Tag Archives: Allen Grossman

“Snow Leopards at the Denver Zoo”

For this inaugural monthly Animal Poem post, a look at Snow Leopards at the Denver Zoo” by William Matthews.

It’s a gorgeous poem from his 1973 Rising and Falling collection, which is one of my “desert island” books. The immediate beauty is of course in the largest metaphor — the snow leopards “jump / down and jump up, water being / poured,” a visual image of their physicality that is reinforced, with a heavy emphasis on the endangered aspect of the snow leopard, in the last three lines of the poem (the “them” refers to his children): “I save them whatever I can keep / and I pour it from hand to hand.” But in between that introductory image and the end, man what a lot happens in this 18-line poem. Continue reading

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Writers love to quote other writers about writing, particularly about the whys and hows of it — it’s kind of a thing. Joy Williams, at a symposium at Connecticut College with Tobias Wolff and Galway Kinnell years ago, even had a whole Rolodex with her, an actual Rolodex she brought with her to the podium so she could correctly quote other people when answering questions after the reading.

I’m no different of course. Some favorites:

I could no more define poetry than a terrier can define a rat.

A.E. Housman

It’s silly to suggest the writing of poetry as something ethereal, a sort of soul-crashing emotional experience that wrings you. I have no fancy ideas about poetry. It doesn’t come to you on the wings of a dove. It’s something you work hard at.

Louise Bogan

A poem is about something the way a cat is about a house.

Allen Grossman (I’ve seen it as “art is about” too.) Continue reading

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