“A thing of beauty is a joy forever: its loveliness increases; it will never pass into nothingness.” ~ John Keats (Endymion, 1818)
The first poem in Andrea Potos’s chapbook Arrows of Light begins like this:
The lake is a blue scarf ironed
by stillness, locust leaves burnt
yellow, everywhere, softness
in September air.
Her exquisite metaphor took my breath away as I envisioned the tranquil autumn scene. Potos next quotes Keats:
The first thing that strikes me on hearing
a misfortune having befalled another is:
Well it cannot be helped — he will have
the pleasure of trying the resources of his spirit
Miles away, Andrea’s mother is undergoing cancer radiation treatment. The doctor “will aim one perfect arrow of light in the errant spot that would claim her if it had its way . . . ”
This poignant opening poem, “Morning of My 56th Birthday,” sets the stage for 25 other luminous and poignant ruminations about beauty, light, loss and grief. With her mother’s decline, each precious moment is amplified, bringing intense clarity and love.
Even as Andrea grieves, she celebrates life. Light and dark, joy and sorrow, flip sides of the same coin. She juxtaposes these two elements with extended metaphors of blue and gold: the blues of lake, sea, twilight, flowers, sadness; the golds of autumn, sunlight, Van Gogh, and radiant childhood memories.
“Grief, he told her, is the exhale of love (the ache of breathing) . . . “
Since so many of you enjoyed my post featuring Andrea’s poem, “Yaya’s Sweets,” I invited her back to talk about Arrows of Light (Iris Press, 2017). Her beautifully lyrical poems, laced with stunning details and striking images, remind us that eternal truths take hold in our most fragile moments.
♥️ POETRY CHAT WITH ANDREA POTOS ♥️
When and why did you begin writing poetry?
I wrote very bad poetry as a child, but never gave up on my love of writing and the word. Like many young girls, Louisa May Alcott was my love, and Jo March my “mentor.” I dreamed of writing in a garrett, with my long flowing skirts spread out around me. 🙂 I always wrote in diaries and notebooks. Gradually, I improved through the years. . . 🙂
Please tell us about the genesis of Arrows of Light. What was the greatest joy and the greatest challenge of working on these poems?
Arrows of Light was born from the incredible experience of being present with my mother during her journey through lung cancer and her eventual passing. Throughout this time, I truly learned what it means to be present in each moment, to experience what I feel is the eternal in each moment. The book also weaves in my love of particular visual artists, Renoir, Van Gogh and Matisse, and the beauty they brought to the world. My mother is part of that beauty. Truthfully, the book and all the photos came together kind of seamlessly.
You describe yourself as obsessed with John Keats. What draws you to his poetry and how do you think he’s influenced your writing?
What draws me to John Keats is his incredible wisdom and soulfulness, and even his humor. You can experience this especially through the long and voluminous letters he wrote to his family and friends. I return to his letters often. His writing encourages me to look deeper into the truth of images, beings and things; a typical Romantic notion I suppose. . . 🙂 “Beauty is truth, truth beauty” he says.
I love how you used all the beautiful blues and golds in these poems. Why did you decide on these particular colors? Any advice for those wishing to use color as a literary device?
Blue and gold are beautiful and spiritual colors for me. I have always gravitated to the color gold. There is even a poem in Arrows of Light entitled “Gold.” I don’t think I consciously decided to use the colors in the book; they rose organically as I wrote. . . For a writer, I would say to stay open to what a color evokes for you and look for it everywhere; then stay open to the feelings that arise when you start to feel that tug: that moment when a poem starts taking off into its voice.
Please describe your poetic process using a favorite poem from this chapbook as an example.
I am often struck by a quote or an image, and then I jump off from there; I just keep writing and writing. When looking at the gorgeous painting by Renoir of his art dealer’s daughters, I started to want to talk with them, find out what it was like while they were standing there so still as the great Renoir painted them. Thus, the poem “For the Daughters of Durand-Ruel” was born.
