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BA 1940s

If you are unwilling
to allow the habitation
of your poems by any passing
lout or prima donna, if your turns
of phrase do not double, at the very
least, as empty shelves and foot baths,
if your rhyming does not pling
like raindrops on the tin roof
of a deep blue riverboat,
then do not be surprised
when, upon your demise,
they biodegrade and find
new lives as the daydreams of
some unfulfilling lover.

If, on the other hand,
you craft your verse with
pumpkin seed and ivy,
if you lock your doors and windows
against creeping clichés, which,
after all, are nothing more
than calloused feet longing
to feel pebbles and broken
glass again—if you can, for once,
allow a poem to be done,
forget its name and reason so severely that
to come upon it in some future decade
is to fall upon your knees and view
the world anew, then, perhaps,
you will be worthy of that place
reserved for those
we used to call Immortals.


If you’ve been a writer of any stripe or genre for awhile, the time may come—I think it ought to—when you’re sick of the sound of your own voice. That may be why I wandered recently into the poetry stacks of the main reference library of my city. The title of an obscure book caught my eye first, and then the poetess whose name lodged like a stowaway at the back of my brain.

I’m going to devote a few Oceantics posts to her work one of these days, though it’s impossible to say when. Not much of her poetry has been translated, and I find the experience of reading her in English 1000 times paler than scrumbling through the original. Not that the translations aren’t sublime, but…how shall I put this?…it’s like the difference between hearing that your great uncle loved walking through woods, and doing it yourself and getting caught in blackberry brambles during a thunderstorm. I haven’t had this much fun (while writing) in ages!

Today’s poem, “La Mentora”, Spanish for female mentor, may give you an idea of her persona. This is my poem, influenced by her. I’m not being deliberately mysterious in withholding the poet’s name, though I am, out of respect for her work, being deliberate. The accompanying image is by the great Argentine photographer Horacio Coppola who died in 2012 at the age of 105! Imagining him and her meeting in some Buenos Aires pastry shop in the 1940s, the small hairs on the back of my neck tingle. Oh, to have been an Argentine fly!

© Elaine Stirling, 2014