A local reading group bought copies of my book in advance and invited me to come to their group. It was a great evening. The question of ‘rhymed and metered vs. free verse' came up, along with some discussion of my dependence on the last line of my poems to jolt the reading of the first lines. They wondered about the nuances of writing poems so close to my life, asking if I cleared the poems with those mentioned in them (I do and I've had no angry exchanges with relatives and friends over content). My teacher Sharon Olds, who writes very close to home as well, prefers the term "self referential" to the slightly-pejorative "confessional poems," as do I.
When I read "First Wife," the question came up whether it was about my first marriage. When I said yes, a divorce lawyer noted that the poem seemed to be about all first marriages. This was a particular compliment because it's a goal of us 'self-referential' poets to write something so personal that it becomes universal. Here's the poem:
That summer before we separated,
I talked her into tennis lessons.
She learned forehands, backhands, and volleys.
Afterwards I hit balls to her,
gentle, soft shots that lured her slowly to the net,
where, with sudden firmness I hit the ball past her.
Until then I would compliment her strokes
and call lines in her favor,
the kindest opponent in the world.
Causes Kevin Arnold Supports
Poetry Center San Jose -- President