In response to Michael Hurley’s poem “Dear Maddie,” originally featured in Frontier Poetry.
Spring has been cold
but with newness
on the buds and this summer
if it’s anything like the last one
I’ll need to tiptoe
barefoot on the porch
to avoid crushing
the snails; when it happens anyway,
the sound is so tragic, something so glasslike
destroyed, I have to bend down
and apologize out loud.
There are no fireflies here,
but back home, where our mothers
still cry, there are no snails;
just slugs, which as you know,
are easier to kill without knowing.
Michael, I know that you teach. How do you teach imagery?
I think rooting the image manifestly in the senses is a wonderful start—to make those tendrils grow out of the fingertips, get them to meander and spin and search for a trellis. Teaching is so mysterious, it can be hard to tell at times whether we’re climbing or just winding around some ideas which is okay too. One of those ideas we wind around might be remembering that each image is not an isolated spark but the work of a dense and busy maker—the imagination. Sure, the metal is glowing—but look at that blacksmith’s hands. And how do you teach imagination? I don’t think you can. And I don’t think you need to. But I do think you can emphasize it, examine it, exercise it, and advocate for it. I try to do that. First through naïve emphasis on process over product, much in-line with teaching art to young children—it’s a matter of experiencing the making and gaining joy from that, squishing the mud in your digits. This alone opens up a space for risk, play, and experimentation that moves the writing from the merely creative toward the fearless imaginative. We wander caves not knowing what’s inside. The difference I think has something to do with the degree of immersion.
Michael Hurley is the author of the chapbook Wooden Boys, available from Seven Kitchens Press.