Monthly Archives: May 2011

Words to Write By: “Poetry Is Not a Luxury” by Audre Lorde

by Maureen Gubia

The quality of light by which we scrutinize our lives has direct bearing upon the product which we live, and upon the changes which we hope to bring about through those lives. It is within this light that we form those ideas by which we pursue our magic and make it realized. This is poetry as illumination, for it is through poetry that we give name to those ideas which are, until the poem, nameless and formless-about to be birthed, but already felt. That distillation of experience from which true poetry springs births thought as dream births concept, as feeling births idea, as knowledge births (precedes) understanding.

As we learn to bear the intimacy of scrutiny, and to flourish within it, as we learn to use the products of that scrutiny for power within our living, those fears which rule our lives and form our silences begin to lose their control over us… We can train ourselves to respect our feelings, and to discipline (transpose) them into a language that matches those feelings so they can be shared. And where that language does not yet exist, it is our poetry which helps to fashion it. Poetry is not only dream or vision, it is the skeleton architecture of our lives.

from “Poetry Is Not a Luxury” by Audre Lorde


In & Out of Time with Yusef Komunyakaa

by Alejandra Knoll

The following excerpt is from an interview in which Yusef Komunyakaa discusses The Chameleon Couch (his FOURTEENTH poetry collection) as well as his own evolution as a poet over the course of the career. It’s required reading as far as I’m concerned:

In The Chameleon Couch you say, “There isn’t a road my mind doesn’t travel.” I think that line invokes one of the traits I love most about your work—the way that you seem to effortlessly move across various moments in time, across different cities, and explore myths and history while remaining rooted in the present. Can you speak to this element of your work?

Time is personal and in that sense it is emotionally malleable, because it’s not linear but maybe circular or even fractured. I think the past can often register in the body as emotional experience. In this way, time can be thought of as psychological rather than physical. I think of music, those hunters singing before venturing out into the forest to confront their prey, which is often deadly. For me, it is not difficult to travel there, to actually be in that memory cave. That is the power of the imagination. For me, the present relates to the past and possibly to the future—perhaps because a sense of history is important to me. It allows me to engage the present with a certain kind of tangible reality, and in that sense, life for me is a matrix of convergences.