Working through the Maze Series: The Poetry Notebook. Today the Home Forum Continues a Monthly Series That Explores Contemporary Poetry. We'll Look at the Work of Amy Clampitt, Whose First Full-Length Collection Was Published in 1983. She Has Been the Recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship and the Fellowship Award of the Academy of American Poets, and in 1992 She Was Made a MacArthur Prize Fellow. She Has Taught at a Number of Distinguished Colleges and Universities. Fourth in the Series. the Previous Essays Ran on March 3, April 14, and May 12

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IF the simplest experiences and the most profound are two different paths, then poetry stands at their intersection. Poets perfect the most primitive drives - to speak and to explore; they are constantly on the verge of discovery.

Perhaps that's why it's so appropriate that Amy Clampitt's new book, "A Silence Opens," contains a poem called "Discovery." The poem makes connections between sea and sky, manatees and astronauts, past and present. On the surface, it's a recounting of specific explorations at a specific time, but more than that, it's a record of how poets work their way through any mazes they may encounter.

The process often begins with a simple observation or question. In this poem, the starting point is a pod of manatees, which the speaker describes as "lolling, jacketed, elephantine." The poet might not have realized why she chose those words at first, but the second adjective serves as a foundation for the rest of the poem. Without it, there can be no transformation and no understanding. But the rightness of the word - felt by both writer and reader - is all that matters at this point in the journey.

The next few steps might seem to be unnecessary diversions. A reader could ask why Clampitt mentions that manatees were once thought to be mermaids or that Disney World is not far away. Interesting tidbits, yes, but what do they contribute other than richness of detail?

The answer is that you must continue reading. …


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