blackbirdonline journalSpring 2011  Vol. 10  No. 1

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Reading Loop Introduction


Malachi Black
   A Note on "Quarantine"

Adam Day
   Vicious Only When Necessary

Anita Felicelli
   Words No Longer There

Rebecca Morgan Frank
   Close Quarters

Douglas S. Jones

Matthew Kaler
   Broken Saints

Matthew Little
   Invisible Remains

Alessandra Lynch

Nadine Sabra Meyer
   Modest Interiors

Lisa Russ Spaar

The poetic sequence recalls the genre’s earliest incarnations—think of the Epic of Gilgamesh or Homer’s Odyssey and Iliad, think of religious poetry. As chant or hymn it adds emphasis to invocation, and as a facet of poetry’s oral tradition, it serves as driving force and mnemonic device. Although poetic sequences today have become much less formal as a result of prevailing styles and changing priorities, not so long ago they were still strictly regimented and instantly recognizable. The crown of sonnets—as daunting a form as any, perhaps—still crops up from time to time.

Writing in sequence provides its own particular set of challenges and rewards. It allows the author to revisit a given theme or image, gradually applying layers of meaning that evolve from piece to piece in a more leisurely progression that a single poem, often, cannot afford. However, this progression also invites its own pitfalls—unnecessary repetition perhaps being the most obvious.

So, what compels an author to write a sequence of poems? Is it the natural—and particularly human—desire to achieve closure? The need to honor a subject? A reckoning with one’s poetic sensibilities? Though Blackbird has published sequences in the past, we have not necessarily embarked on the central questions of why and how they come about. In this feature, ten poets explore the motives and machinations of the sequences that appear in the issue and provide individual insight into the topic at large.  end