As I was putting my eight hours at the ol’ poetry factory today, updating returned subscriptions and stuffing envelopes (with a papercut on my thumb to prove it), I was listening to Poets Cafe‘s interview with Hilda Weiss, which you can download by clicking here. It occurred to me that Hilda Weiss might be the best poet I know of who hasn’t published a book yet. We published a single poem of hers in Rattle, “My Neighbor Gives Me Meat Bones,” which she reads during the interview (and you’ve got to hear her read it). Other poems she reads there are great, too, particularly the sestina. I was hoping to find it somewhere online, but could only find a scant offering from Moonday Poetry, a local reading series in LA, from which this poem is stolen:
These sometimes moments
of joy and success, of beauty and surprise.
I am so
unaccustomed to good.
Moments of awe
beginning to see,
they occur and occur.
Perhaps they swim
like young, brown trout.
When the eye and mind
learn to separate fish from water,
suddenly the fish are everywhere.
–from Meridian Anthology, Vol. V, 2007
I guess what I love about her work is her slow precision — the willingness to draw so much attention to a simple word or phrase, that it can be lifted out of simplicity, and be exposed for the beautiful musical score that it is. In the poem above it’s “These moments. / These sometimes moments.” And then the repetition of “occur” — which with all this attention for the first time for me hints at the relevant word “ocular.” It’s such a slender little poem, not opaque in the least, but it really packs a punch.
What I kept thinking about, listening to the interview, was that there are so many awful poets who publish books — who win awards, give readings instead of mostly filming them. Why isn’t there a collection by Hilda Weiss yet? Is it because she’s too busy running poetry.la to focus on her own work?
When I’m feeling cynical, I start to think that success in the poetry world is only a measure of two things: ego and energy. We know Hilda’s got the energy, so maybe it’s the ego that’s missing? If that’s the case, maybe this will help: Hey Hilda, you’re a good poet — publish a book already!