Rubble and Ruins
This morning I rose early to write. The house was hushed; the hours slipped by in an instant. At noon I left home to give a talk to a friend’s literature class at the university. I’d been asked to explain what poetry is, and that’s what I was thinking about as I drove down Lake Shore Drive. The first red and gold leaves falling, drifting and swirling across the road, the October sky was sunny and clear and the lake’s calm water freckled with light diamonds. On the radio, I heard that Paul Modiano had won the Nobel Prize for Literature. The radio said the French author’s themes were time, memory, and identity. What other themes are there, I wondered? Modiano writes about the Nazi occupation of France. Like the radio says, we look back through a glass darkly and think about the past. I write about London in the years after the war, when orphans lived on rations and tried to be happy, walking among the wreckage and bombed-out buildings. I have distant and elusive memories of the house my family lived in, and now and again I catch sight of my mother in her tweed coat or my father in his uniform, spying them out of the corner of my eye, the way, when driving, I spot clouds mounting on the lake’s far horizon. Poetry is like peripheral vision, trying to figure out who I am and where I came from. Poetry is looking for signs of life amid the carnage, digging and chipping through the rubble and ruins with my pen.
Richard Jones's seven books of poetry include A Perfect Time and Apropos of Nothing. He won the Posner Award for Country of Air and the Society of Midland Authors Award for The Blessing. He has also published five books with Adastra Press, maker of fine limited editions; a new Adastra volume, King of Hearts, will appear in 2015. He is the editor of Poetry East and its many anthologies, including Bliss, Origins, and Paris.