ABOUT THE POEMS Poetry must of course be thought about formally, as a space of special rhythm, syntax, and measure, as an arena where language is raised to its greatest density and highest pitch. But it can also be thought about metaphysically. The lyric poem serves as a free realm where difficult truths can be articulated or, in the fine phrase of K Srilata, “volcano lies” exploded. The speaker of “England, 1999” finds herself not just fascinated by a new country, but obliged for that reason to describe her own, boil it down to a few images in almost the same way as a poem creates a world in microcosm. What story to tell? The speaker is able to summon from memory’s well images of both beauty and darkness. Poetry is also what we turn to when we seek a closer and more prayerful attention to the world. Srilata’s exquisite “A Somewhat Different Question” takes us into the silent churning inside plants. Image proceeds to riddle; and we see a powerful poetic thinking set in motion, rippling under the surface of word and line until it reaches a haunting close—an ending that, because it asks such an urgent question, is also a beginning, carried forward now by the reader.
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