I’ve embarked on a series of poems about my parents — in particular their early life together. I have visual memories, stories, photos, a few letters, and my memories of them as young people — and for some reason I am compelled to write about them now. It’s not an exercise in history as much as a way to orient myself in the overwhelming mythology of my childhood. And, no matter how much I want to ground the poems in reality, I can’t. There’s no reality left, just poetry.
Many remarkable poems exist about poets’ parents. Here are two of my favorites:
- “I Go Back to May 1937” by Sharon Olds
- “Early Evening, Frankfurt Kentucky” by Natasha Trethewey
It can be daunting to write about your parents, so if you’re not sure how to begin, find an old photo of them. Imagine you are an unseen observer just outside the photo — what do you see? What sounds, smells, tastes are there? Is there music? What’s the weather like?
Have fun and don’t be afraid. Much of what we remember about our parents has nothing at all to do with us — they had lives we can never know. As Dar Williams sings about in her great song, “After All” —
Sometimes the truth is like a second chance
I am the daughter of a great romance
I can’t wait to see what you come up with! (Your ever hopeful Cup PL)