Thursday, July 13, 2006


I’m not a ballet fan, but I happened to read Joan Acocella’s review of “Giselle” in The New Yorker and was struck by the opening paragraph:

Diana Vishneva, a principal dancer at the Kirov Ballet and at American Ballet Theatre, once told Francis Mason, of Ballet Review, that in any ballet she always tried to find “a particular thing that allows me to know what I am doing with the role, not just to do it beautifully.” She needed, she said, to find her own “secret.” Sometimes when you hear such words, you tremble. Many theatrical absurdities—chaste Carmens, happy Hamlets—have been perpetrated by people on similar quests. But, in a performance of “Giselle” . . . at A.B.T. in mid-June, Vishneva . . . did find her own secret to that ballet, and the result was a show that left people sitting dazed in their seats afterward.

That’s just how I feel when I’m writing a poem! I can work and work on a poem but it never quite comes together until I feel that I’ve found the poem’s secret. Not that the poem needs to reveal its secret in some corny epiphany—in fact it’s probably better if it does not!

1 comment:

Beth Ferris said...

On secrets: In an eerie progression, Montana's fire season has exploded with global warming. That's not the secret. But fires where I live keep the constant radio chatter warning us: dry lightening, O'Brien Creek, Blue Mountain, Gash Creek. Something is revealed. Last year, a woman stopped before an approaching wall of fire to add red food coloring to her hummingbird feeder and barely made it out the dirt road to her house in a banged up subaru.

Since the worst fires of 2000, still in school, I began a poem that would not contain itself--it wound around and pulled everything in its path into it.
Now, six years later, I have this passion to finish it--but that means revising it, The poem has a center I can't find anymore, not the same secret as it did before. I search by putting the poem in different forms, I mean the beginning of it, and know that I have to capture something in that opening, That's the secret I pursue, and I don't know why I cannot find it or what it is except these words: Seller of wind, seller of fire. So thanks, Robert!