Reading and Writing and the Occasional Recipe: Where the poem comes from: Elisavietta Ritchie

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Reading and Writing and the Occasional Recipe

Where the poem comes from: Elisavietta Ritchie

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

What turns a creative impulse into a finished poem? What inspires? What becomes the jumping-off point?  The poem here is called “Tradecraft in Iambic Pentameters” and the poet, Elisavietta Ritchie, has given it this subtitle: For a child who doubts I can keep secrets. 

Elisavietta is another of my fellow poets with books out from Word Tech. Her book, “Cormorant Beyond the Compost,” was published in 2011 under Word Tech’s Cherry Grove imprint, which will also publish her next book, “Tiger Upstairs on Connecticut Avenue” next year. She lives in Washington, D. C., where, in addition to writing, she edits, translates, mentors other high school seniors, and leads a workshop, “Re-Write Your Life: Creative Memoir Writing.” Her credits are extensive enough so that, rather than listing them here, I direct you to two web sites about her, where you can get a more complete picture of her range of publications and many accomplishments. 

 Tradecraft in Iambic Pentameters
                   For a child who doubts I can keep secrets

So many secrets you will never know
long hid in lines upon my face and page.

Although my random chatter seems to flow,
true tales remain confined within the cage
of my long skull, while most of those who shared
their riddles and their loves with me have died.

I too have lived adventures, and much dared.
Who’d guess? I do know better than confide.

Whispers through the skin are safe—no need
for megaphones: what if the listener spoke?
I may broadcast my sacks of words and seed:
the small birds twitter and the large ones croak.

For I’m the owl, who flies on unheard wings,
foretells when others die, but never sings.

About this poem, Elisavietta says, 

“ At a Sunday lunch my daughter said in front of her children that I could not keep a secret, gossiped too much, because I was describing some friend to them, I forget who. I was indignant! However, although I seem to talk, there is a great deal I cannot or do not say (and not only because others are talking nonstop!). I hear and hold a number of other people’s secrets.

“Anyway, this poem leads off my last collection, Cormorant Beyond the Compost, and if you follow Kevin Walzer’s
you will see he leads off with it.

“And we seem to have a pair of owls in residence in the nearby woods, and though they twit-twit-twoo back and forth on a rare occasion, when they fly, it is indeed on silent wings.

“And in my collections of poems and stories, no one can be sure what is fact and what is fiction, so I am fairly safe.”

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