Finding the Form with Cynthia Woodman
I keep adding to a list I started long ago of “Words I Love.” When the mind is empty and the heart is floating, I turn to this list to try to engage on the page. That’s what I did for “Selling Soffio.”
The words, “drenched” and “sinuous” were on the list, so off I went. Also in this poem, I was taking advice from Patrick Lane (which I often still do) who taught me many things, one of which was the noticing of internal rhyme. This poem plays with internal rhyme throughout in lines such as: “forgetting land-locked alarms, becoming / taut arms…” which musically draws the reader through at a fairly quick pace.
In the editing process I chose to stay with that pace because it gives the feeling of sailing on boisterous seas. I kept the poem tight-packed in one stanza for this same reason. To start the poem, though, I have to care about the subject, and, in this instance, I cared about the various losses that occur as one ages. My husband had recently sold our sailboat. Having to let go of something you love because you are aging out of it—no longer as confident of your strength when hauling on lines, for instance—is a choppy transition.
As I wrote, I zeroed in on how much an object can embody its owner. The task I set for myself to maintain the internal rhyme, drew me into the physicality of sailing, of how much a human body has to become the sailboat in order for the boat to function, and how beautiful that is. I also felt how the loss of this relationship is a kind of physical amputation and part of the ineluctable process of aging. Rocky shores, indeed.
→ Cynthia Woodman is working on a new collection Thirst. She is the author of Good Holding Ground and co-editor of Poems from Planet Earth. Her poetic series “Fragrant Harbour” and “Object Lessons” were finalists in the 2021 Gwendolyn MacEwen Poetry contest.
Photo by Michael Held on Unsplash