Reading through Stephanie Young's massive and exciting Bay Poetics (Faux Press, 2006) anthology, one of the things I'm considering in relation to my own writing is the presence of place in a poem. As I get ready to leave Boston in a few months, I think of this city's influence on my reading and writing habits. Although I was born in Cambridge, and studied here during high school and graduate school, my last seven years in Boston haven't made me feel any more connected to this place. When I leave, I will only miss my small group of friends and certain landscapes in & around the city. This is partly because my relation to Boston is complicated by allegiances to Tampa and Caracas, two other cities that have figured in my writing much more than Boston. I often feel fated, or drawn, to a permanent state of migration, returning to certain cities but never to stay.
In her introduction to this anthology, Young comments on the impact of the SF Bay Area on the 110 poets whose work she gathers together:
"While most writers are clustered around San Francisco and the East Bay, my choices had as much to do with a person's felt presence in particular communities as they did with geography. Any picture of an urban center will include the constant flow of people in and out of the region and this is no exception..."
My own Boston is a complication of various decades and moments. Hippie fragments of Cambridge in the early 70s. A flash of insight, or poetry, in the woods of Essex under the winter sun in the late 80s. Aesthetic combat against fellow poets and some professors at BU at the end of the 90s. A mushroom-induced millenary awareness of the historical and present-day violence that undergirds Boston. The astronomically high rent & no money of recent years. Swimming in Buzzards Bay most summers of my life. I feel lucky to have met and heard John Wieners read a few times while I was here. I think of his work as representing the parts of Boston I've been able to admire and learn from. As with Caracas and Tampa, I love and dislike so much about this city.
Back to Bay Poetics, I like the following piece from David Larsen:
"Speak to me as a holy person would,
but speak to me!
THE MIRACLE OF THE SOAP
Some soap got spilled in the soup,
but it wound up tasting not at all soapy.
But here's one for the sidekicks:
How will you put up with
what you cannot