A! Magazine for the Arts

Sam Rasnake

Sam Rasnake

Poetry opens possibilities for Sam Rasnake

March 30, 2016

Poetry opens life's possibilities to Sam Rasnake, and he's been writing poetry since graduating from high school.

"I remember writing a poem called "Time' - which seemed providential after I experienced Pink Floyd's "Dark Side of the Moon,'" he says. "My poem, which focused, of course, on mortality, had nothing in common with the Floyd's great song. I didn't want to show the poem to anyone, because I didn't want my writing to be influenced – good or bad. I wanted to find my way. Also, the poem wasn't good, so keeping it hidden was a good choice. I believed I could do better. This was a classic crossroads for me. I kept writing."

Rasnake says poetry is a natural expression for him. He is at home, he says, "with the look of the words on the page - and the sounds they make in my head, and when I speak them. For the last few years, the sonnet or sonnet-like length has found its way to me more than others. I like the rhythm, and I especially like those moments when the poem is expressed in one flowing sentence.

"My great inspirational sources are the creative arts – film, painting, music and literature. My writing springs from that – not always in terms of explanation but mainly in a way of starting, a way of finding the words."

His poetry has recurrent themes and images; birds, highways, dark landscapes and windows occur repetitively. Journeys are often central to his work in some shape or form.

"I really have no absolute idea where that originates in me. I was born by the ocean in a Coast Guard Station on the Outer Banks and grew up in the mountains of East Tennessee. Maybe that's the genesis of journey in my writing – the divide. I don't know. Maybe if I knew, I wouldn't write.

"Years ago, a routine - and it varied - was absolutely necessary. Over time, though, that wasn't satisfying to me. Too much control was evident, and that made the writing a bit too superficial for me. Somehow I learned to trust the poetry - learned to wait for the poetry. Stanley Kunitz said, when asked how he went about choosing topics for his writing, that the poet doesn't choose the poem; instead, poetry chooses the writer. The poem searches for its poet. The statement was a revelation to me, and it became my way to approach writing. I don't write my way to the poem. It's all about discovery. I let the poem find me, find my page."

He found encouragement on his own poetic journey from a local poetry magazine, "Sows Ear Poetry Review." "I'm grateful to the editors, Larry and Ann Richman, Nell Maiden, Errol Hess and Kristin Zimet and a strong band of writers associated with them, Suzanne Underwood Rhodes, Judy Miller, James Owens, Edison Jennings and David Oates. We met monthly for years, and they helped me find my own way as a writer. I learned a great deal there – all the marvelous textures and levels of writing, all the possibilities – and I make a point of sharing what I learned with others.

"More people are reading and writing poetry today than ever before. It's become a necessary part of our day-to-day. I experience this in various forms of social media. Poetry's always had a valid or vital place in the world. This is more realized in other cultures than in ours. Maybe the U.S. has been too focused on the next "thing,' whatever that is. The focus has become status, material gains, icons, marketability. The masses aren't looking for the next poem; they're in search of the next blockbuster. Yet, poetry has vitality, an elasticity that won't go away. It endures and will continue to do so," Rasnake says.

His favorite poets to read are Elizabeth Bishop, Jack Gilbert, Emily Dickinson and William Stafford. "The most important regional poets for me are Kelly Cherry, Jeff Daniel Marion and Wendell Berry – all gifted writers. Three local poets are essential: Rita Quillen, Edison Jennings and Jane Hicks."

He recommends budding poets to submit their work. "Writers have to submit, sending their works out into the world, hoping they'll find a place to land, hoping their poems will find a home. I search for magazines, print and online, and publishers that appeal to me or have a connection with my own type of writing."

His work has appeared in many magazines: OCHO, Big Muddy, Wigleaf, Spillway, The New Mississippi Review, Literal Latté, Poets / Artists, fwriction: review and Portland Review. