Monday, May 02, 2005

The little poem that could

A couple of years ago I wrote a teeny tiny little poem called "Door." Seven short lines. (In fact, I was taking a workshop with Cathy Bowman at the time, just for the heck of it -- the only graduate-level workshop one can take at IU without being in the MFA program -- and wrote the poem as an assignment for that class. The assignment? "Write a short poem." Cathy's response? "Wow, that's really short." Muahaha.)

I decided it wasn't a bad little poem, and sent it out. Lo and behold, it got accepted the first time out (which hardly ever happens) and appeared in issue 9 of Poetry Midwest. A bit later, my poetry group, Five Women Poets, decided to record a CD to celebrate the group's thirtieth anniversary. (No, I haven't been with the group for 30 years -- I would have had to join when I was 13, and hoo boy did my poems suck then. We do still have two of the original founding members, though.) I selected "Door" as one of the poems I wanted to record.

A couple of months later, I received an email from a local composer, who was working on setting a bunch of poems by Bloomington poets. He'd read a bunch of my poems and listened to our CD. The poem he wanted to set to music? "Door." Of course I said yes; I've heard the piece once so far, and it's really cool, partly because it's very different from anything I would have imagined for it -- it's fascinating to get a glimpse into how someone else hears my words. He's continuing to work on this project and sometime next fall, I think, there will be a performance and possibly a CD. He is quite a good composer with a lovely baritone voice, and his partner is a faculty member in the IU School of Music -- one of the best music schools in the country -- so you can imagine his work has a bit of Serious Music Cred.

I ran into him at a reading not long ago, and he said that he'd submitted some samples of this project to a state agency in an effort to obtain a grant. They'd given him some feedback, and the piece they most especially liked? Yep, "Door."

For a teeny tiny little short poem, this puppy's racking up a lot of mileage. I am quite amused. It's far from the best poem I have ever written, but my goodness, how can I not be fond of a poem that makes such good things happen? It's my lovable-runt-of-the-litter poem. It's the little poem that could.


I often stand in doorways
between one room and the next
looking in, looking out.
It isn’t indecision
that keeps me here
but the moment of passage,
the opening, the frame.

-A.H. 2003; first published in Poetry Midwest


Pamela said...

That had better be in the chapbook! I really like this poem, and what a trip it's had in the world.

Anonymous said...

I've always liked that one.


the machinist said...

wow, anne! that's great! and IU music school? that's hot stuff right there.

have you heard of eric whitacre? he's set some E.E. Cummings and Octavio Paz poems to music before. He's a younger composer out of Julliard. Very good at what he does. You can hear some music on his site at My favorite is 'Water Night.'

Ivy said...

I'm not surprised... It's got a lovely punning quality to it [wordplay is yum]. And poems that use personification always seem a little magical. Here, the reader is let in on a secret.

Charles said...

That's a wonderful story, and a wonderful poem. The thing is, it needs to be that short, and you were smart enough to see that right away. :)

jenni said...

i like short poems. i like that poem. oh yea, i hear ya on the superstician thing too--i'm like that about certain things--anyways good luck on your chap!

Erin B. said...

Liminality, Anne, that's what it's all about. Lorca writes about this half-waking/half-dreaming state in 'City That Does Not Sleep': 'If someone does close his eyes,/ a whip, boys, a whip!' If we refuse the in-between (read: the doorway), we miss out on so very much. When I was little, my favorite hang-out places to read were my closet and the bathroom. I understand the former quite well; it's the latter that confuses me. I'm no Virgo, I'm a Scorpio. What I mean to say here is lovely poem.

Anne said...

Jeez, thanks guys. I've got more compliment than poem here now. :) Pamela, it's actually not in the chapbook ms. that just went out, but I've got a completely different one in the works that this one fits into nicely. Woody, I'm not familiar with that composer, but I'll go check out his site! I have an ex-girlfriend who's a composer (with a near-doctorate in it and everything) -- she may have heard of him. Erin, you are right about the in-between. (Adrienne Rich: "The moment of change is the only poem.")