Thank you, so much, to the editors of Jersey Devil Press, Laura Garrison and Samuel Snoek-Brown, for accepting “Bayonne Bridge” to Jersey Devil Press. I love all things Jersey, born and raised in the Garden State. It’s a place of great beauty and surprising humor. I knew it found its perfect home when, with the brief acceptance note, the editors told me the staff “thoroughly enjoyed it.” There are no better words to hear. <3
My days of Covid-19 lockdown produced a lot of constrained forms work, including some formal works like the fair and good sestina. Sestinas are a marvel to me and I approached them in wide-eyed wonder. It required, at least for me, scraping together piles and pages of possibilities. The form seemed like an impossible uphill creative climb at first–a sudoku puzzle with too many boxes — but then things start to fall in place.
It would not have been possible to write these without the guidance of poet and editor Ron Padgett.
2 years ago I was killing time before a friend’s (Jennifer Stroud-Rossman’s) reading in Brooklyn at a place called Bierwax, and a couple of doors down (this is all before Corona, sigh) there was a used book shop. That is where I made the fateful selection (along with a history of Caribbean colonialism and a Pynchon) of that Poetic Forms edition Padgett edited.
Fast forward one year and the world is in lockdown, everything that should have blown over in 2 weeks fogged past the 2 months mark, and I started writing very constrained forms in response. Then I remembered that baby blue book cover. I woke up remembering I had purchased it.
Here is a photo of me on the Bayonne Bridge with my notebook full of details of the sounds of it, everything I could see, finding the words, feeling exalted by the structure itself. Knowing that this structure deserved structure. It deserved a sestina.
So, to get to the point, I am so grateful for that instructional handbook — the good examples, the WORKSHEETS omg yes thank you Mr. Padgett. I was able to agonize my way through understanding a sestina, and then write a few. I’m a bit primitive about it and piled up pages of possibilities before deciding on my end words, and then the delightful game of making it work. In any case, I truly feel that Padgett’s mischievous positive voice as editor of Poetic Forms helped me be unafraid.
Although I consider myself a fiction writer, today I had my first sestina published! I wrote it over the course of a few weeks back in March and looking at it now, I wish I hadn’t physically used the word ENVOI, which interrupts the flow, and those final three lines don’t have the mystical drift I’d aim for now if I could go back, but I read it again today and I’m proud of it.
I have no formal training in writing poetry, but I like it. I like song. I write sonnets for friends. For my wedding anniversaries. I like imagery. My journalistic training attracts me to details. It’s all so alluring, and always has been.
So, anyway, I wrote a thank you note to Mr. Padgett, and a short while later he responded:
“Thanks for your message. It’s very gratifying to hear that you’re finding the Handbook useful. Every once in a while I take it off the shelf, read an entry or two, and say to myself, “That’s actually not bad!”
I enjoyed reading your sestina and especially liked the liberties you gave yourself with the Enoes-Verrazano-Queneau-etc. end words. At one point I thought that it sounded a bit like Hart Crane, especially his long poem ”The Bridge.” His is a very challenging poem but a heroic attempt.
Thank you for visiting my blog. I would be delighted if you read the poem. Link to “Bayonne Bridge” at Jersey Devil Press here.
C O N T A C T