Posts Tagged ‘Jay Parini’

Writing Prompt for the Weekend

I’m thinking of one of my favorite poems in Anthracite Country  by Jay Parini.  The poem, titled “Playing in the Mines” contains a warning from fathers to their children to never go to the mines where “The hexing cross/nailed onto the cross read DANGER, DANGER.”  This poem made me think of all the dangerous places I was warned about as a kid.  I grew up in a small town, so one would think there wouldn’t be that many, but the adults in my life seem to find plenty of things to worry about. I can name three:  under the bridge that split our town into two; the railroad tracks; and the old clay mines.  Interestingly enough, I have written (and published) poems about two of these three places.   “Under the Bridge” is in the newest issue of Slipstream, and “The Girl Who Turned Cartwheels” can be found here in a past issue of The Coal Hill Review.   Now I have to work on those old clay mines outside of town…

So, here is a weekend challenge: write about a “forbidden place.”  It doesn’t have to be about a place from your childhood, but looking back at this place from an adult point of view can be fun (and insightful). Are these dangers real?  Or imaginary?  Are they “manmade”?   For example, my poem “Somewhere Under the Bridge” was about the recluse teenagers who hung out by the river.  For the most part, they were probably harmless.  However, in “The Girl Who Turned Cartwheels” the persona is exploring railroad tracks — a real danger considering that trains would travel through town at record speeds.  And yes, in the background of this poem is the disapperance of two children.  Keep in mind that your dangerous place doesn’t have to be an over-dramatic piece of the world — you don’t have to write about a location where mass murders or severe abuse took place, although of course, we all know of poets who have used such stories for great poetry.

Seems like a grim note to end this post (and wish everyone a good weekend), but it doesn’t have to be!

In Anthracite Country

I pride myself on knowing the poetry of Pennsylvania — that is the poets who take on the landscape and people of my homestate.  So I was a bit embarrassed when I found Anthracite Country by Jay Parini, a gem of a poetry book resting on the bookshelves of my local library.  I had read Parini’s  criticism, but not his poetry, and I really enjoyed this collection.  In this slim volume of poems, Parini tackles class issues, labor history, and even religion.  And of course, as the title of the book suggests, every poem is set in the Anthracite coal region of Eastern Pennsylvania.  In essence, Parini’s book is about the importance of memory, and the way that memory can play an important part in the literature of witness.