Monday, January 11, 2010


I'm home from the poetry retreat.

It was wonderful.

The place where it was held was wonderful: St. Marguerite's Retreat House in Mendham, NJ. It's a 100-year-old former orphanage, and we each chose one of the tiny but lovely orphan's rooms to be our own for the weekend. I was on the narrow green hallway; my friend Clara was on the narrow pink hallway. The meeting rooms were comfortable and cozy. The food was homey and delicious: before each meal a nun's assistant would walk the hallways ringing a bell to summon us to the table.

The poet who led the retreat was wonderful: Kathleen Driskell. I learned that the only thing that is essential to poetry is the line, and yet the line is seldom discussed. So during the retreat we focused on the line. We learned that poets call the end of the line "the place of honor" - that place where the word chosen carries extra weight. We learned that poets call the left-hand margin "the safe return."

The prompts Kathleen gave us were wonderful. I'll give a few of them here over the next few days. For one of them Kathleen asked the sixteen of us to look back at the poems we had written so far during the retreat and choose two favorite words from ours; we then compiled a list of everbody's words, generating a list of 32 absolutely delicious words. Then we each chose one of those words (not one of our own two nominees for the list) and wrote a poem beginning and ending with the word.

Here is mine:


Map - the piece of paper
I can never fold back up
the way it came unfolded -
can't trace the web of flattened
lines that render rivers, mountains,
roads that might or might not
lead me backward to the place
where I left you, or you left me,
to find the spot marked by an x,
the opening, the space, the gap,
recorded here upon the map.


  1. I'm glad you made it home safely, Claudia. I thought of you this morning at 9:10 when you said you'd be teaching the first class of the semester and I was trying to learn Bollywood dancing from a DVD.


  2. I loved the poetry retreat and I loved getting to see you. All I had to do was turn the corner of the pink wing in the east and walk west to the green wing and there you were! My friend!