Borrowed Poetry

Red Wolf Editions Fall 2019
Theme: Borrowed Poetry

Poems often are in dialogue with other artistic works. That makes us a collective. Things become interesting when there is a two-way street. As poets we read other poems, we consume movies, plays, music, various art forms. These things can be a springboard for our own thoughts and creativity. It’s something I do as well drawing inspiration from other experiential forms.

Just for instance riffing off lines from another poem.

We Are All Voyeurs

“The world is ugly/And the people are sad.”—Wallace Stevens

I read a couple of bleak poems that reeked of
cheap perfume. Mostly amorous crap.
Some guy who peeked through the wall saw
a woman take off her clothes, then kissed
her husband, then put her hand inside his
pants. They engaged in coitus, I think.

Me, I’m sitting by a bay window, looking at
the spreading branches–morning had broken
and the sunlight warmed my soles.
I’m slowly coming out of my shell
in the pine-scented air, portentous.
I combed out my voluminous hair.

The allure of woman, I think, lies in
some mystery–butt cheeks shifting under
maroon panties, for instance. She held up
a white blouse, like a veil. I thought about
God–where is he–nowhere here, not in
this seedy low-life, not this pageant.

Then I thought, tremulous, that search for
light must begin in darkness. Swirling
colors that begin to emerge into beauty.
Who held the brush but the artist
who is all body, and soul, when
in service of something so ineffable.

The lines in the first stanza references Mark Strand’s poem “The Way It Is.” The original Mark Strand poem reads:

My neighbor’s wife comes home.
She walks into the living room,
takes off her clothes, her hair falls down her back.
She seems to wade
through long flat rivers of shade.
The soles of her feet are black.
She kisses her husband’s neck
and puts her hands inside his pants.

In this issue we’re looking for these two-way streets. We borrow ideas and lines from another. No artistic work is a closed shell. You crack open the shell and the egg oozes out. What does your eggy consumption feel like? That’s what I’m interested in. Do you fry it sunny side up or poach it or turn it into a fancy omelette with mushrooms and so on? What is your experience of it?

In terms of borrowing ideas, you may also make your poem into some sort of response to another artistic source. This happens quite easily. For instance, after watching a movie, you may want to write about it. After listening to a piece of music, you may want to reference it. After viewing a piece of art or performance, you may want to tell the reader your perception of it in a poem. What are the things you’d highlight, that had struck you somehow?

In terms of referencing, you could do it in a deep essential way or you could do it quite casually–a quotation or whatever. We can be stretchy when it comes to definition. Make your poem an aesthetic response of sort. If life is about experience, your poem would be an aesthetic response to what happens in another aesthetic portrayal of it.

Anything can be borrowed. Borrowing isn’t copying. Please don’t be a skunk and plagiarize. You have to make the poem your own. Please clearly credit your source.

Read our submission guidelines here. Please check back on our site to see if your poem has been selected. We will not be sending out any rejection letters.

Submissions period: March to August 2019. Selected poems will be posted on this site and compiled into a PDF release in Fall 2019.

Irene Toh
Fall 2019

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