Academic journal article The Midwest Quarterly

High Plains

Academic journal article The Midwest Quarterly

High Plains

Article excerpt

   Anneal me, she whispers,    stretching herself to the sun.     Or let me build,    like the lark and the longspur,     a nest close to earth of lichen    and dry grass. Above her,     the knuckled foothills    of the Big Horns. Here,     each bristled stalk,    each speckled shell is patterned     for survival, tuned    to the sun's hammer.     Hammer me, she whispers,    and the sun kindles     a thirst so sweet    it burns like honey on her tongue. 

Vicki Graham has published poems in Willow Springs, Threepenny Review, Loonfeather, Poetry, Agni, Sidewalks,, North Coast Review, and other journals. She held a creative writing residency at Hedgebrook in Langley, Washington in 1995. She currently teaches at the University of Minnesota, Morris.

In "Art as Technique," Victor Shklovsky defines the purpose of art: "Art exists that one may recover the sensation of life; it exists to make one feel things, to make the stone stony." This passage hovers over what I read, what I write, measuring its worth, guiding me as I work toward a way of writing that makes words thingy, the stone in the poem as heavy as the stone in the hand. I read over and over again poets who use words as things--Gerard Manley Hopkins, Marianne Moore, Seamus Heaney, and Sylvia Plath. In my own writing I reach for the words that have weight on my tongue, taste, and texture, and often place several one-syllable words in a row to create a line of spondees. Strong stresses give words substance and make them seem to leave shadows on the page.

I write best when I am balanced between civilization--the garden, the classroom, the library--and the wild the edge of a creek, the tall grass of the prairie. The earth offers me the discipline of its seasons, its forms, its rhythms, but the earth also mocks me, teases me, touches me and withdraws. …

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