ISSUE 54KCAI Exhibition #4 // Curated by Jordan Stempleman
Edna St. Vincent Millay (A letter to my daughter)
"Edna St. Vincent Millay (A letter to my daughter)" is a poem in a book-length sequence in a manuscript called Cloud Sanctum. Scattered within this sequence are poems with the names of poets for titles--another is titled "W.S. Merwin", for example--and they each relay important, reality-tested ideas poems have imparted to me. If Walt Whitman and Emily Dickenson are the great-great grandparents of American poetry, then so many others after them have been the mothers and fathers, aunts and uncles, who have not only instructed contemporary poets how to read and write our poems, but also in how to live. In writing this poem, I'm at risk of breaking a major rule of poetry, what Edgar Allen Poe calls "the heresy of the didactic", which is his prohibition against a poet imparting (rather than simply expressing truth in beautiful language) any kind of lesson to the reader. But since this piece is a poem masquerading as a letter to a much-younger loved one, and since line break, metaphor and imagery complicate the syntax, it challenges rather than breaks Poe's rule. Even though I know Poe's rule to be a form of dogma, while I write I always hear Miller Williams, the late poet-professor who taught the first grad-level poetry course I ever took, insisting I never break this rule. Poet Dean Young says a poet must lean into this sort of recklessness to make the old tropes and modes of expression new. While writing this piece and the others, I've enjoyed this sort of constructive recklessness. Location: In the study in my house. South Hyde Park, Kansas City, MO. Shot by Oz Overshiner.
Marcus Myers lives in Kansas City, where he teaches and serves as a co-founding and managing editor of Bear Review. His poems have appeared in or are forthcoming from The Common, The Cortland Review, The Florida Review, Hunger Mountain, Just Place, Mid-American Review, The National Poetry Review, Poetry South, RHINO, Salt Hill, Sweet, Tar River Poetry and other such journals.