Friday, October 10, 2014

Poetry Review Special Feature: "Not Mentioned" by Carol Hamilton

Songs of Eretz Poetry Review is pleased to present "Not Mentioned," a previously unpublished poem by Carol Hamilton, a former Poet Laureate of Oklahoma.  Ms. Hamilton has recently been published in:  Louisiana Review, Tribeca Poetry Review, Boston Literary Review, Atlanta Review, San Pedro River Review, I-70 Review, The Aurorean, U.S.1 Worksheet, Colere, A Narrow Fellow,  Lilliput, Bluestem, Flint Hills Review, Hubbub, Blue Unicorn, Sow's Ear Poetryand others.  She has published seventeen books (children's novels, legends, and poetry) and has been nominated five times for a Pushcart Prize. Her most recent volume of poetry is Such Deaths.

Not Mentioned
Carol Hamilton
 
The leaves shiver in wind
and speak in their rustling tongue,
but the tree that talks outside my window
has suffered many indignities,
as have we all. It is truly ugly, now,
especially in winter, but I love it still.
Is some human love like that?
It must be, for I know mates who
so tenderly care for their totally lost
lovers who left only a shell behind.
These leaves, of course, are new,
have never been before, sprout still
from this stunted, lopped,
and graceless mother/father. 
The birds love the drooping branches,
artless fingers sprouted out the body's trunk,
for they can ride lightly to the grass,
snatch sunflower seed or millet
before the well-fed wild cats
even think to look their way.
O'Keeffe gathered blanched bones
while great volcanic mountains
watched from miles south.
It is their mutterings, eroding,
we hear when we awaken with a start
into the hush of letting go.

Poet's Notes:  A subject which intrigues me and informs much of my poetry is that of ephemerality and endurance.  The huge old elm in my back yard is often featured in my work, as is the desert, volcanic region northwest of Santa Fe.  Life in the desert speaks to me of survival against the odds; for me, we are all in this life/death dance together.  This piece expresses, I hope, the grace found even in life's necessary but less graceful struggles.

I discovered poetry in a time of crisis when I had long been publishing short stories and articles and had never given poetry a thought.  This was the late '60's in the time of assassinations, of turmoil over Vietnam, student revolt, and a time of personal crisis as well.  I lived in the neighboring college town to Kent State.  On winning first prize in short story at the Indiana University Writers' Conference in 1968 and attending as an outsider the poets' sessions, as I had just begun writing poetry, the judge for my prize, Jessie Hill Ford, at that time a short story writer often published in The Atlantic, gave me a bit of important advice:  he said I must write three hours every day.  

I soon made that time for both fiction writing and poetry.  Over the years, the time has turned into one hour and is almost always for reading and writing poetry, which has come to be an essential passage for me into exploring the meaning of daily existence.  I believe as we shape words, words shape us, so being a part of the community of those who love language is a most important part of my life.

Editor's Note:  I find the opening lines to be particularly gorgeous, with Ms. Hamilton's thoughtful use of assonance and consonance evocative of the sound of rustling leaves.  The poetic conceit of the tree as metaphor for love is beautifully executed, and the introduction of O'Keeffe lends the poem an ekphrastic component that reinforces it.  A link to an image of O'Keeffe's Red Hills and Bones (1941) may be found here:  http://www.georgiaokeeffe.net/red-hills-and-bones.jsp.



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