This program is made possible through a generous gift from Ruth and Russell Bolton
in conjunction with the Eberly College of Arts & Sciences.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Running from Abstraction

Last Thursday, the Honors Hall dorm was anything but abstract. In fact, we were pretty darn specific. Eating muffins and sitting around the dining room table, we talked about what makes fall fall. Someone mentioned the crunch of leaves. Another, about the way the leaves fell in front of her car on the way home. There was even talk of a fall song (and yes, she did sing it for us). In all of this, we realized that when we talk about fall, there might be common themes -- pumpkins, football, leaves -- but we all have very specific images. We realized that when we want someone to experience fall with us it's much better to be as specific as possible rather than talk in abstract terms.

And so it is in writing, especially poetry. We read a few poems, paying attention to how they illustrated abstract ideas like first love or grief. We marveled, really (and how can you not marvel at William Meredith's "The Illiterate" or Tomas Transtromer's "After a Death"?).  We then tried to write about an abstraction ourselves. We each got an abstract idea, wrote a poem, and then the others had to guess what the abstraction was.  As we heard each poem filled with striking images and incantatory repetition, it was clear -- these Boltoneer poets had conquered abstraction. Long live the concrete detail!

Below is one of the poems born out of an abstraction.

An Addition to the Family
Emily Buras

My big sister winks at me
And sends my first shooting star
Across the night ceiling,
To me
Because I’m the one sleeping
Out on the deck.
Under my quilt
Where she can see me,
Now I know, for sure, where she’s been
For those 18 odd years
Since she was cut out
And cried over
To save Mom.
She’s been burning with light
Waiting for me
To sleep in the firefly dark
And let my glasses
Reflect the moon
So she can wave across the sky
And we can meet.
She’s swimming up in the blue black waters;
Splashing around
Watching me
Watch her.
It’s exciting, not to be
The firstborn anymore.

When I was a kid,
I never wanted a younger sister.

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