Dear Headway Editors;
I describe the process of writing the two poems you’ve accepted below. Please let me know how this fits with your expectations and suggest any edits. I asked myself: Where did these poems come from? Sincerely, Margaret Koger
I started writing “A Barrier Island Storm” when riptides threatened swimmers on our beach as we vacationed in Florida. Sunshine invited me and my companion to swim, but storms far out to sea had roiled for days, churning the ocean floor all the way into our beach. One innocent step and I sank to my knees. Had I fallen the waves could have pulled me into a riptide, washing me out to sea. (Current surf zone fatality statistics can be found at https://www.weather.gov/safety/ripcurrent-fatalities.)
As I emailed my granddaughter:
We're having stormy weather, but we have the screen porch and birds. Also savor the lightning and thunder if it comes. There's been a drought so we're cheering the rain, frogs croaking, plants happy.
We swam twice so far, Saturday evening and Sunday. Yellow flag beach so we're watching the other people on the beach about when it's safe to go out. Our beach is quite wide this year and I crouch down to ride the waves.
And the next day:
Around noon today the beach conditions turned red hazard which means don't be messing around in the water.
This danger in the midst of leisure travel gave me a jolt. However, swimming in the ocean is a deliberate act of surrender, much like writing a poem. An ocean of available words, a sea of imagination, and a universe of endless possibilities. “A Barrier Island Storm” compelled me to ride the waves of thought—knowing that time limits the tides and any hope of second chances.
“Making the Cut” also resulted from travel, a recent tour of megaliths and Neolithic villages in Cornwall, England, where spears and knives of stone and bronze (and later steel) improved the cutting practices so necessary for the advancement of civilization. At home, working as a teacher, I often meet teens with emotional imbalances that cause self-harm. Young people, terrified of being outcasts, cut themselves—so sad! Gun violence gets lots of press, but what about all the ways knives and their allies—even teeth—function. Is butchery normal? Perhaps.
Postscript: I’ve chosen to write poetry because it’s honest, lots of truth marching around cloaked in iambs and pentameters. Or allusions and alliterations. Even anaphoras. But I don’t think about form when I write a poem. I labor to reveal whatever reality I can get a glimpse of through the writing process.