Hello Everyone! Today I am focusing on the rhetorical question in poetry. By inference it brings us closer to the poet, as effectively we become attendants to that enquiry. Sometimes the questioner shares inner thoughts and feelings, or challenges us to think in a new or different way, or by turning statement into question, employs a device for softening what might otherwise sound too didactic.
In her ‘Letter to Noah’s Wife’ Maya C. Popa transposes her own concerns with the environment by questioning the biblical wife who lived through just such an environmental disaster:
“My children, will they exist by the time
it’s irreversible? Will they live
astonished at the thought of ice
not pulled from the mouth of a machine?
Which parent will be the one to break
the myth; the Arctic wasn’t Sisyphus’s
snowy hill. Noah’s wife, I am wringing
my hands not knowing how to know
and move forward. Was it you
who gathered flowers once the earth
had dried? How did you explain the light
to all the animals?”
In ‘Ash Wednesday’ Eliot employs one question after another and yet uses no question mark. As it is a liturgical piece, I think the poet is posing propositions rather like zen koans:
“Who walked between the violet and the violet
Who walked between
The various ranks of varied green
Going in white and blue, in Mary’s colour,
Talking of trivial things
In ignorance and knowledge of eternal dolour
Who moved among the others as they walked,
Who then made strong the fountains and made fresh the springs”
As novice poet, I find such lines of questioning a much-needed starting block for inspiration. When Neruda’s “I’m explaining a few things” opened with this:
“You are going to ask: and where are the lilacs?
and the poppy-petalled metaphysics?”
it inspired me to write a poem: ‘Mournful in Lilac’
“I’ve neither imagination nor Mediterranean mind
for such a question – only the Norse notion
that pastel and bold never mix
that Syringa Springs are all the more sweet
paving the way where papaver blazes with desire
and a kind of fire stolen from Olympus” …[more]
In his prompt ‘The answer is 42’ (dVerse 19/9/17) Bjὄrn asked us to write a question poem, citing Neruda’s ‘The Book of Questions’(El libro de las preguntas) as example. And it is to these poems I turn to again; each one comprising a lightly linked set of enquiries, to which there is no reasoned answer. For these are more imponderables than preguntas.
For today’s prompt I have picked 6 lines of Neruda’s at random. The challenge is to choose ONE of them and write a poem as riposte, retort, rejoinder. Be as tangential as you wish. Perhaps you will seek an answer, or pose more imponderables, or simply pick up the thread and run with the sights and sounds into your imagination. Use the chosen text in your poem or as title, if you like. Just think of the question as a quest – fare forward voyager!
- Where can a blind man live who is pursued by bees?
- From where does the thundercloud come with its black sacks of tears?
- Do you know what the earth meditates upon in autumn?
- Who sings in the deepest water in the abandoned lagoon?
- Why did the grove undress itself only to wait for the snow?
- Where can you find a bell that will ring in your dreams?
Once you have published your poem, add it to the Linky widget and leave a comment below. Follow the links to other contributors as visiting, reading and sharing thoughts with each other is half the fun of our dVerse gatherings.
The full Spanish/English text (PDF) of Pablo Neruda’s “Book of Questions”