Cadmus

by Mark Simpson

The seeds this spring
sprout heads
that will devour me.
Nod in the rain.
Nod in the wind.
Such eyes.
Such needs.
Oh, my children,
I will go to bed.
Fend
for yourselves.

Mark Simpson’s work has appeared in a number of magazines. His book, A Poised World, won the Rhea & Seymour Gorsline Poetry Competition from Bedbug Press in 2008. He received a Ph.D. from the Rhetoric and Composition Studies program at Purdue University and currently works in Seattle as writer for an instructional design firm.

What do you think is the challenge of “compression” in writing (very) short poetry? I tend to see the short poem in rhetorical terms. Traditional terms like “narrative” and “lyric” can be applied to short poems, but for me a central challenge is discovering a guiding image, the focused center of the poem, which the remaining text extends and amplifies. The process is generative and relies on the rhetorical figure of amplification—similar to what Jeffrey Levine calls “resonant diction.” A good analogy is the cumulative or “loose” sentence. (Francis Christensen’s “generative rhetoric” is a good reference here.) The first and most difficult challenge, then, is finding the central image that carries the poem forward.

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