Is it Tuesday? Every Tuesday a new poem appears in the box and on the blog.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Poem 7--Beth Roberts

This week's poem is by Beth Roberts, from her book Brief Moral History in Blue (New Issues 2001).  The poem, "Learning to Spell"  is doing many things at once:  capturing the domestic moment of practicing spelling words with a daughter, recognizing the brevity of those moments "trying to place/a pendulum", and delighting in language.  The speaker's facility with words stands in contrast to her daughter's struggles with these new ones, ridiculous in fact, that we all must learn "island"?  "Illinois"?  with those oddly disappearing s's?  

Roberts' poems tend to be challenging because of their playfulness and intelligence.  Don't let that discourage you.  Just enjoy the rhyme (or near rhyme) of Illinois/us, place/pace/space, still/spell.  Enjoy all those s sounds, the way the word spell becomes an incantation as well as a task, the way the speaker sees herself in her daughter but also sees the daughter as an individual, a "you".  A lot is happening in eight fairly short lines.  In the end, though, it's still a poem about a mother and a daughter, engaged in a familiar domestic scene, loving and tinged with a sense of time's passage.  

Learning to Spell

All the difference between Illinois
and Island hangs before us

like the task to trying to place
a pendulum.  Still, while I pace

entire pastures of palindrome,
ever clever clover, still

you (girl with a likeness to space
around the I) spell

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