I sometimes feel a little out of sorts poetry-wise. Maybe I haven’t been getting many word-chunk or image inspirations floating my way. Maybe I’ve been writing myself into too many nasty poem corners, the ones that narrow down to cliché endings and HEY that’s just how my last cat poem ended. Maybe I’ve had one of those feel-good days of a rejection in the mail topped off with another one via email (the hard and soft one-two punch of the rejection world).
If the poetry mojo has evaporated, I’ll sometimes pick up The Synonym Finder. (All the weight of that. The. Synonym. Finder. Boom.) I don’t do it so much for a poetry prompt; I just like to see and feel how worn it is. The cover a bit dog-earred, the pages soft and well-thumbed, the exquisite page 487. All of those words and the endless (no, let’s say infinite or eternal) possibilities there. The ways to find another nuance or add precision in expression or maybe trip across a word that twists the meaning of the third stanza and yes, the poem did want to take that mean turn.
And the pages have a scent. I’ve only had my copy for maybe ten years, and in the midst of three moves I never dropped it into anything odd. I certainly never left it in a used bookstore filled with the books of hundreds of people who stored them on dusty shelves or at the bottoms of boxes with Grandma’s towels. But that is how my Synonym Finder smells, like it has been hanging out with so many other lives.
All of this helps me to find a bit of patience. Mr. Rodale, Jerome, do I have the nerve for Jerry, you must have had the poets close to your heart when you made this lovely thing. This book of everything. This talisman.
Amy MacLennan's poems have been published or will appear in River Styx, Cimarron Review, Linebreak, Pearl and Rattle. She currently lives in Ashland, OR. Amy's poem, "The Drain," appears in issue #42. See more of her poetry online here.