“Mid-February” – a poem for Maxine Kumin by Alicia Ostriker

for Maxine Kumin

The mare rears, she has almost thrown her rider.
It’s the thaw, it’s the scent of spring,
The animals know it before we do.
While we still shiver and worry ourselves over aging,
In the sickroom, the patient begins to heal.
Inside here, the windows are steaming up
But a path runs through the woods,
Half dirty snow, half mud
With the stones sticking through
And the snapped branches lying across, the ones
That were ready to die
And gave themselves to the wind.

Friend, it’s a day for a walk.
Are we going to walk it?

Alicia Ostriker No Heaven (University of Pittsburgh Press ©2005)


Lessons in the Art of Poetry, Drew MFA First Residency Jan 2009

I enjoy seeing naughtiness done in strict iambic pentameter. Alicia Ostriker

Earnest dictates want us to remove the heart and frontal lobe from lyric poetry [but] the need for a lone voice to sing out of the darkness will go on. Joan Larkin

Well, we certainly can’t have the word “love” in a poem. Martin Espada

Art is a series of answers to which there are no questions. C.K. Williams

The poem becomes a vehicle for pinning down moral dilemma.
C.K. Williams

As a poet I’m always concerned about history, and about bearing witness to history. Natasha Terthewey, in an interview on NPR while drafting my residency essay

A poem should surprise truthfully. Martin Espada

Punctuation is your friend. Martin Espada

A phrase in parentheses is a poet’s cry for help, “I don’t know why I’m saying this!” Martin Espada

You can use anything you want – it’s liberty hall.
Jean Valentine

Whenever you have a block, there’s something under the rock.
Alicia Ostriker

Poetry does make something happen, for it changes sensibility.
Robert Hayden

A poem is built on silences as well as on sounds. And it imposes a silence audible as a laugh, a sigh, a groan. Robert Hayden

Dickinson’s poems often have guillotine endings – the poem has its head chopped off.
Anne Marie Macari

The last line of the poem should automatically make the eye bounce back to the beginning to start over. Martin Espada

I like the white hot moment of silence at the end of a poem. Patricia Smith

You must write better than you consciously know – the bulk of your work gets done by your unconscious mind. Alicia Ostriker

Using the language of speech is what distinguishes American poetry from other poetry or Don’t use book words without a reason. spoken in some variation by Alicia Ostriker, Gerald Stern, Anne Marie Macari, and C.K. Williams