Discover more from Poetry for Life
What Makes a Good Poetry Collection?
answering the question with Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer's "How It Is"
Hello, Poetry Friend
In my beloved Artist Way poetry group, we can’t agree on fiction or movies or even Netflix titles. But we all agree on Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer’s poetry collection Naked for Tea.
While we compared favorite poems (among mine is the pearl-clutching “That’s Right”), I mentioned that I was reading the collection slowly, poeming my way through it. That is: writing my own poem every time I’m inspired by one of hers, which happens virtually every day.
“That’s how I know it’s a good collection,” I told the group, “because it makes me write good poems.”
The stares I got in response told me not everyone reads poetry collections this way.
Do you? If not, why not?
A poem is not just something to read and smile over and then turn the page. It needs to get inside you. Slice it up and roast it. Take it out for a walk. Try it on and twirl — like this poem, which we read in our group.
How It Is Over and over we break open, we break and we break and we open. For a while, we try to fix the vessel—as if to be broken is bad. As if with glue and tape and a steady hand we might bring things to perfect again. As if they were ever perfect. As if to be broken is not also perfect. As if to be open is not the path toward joy. The vase that’s been shattered and cracked will never Hold water. Eventually it will leak. And at some point, perhaps, we decide that we’re done with picking our flowers anyway, and no longer need a place to contain them. We watch them grow just as wildflowers do—unfenced, unmanaged, blossoming only when they’re ready—and my God, how beautiful they are amidst the mounting pile of shards. – Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer
I wrote my own poem from this one. It’s a poem I never would have written and never would have thought to write if I wasn’t trying let Trommer’s poem be my guide. In my poem, I stuck very closely to her form and even her line breaks and punctuation. But you don’t have to do it that way. Let her poem guide yours. A good poetry collection should make us a little bit better poets — one poem at a time.
Read “How It Is.” What grabs you in it? The images? The dashes? The turn at the end? Something else?
Let Trommer’s form inform your own poem. Or adapt one of her images for your words. Or steal her title and write what you need to say.
Read the poem again . What else is she doing that you can incorporate to make your poem a little better? Revise your poem.
If you like, email me what you write at firstname.lastname@example.org.
P.S. We’ll be sitting with Trommer’s poems all March.
Take care, Megan
Thanks for reading Poetry for Life! Subscribe to enjoy more poetry (and red teacups).