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A Quarterly Journal
Jeffrey Woodward, Founder & General Editor
Volume 10, Number 1, March 2016


Charles D. Tarlton
Northampton, Massachusetts, USA

Tanka Prose Poetics

Let Me See Your Poetic License

It is as if
We had come to an end of the imagination,
Inanimate in an inert savoir.

—Wallace Stevens

What could be more illusive than imagining? The plain and ordinary stuff is right here; you can take a handful, you can kick it to the side. Here’s a rock. Here’s a beautiful woman’s arm. Here’s tranquility. But, can you then say—Here’s an imaginary campanile, a thing copied out the other side of all this, seen only with closed eyes, sensed only in your dreams? You describe it stone by stone, this tower in nowhere, and still you can’t go up in it or look down from it across a Tuscan countryside.

no poem was never
more than jittering electrons
sparking the mind’s eye
voluptuous inedible fruit
or a perfect unmoving cloud

what about the claim
everything’s made up, a dumb show
with flickering lights
as shadows propagate shadows
expecting doubtful outcomes

the poem is a dream
alas, a careless looking away
some disconnection
between the baser instincts
and an incautious longing


The wind moves slowly in the branches.
The bird's fire-fangled feathers dangle down.

—Wallace Stevens

We put a heavy burden on words; they cannot bear it. An argumentative arrangement simulates a logic that can lead—to what? Certainly not the dreamed of rough palpability of Maple bark against soft skin. You turn around and, having said it, see it is no more than words; there’s no escaping. The poet bleeds through her skin trying to make something real, but only the words fly up.

it’s an old story
how the breathed words relate
so very little
of what’s truly there. Truly?
I am sorting definitions

what if there were names
for each discrete and separate
thing? The name of this dust
mote might more clearly call it
up, avoiding generalities

the thickness of bone
separating stuff from idea
the ethics within
from the awkward posturing
without. Bird calls in the night

Finding Our Way

The poem of the mind in the act of finding
What will suffice.

—Wallace Stevens

In books of poetry read when I was young in English class at high school, every other line ended on the same sound. We marked accents, the acute and breve, above the lines on blackboards—iamb, trochee anapest, dactyl, and spondee-da-da-Dum: da-Dum. It was a music of old songs sung Bel canto, with broad gestures overblown, a dainty kerchiefed turn aside, and a sob. I am looking for the perfect poem today, one we can sing along with electric cars, the internet, gluten-free, and the end of the world.

dispels the ordinary
fabricates the new unheard
word, the novel sight unseen
before. You must train your ear

nothing in the noise
is anymore digestible
yet our hunger stays
we need intrepid hunters
chasing unfamiliar game

a word shows itself
shyly withholding what’s next
the poem, yet unformed
carving its own contours as
it goes. We wait breathlessly



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