In The Museum

by Lori Powell

Quick: before dust decides for you.
The guard has turned his back.
The hour, uneaten,
grows soft in the center.

Lori Powell lives near the Potomac River just outside of Washington, DC. Her poems appear in various online and print publications and in a chapbook, Truth and Lies, published by Black Buzzard Press.

How important do you think is “mystery” to a (compressed) poem? And if it is important, what are some specific strategies for creating mystery (as opposed to confusion) for the reader? Because poetry is more compressed than prose, mystery is inevitable. But, I think it’s also desirable. Emily Dickinson wrote: “Tell all the truth but tell it slant.” A “slant” telling can be more effective, and often more truthful, than telling it straight. Good poems don’t spell things out for the reader. They imply, allude; they make unusual and startling connections. Telling it slant allows a poem to have repercussions far beyond the boundaries of its words. One way to avoid confusion is to build the poem around a central image (or metaphor). Make the image as visual, as tactile, as possible. An image is truly a large idea in a small package. It works on many levels at once: sensory, emotional, intellectual. It doesn’t tell the whole story, but, mysteriously, it can make you feel as if it does.

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