Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Unrest: Story behind the poem "Color of the Sea"

The map that inspired the poem was something like this

Since today is our third wedding anniversary, I thought I’d share the background of a love poem, Color of the Sea. The poem was originally published by the Cortland Review, and is forthcoming this January in Unrest, my first poetry chapbook.

When my husband-to-be and I first met, we were both living in New Jersey. Soon afterwards, though, we became a long distance couple. He had started teaching at Georgetown University in D.C.,. and I was teaching at Fairleigh Dickinson University in N.J. We spent a lot of time those two years driving or taking trains between the cities. 

In his D.C. living room, my husband-to-be had a map of Italy. I was struck by the fact that the land was variegated to show elevation, but bodies of water were shown as clean, flat patches of blue. There was comfort in both – the specificity of the land and the calm blue. 

This poem begins with an image of that map and then considers the meaning of home, as well as the objects that represent home. Ultimately, the idea of home is the place where you feel comfortable . Most importantly, the person or people who matter most are there, regardless of where there might be. I've lived in Italy, and I feel a special connection to some of the cities, their histories and food, so those images appear, too (as they often do in my poems.)

This is a prose poem with two full paragraphs split by the line, “We've mapped every inch of land.” We do know our landscape, but yet, the surface and its meaning might shift with time. The poem also suggests that we can find ourselves again, since we know where things are, or at least where they could or should be on a map.

The poem ends with the couple finding themselves at home, that is to say, with each other. The images are drawn from the first half of the poem. “I spoon seasonal mint gelato into my poems. We both taste it. We take off our boots at home.” Boundaries between cities, countries, languages, real life and poetry-life, are blurred and become one with home.

Happy anniversary, love. 

Click through to hear a recording of my reading the poem.

You can read additional previously published poems from Unrest here.

To purchase a pre-sale copy of the chapbook, click here.

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