Poetry, Ghosts, & Geometry

Readers of this blog know that I enjoy a good poem. In an earlier post, I recommended an entertaining collection by the French poet Guillevic, Geometries. In another, I shared a hilarious poem by R. S. Gwynn about teaching, The Classroom at the Mall. At the bottom of this blog’s home page is a link to Intersections, an excellent blog devoted entirely to poetry and mathematics.

For several years, Georganne Harmon taught English and Creative Writing at my school, and she has recently published a collection of her poems entitled We Will Have Ghosts. It is wonderful, and I’ve kept a copy by my reading chair for several months. I’ve been savoring it in small amounts, like a fine, single-malt whisky.

It’s impossible for me to pick a favorite, but you can read one of her best at this page in Chapter 16. Here’s another favorite of mine that uses terms from geometry to ponder the effects of distance:

Geometry, Lost Cove

The ridge across this cove
is straight as a ruled line,
its bend as pure as an angle
on a student’s quadrilled page.
Beyond it another ridge lies
straight-backed, as well,
drawn off by its touch with sky.

Such perfection is a subject
I’d like to think about
here on this thin shelf of land:
the earth, for instance, seen
from an orbiting craft,
is smooth and round –
an eyeball, a gem on black cloth.
Where is the rough rooty skin of it
we know, the jagged heights of pine,
poplar, sycamore, oak?
Where are our lumpy villages,
the brutish smoke of wars,
the unsmooth teem
of ant life in its scurry?

At a distance, surface is easy truth:
latitudes and longitudes, altitudes,
and lines acute, obtuse.
A mountain trail is straight as shot,
a slight incline from the east,
a thirty-degree descent
on the other face.

A hurricane is a cotton-swirled disturbance
on a blue plate; yet underneath it
secreted on another plane,
pain rises red and anger-pussed.
This limpid, lustrous earth.

With this design
I make up my face
for someone combed
and groomed into the angled,
elegant shape of vee,
leaning in an easy obtuse
against the far wall.

By the way, the cover art is “The Mower’s Song (for Andrew Marvell)” by Georganne’s brother, Paul Harmon. Those Harmon kids are talented!

You can purchase We Will Have Ghosts here. A portion of all sales goes to a charity to help young writers.