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Joanne the Poet - The Poetry of Joanne M. Clarkson

Each Poem a Question

Poems arise from curiosity, from asking questions of life. In the best poems, by the end, the initial question has not been definitively answered. Rather the poet will have refined the truth behind the question such that it is asked honestly, openly, and in some respect, for everyone.

When I was a librarian, people would come to the reference desk because of something they needed to know. Instead of beginning with the most specific question, though, they often started in the broadest possible way. They were reluctant to get to the heart of the matter without some negotiation, without establishing a bond of trust, quick and transient though it might be. It was my job to ask the right questions of them, matching their open-endedness yet trying to narrow the field with no judgment.

In healthcare I found the same thing. People would confess a vague symptom or ailment. It took patience and compassion to get to what was really causing discomfort and pain. People don’t like to appear weak or injured. It’s risky. Yet without expressing vulnerability, no remedy can be found.

The best poems for me might start with a broad curiosity, might involve mediation with the reader. But they need to quickly move into the reason for the writing. What is bothering the poet so much that they took the time and effort to sit with words, delve into language itself for answers?

What heartache can only be assuaged through sound and rhythm? It’s not only the self that is listening and not only the reader. It’s the Universe, the ultimate mind of the ear. The cosmic reply, of course, is an echo.

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