on the edge of the woods in suburbia.