Poetics: Looking out the window

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For Poetics, we have special guest host today, Peter Frankis.

Hi everyone and greetings from Australia, it’s Peter here and I’m so pleased to be behind the bar at my favourite pub.

As the northern hemisphere inches into Autumn, here we’re just getting first hints of Spring after a long locked-down winter. I’m lucky enough to have a room for my writing with this view of my old collie, the mandarin tree and further off, the Pacific.

Like poems, windows frame a view, be it urban grunge or Arcadian meadows. And of course, there’s what we exclude. In this picture I haven’t shown you the steel works over the hill, the local shopping plaza or my neighbour Martin who loves his power saw on a Sunday afternoon (!) I also haven’t shown you the other side of the camera, the desk, the mess of papers, the bookshelf of disarray.

Inspiration

Poets have been using windows as inspiration for ages (a Google search gives over 67 million matches to the words ‘poem’ ‘window’). Supposedly, during the winter of 1960, when poet Sylvia Plath was stuck with writer’s block, her then husband Ted Hughes suggested she write about the view out her window. The masterpiece The Moon and the Yew Tree is the result.

Here’s American poet Denis Johnson’s poem…

Looking Out the Window

The sounds of traffic   

die over the back lawn   

to occur again in the low   

distance.

The voices, risen, of

the neighbourhood cannot   

maintain that pitch   

and fail briefly, start   

up again.

Similarly, my breathing rises   

and falls while I look out   

the window of apartment   

number three in this slum,   

hoping for rage, or sorrow…   

(you can read all the poem here…)

Windows and memory

In contrast to Johnson’s noisy urban scene, windows can also step off into memory. Here’s a romantic lyric from one of my favourite Wollongong (Australia) poets, Kathleen Bleakley (from Kathleen’s new collection Letters available from Ginninderra Press).

how can the moon be full for so long?

farewelled

from our illawarra balcony

looking out to sea

dubai over the creek

more of a port with cargo ships

and illuminated sky towers

first night together in malta

harbour with valletta’s domes & fortified town

returning to azure scapes

of my early years

ghostly through colosseum pillars

grand ruins

you’ve dreamt of visiting

since boyhood

illuminating the fairy tale marble church

in florence

here again

for us in venice

lighting the gondola’s way

In this poem the window and the moon remain constant, yet the view moves across memory and time. Polish-American poet Czeslaw Milosz also explores shifting time.

Window

I looked out the window at dawn and saw a young apple tree
translucent in brightness.

And when I looked out at dawn once again, an apple tree laden with
fruit stood there.

Many years had probably gone by but I remember nothing of what
happened in my sleep.

Today we have online meetings. For some of us, the people we used to hug or shake hands we can only meet on-line through screen windows on Zoom meetings or Facetime or Skype. This fragmentation and yearning offers much new material for us to write about.

Looking out the window

Finally, American poet Jane Hirshfield in her book ‘Ten Windows, How Great Poems Transform the World’ talks about the moment some poems ‘look out the window’ either to connect with nature or to turn away from difficult subjects. (Here’s her 2015 interview on National Public Radio.) For example, in this stanza from Henry Reed’s 1942 poem Naming of the Parts the poet turns to a flowering camellia for respite from the grimness of learning about a gun…

To-day we have naming of parts. Yesterday,
We had daily cleaning. And to-morrow morning,
We shall have what to do after firing. But to-day,
To-day we have naming of parts. Japonica
Glistens like coral in all of the neighbouring gardens,
And to-day we have naming of parts.

(You can read the full poem here)

New to dVerse? Here’s what you do:

  • Take a photo of the view out your window
  • Write a poem about it – what do you see, what’s missing, what don’t you see when you look out the window?  what’s changed since this time last year?
  • Include a link back to dVerse in your post.
  • Post your poem along with the photo on your blog.
  • enter a link directly to your poem and your name by clicking Mr. Linky below and remember to click the small checkbox about data protection.
  • There you will find links to other poets, and more will join during the next few days so check back to read other entries.
  • Read and comment on some of your fellow poets’ work as we all love to have our poems read.
  • Comment and participate in our discussion below, if you like.
  • Remember, have fun.

While you’re busy writing, I’ll put some music on:

From 1969 here’s The Four Tops with Look Out Your Window

 

Finally, if you get tired of your view why not look out some other windows at Window Swap ?

About our guest blogger:

Peter Frankis is an Australian writer, living in the industrial town of Port Kembla south of Sydney. Recent poems have appeared Wild (Ginninderra Press) and online in Plumwood Mountain Journal, Vox Poetica and Vita Brevis.