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Cloudbank Back Issues



Cloudbank 9      Heart of Light

        A friend and I share poems now and then. The last time we met, he showed me two poems and said, “This first one I wrote yesterday, and this other one I've revised 250 times.”
        Revision. Some resist it, others obsess about it.
        One of the most famous revisions is Ezra Pound's editing of T.S. Eliot's “The Waste Land.” According to Hugh Kenner, Pound cut Eliot's original manuscript by half, “by simply eliminating everything not of the first intensity . . . .” What remains is considered one of the most admired poems in the English language.

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Cloudbank 8      Rhyme and Off-rhyme

        Is rhyme cool? Or has it gone the way of Robert Frost and Richard Wilbur? There are signs that rhyme may be making a comeback. Kay Ryan, former Poet Laureate of the United States (2008-2010), is a practitioner, although many of her rhymes are really off-rhymes or near rhymes—they don’t rely on precisely the same repeated sounds. Here’s an example from her poem “Blunt:” “What is the / blunt of this / I would ask you //our conversation / weeding up / like the Sargasso.” “Ask you” doesn’t quite rhyme with the sea, but it’s close, and Sargasso is a fun word to include in a poem.

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Cloudbank 7      Line Breaks

      I was standing in line at the post office thinking about line breaks (and how there were none at the post office—the line seemed to go on forever). W. C. Williams and C. K. Williams came to mind. W. C. wrote some of the shortest lines in poetry, including “/. . . in . . ./” [“Perpetuum Mobile: The City”] and “/. . . by . . ./” [”The Attic Which Is Desire”]; C. K. some of the longest: “/The way she tells it, they were in the Alps or somewhere, tall, snow-capped mountains anyway, . . ./” [“The Marriage”]. So, do line breaks matter? Or are they just arbitrary?

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Cloudbank 6      The Word Is Rabbit

      One of Wallace Stevens’ most fascinating poems is “A Rabbit as King of the Ghosts.” The rabbit in the poem lives in a time of peace,

In which everything is meant for you
And nothing need be explained; . . .

                                            The trees around are for you,

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Cloudbank 5      Twists & Turns

      Imaginative twists and turns can add bling to a poem. Unexpected juxtapositions can help us see things in a new way. Associations are made in the poet’s mind not on rational basis, but more in the context of a poetic logic that operates outside the rational universe. A good example is “Potato” by Shinkichi Takahashi.

Inside of one potato
there are mountains and rivers.

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Cloudbank 4      Mirrors and Windows

      Some poems function as mirrors, some as windows. A good example of a mirror poem is John Ashbery’s “Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror.” The poem includes many lines like “I think of the friends / Who came to see me, of what yesterday / Was like. . . . / How many people came and stayed a certain time, / Uttered light or dark speech that became part of you . . .”
      The reader naturally brings memories of his or her own friends and past experience to the reading of these lines. It’s like looking in a mirror: What you see is what you place in front of the mirror—or in this case, the poem.

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Cloudbank 3      From Idea to Image

      As Hugh Kenner tells the story, Ezra Pound visited Paris in 1911. He got out of the Metro at La Concorde and “saw suddenly a beautiful face, and then another and another, and then a beautiful child’s face, and then another beautiful woman, and I tried all that day to find words for what they had meant to me, and I could not find any words that seemed to me worthy, or as lovely as that sudden emotion.” Over the course of the next 18 months, Pound wrote a thirty-line poem and destroyed it, then a shorter poem, which he also destroyed. Finally, he wrote the haiku-style poem that is famous for its brevity:

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Cloudbank 2      The Raw and the Cooked

      Some people don’t like nature poetry. They prefer indoor verse, poems about human relationships, culture, and art. For some, nature poetry is, well, untidy. As Oscar Wilde wrote:

      What art really reveals to us is nature’s lack of design,
      her curious crudities, her extraordinary monotony, her
      absolutely unfinished condition. . . . If nature had been
      comfortable, man would never have invented architecture,
      and I prefer houses to the open air.
                                                      [“The Decay of Lying”]
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Cloudbank 1      Touch the Universe

      Welcome to the first issue of Cloudbank.
      We’ve just completed what some may consider a daunting task: sifting through hundreds of excellent poems and selecting 48 to include in this issue. We looked for quality, of course, but beyond that we tried to find work that we considered upbeat, but not naive or overly sentimental. I think I speak for the other editors, as well as most of the poets in this issue, when I say I prefer celebration to cynicism.

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