What food inspires your best writing? Talk about the joy of writing in cafés.
Any comfort food, including the Greek foods of my heritage, inspires my writing. My maternal grandmother’s cooking and baking inspired so much of the poetry in my book Yaya’s Cloth.
I love the quiet buzz of writing in cafés, the rich taste of espresso beside me as I work, the sense of arriving at a poetic “office” if you will. I need to get away from home and have that separate space for writing. I even leave my cell phone aside.
The poem “For My Friend Who Told Me Don’t Fete the Dead,” is about you and your mother frequenting an outdoor café every summer to eat blueberry pie. Please share a favorite memory from those times.
I think that poem speaks to what meant so much to me about our yearly, seasonal trips to this particular Milwaukee café. My mother would call ahead to make sure they set aside two pieces of their legendary blueberry pie. We’d show up, eat a dutiful lunch al fresco (which was always delicious too), knowing that what we really were there for was their famous pie. . . . 🙂 And an extra plate of whipped cream to share of course.
Is there anything else you’d especially like us to know about Arrows of Light?
Arrows of Light is a love song of sorts for my mother. In the poems I have also tried to convey the joy behind the grief, the knowings beyond the visible facts.
🌻 A SAMPLER OF POEMS FROM ARROWS OF LIGHT ☀
Interior with a Violin Case
~ Henri Matisse
Beyond white drapes and French doors,
three blackbirds are on the verge
of flying off a slategreen railing
that hems water and sky.
Blue has ventured within
the room and gathered like deep twilight
inside the violin case spread open
there must be music
playing the notes of the sea.
I Ask My Mother to Show Me the Old Greek Church of Her Childhood
We drive beside Lake Michigan’s
near unearthly blue.
At Knapp and Broadway, she points
to the spot — now a parking lot, clean black tar
planted with a zillion tiny stars
that glint in the September light.
It was there, she said, where
she, at 14, first saw my father.
I told myself, I’m going to marry that boy.
I imagine her, waiting at the bottom of that small hill.
He moved toward her, his white shirt
shuddering in the breeze off the water, his face
so clear from afar, olive skin and dark hair
blazing in air, like a young god,
the planet spinning
from her axis onto his.
on the canvas
of my eyelids —
on her face like
might have painted,
around and through her.
Even when the brush
had to be tied to Renoir’s
bent and failing hands,
Beauty drew through them
as my mother — even beyond —
cannot help but be who she is.
For her I imagine
it was just the last page, the one
with margins illuminated, gold
burnished and burning, edges
raggedy and soft to the touch as she
turned to enter her next
story we have no language for.
ARROWS OF LIGHT
by Andrea Potos
published by Iris Press, September 2017
Poetry Chapbook, 39 pp.
For more of Andrea’s poems inspired by John Keats, check out:
AN INK LIKE EARLY TWILIGHT
by Andrea Potos
published by Salmon Poetry, 2015
Poetry Collection, 64 pp.
📷 WITH MY HANDS GIVEAWAY WINNER! 📗
Thanks for sharing all the things you like to make — it ranged from knitting, crocheting, painting, photography and calligraphy to chair caning, cooking, baking, and of course, poems. It’s nice to read the comments and see pies and cookies mentioned several times. 🙂
We are pleased to announce that the winner of WITH MY HANDS: Poems About Making Things by Amy Ludwig VanDerwater, Lou Fancher and Steve Johnson is:
🧤PENNY PARKER KLOSTERMANN! 🎩
🎉 WOOHOO!! CONGRATULATIONS, PENNY!! 🎈
👏 👏 👏 👏 👏
Please send along your snail mail address to receive your book.
And thanks, everyone, for entering the giveaway!
The charming and winsome Amy Ludwig VanDerwater is hosting the Roundup at The Poem Farm. Scamper over to check out the full menu of poetic goodness being shared in the blogosphere this week.
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