Michael Heffernan: “They Always Say He Marks the Sparrow’s Fall”

For June & July  we’re featuring Michael Heffernan’s “They Always Say He Marks the Sparrow’s Fall,” published in Poetry Northwest Spring-Summer 2008 v3.n1, The Political Issue. According to Heffernan, “I was listening to the “Bawlers” part of Orphans by Tom Waits, and I kept going over “The World Keeps Turning” just to hear the way Tom intones the line “They always say he marks the sparrow’s fall.”  None of this was methodical.  None of this had much to do with writing a poem.  It was what I was going about doing on a bright day in January.  When I found myself with a pencil and a notepad, I had the opening line in my head and then a second line, making a sentence.  That is the way a poem begins with me.  I never know where it is going to go from there.  One complete gesture shows up in my head, and becomes a situation that can reveal itself, or something else.  Preferably something else.”

Spring & Summer 2008: The Political Issue

THE POLITICAL ISSUE Heather McHugh dreams of a Texas songbird Robert Pinsky visits the National Portrait Gallery Jane Hirshfield considers Augusto Pinochet Kevin Young gets the Hang Dog Blues Mary Jo Salter says “My pen is angled too” Plus: Stephen Dunn, James Longenbach, Brenda Hillman, Norman Dubie, John Koethe, & Eleanor Wilner. And, in translation: Tomas Transtromer, Mahmoud Darwish, & Paul Celan.

Rebecca Starks: “Gray Matter”

This month we’re featuring Rebecca Starks’ “Gray Matter,” published in Poetry Northest Spring-Summer v3.n1, The Political Issue. According to Starks, “The poem’s impulse came from its two central images—I saw the tortoise while running in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park and the cement mixer as I emerged from the subway in Times Square, on my way to work in the rain. A mushroom rain, in Russian, refers to a light rain that falls while the sun is shining, a rain favorable to mushroom growth; at the same time, the word ‘mushroom’ captures for me the feeling of walking in wet shoes, in a rush; and from rain to cloud is a short step.

Mary Jo Salter: “Song of the Children”

From the Spring-Summer v3.n1 issue of Poetry Northwest, “The Political Issue,”  we’re featuring Mary Jo Salter’s “Song of the Children.” According to Salter, “‘Song of the Children’ is one of the few poems I’ve written that was ever, in any sense, commissioned. A French friend was helping to put together an international anthology of poems about war, and asked me to try to write one. I saw I had been censoring myself: I had wanted, in some way, to write about the Iraq war, but had held off simply because I had no clue how to do it.  The poem—which is partly about not knowing how to speak or write adequately about violence—got written, but the anthology was never published. I was fortunate that Poetry Northwest was interested in my attempt.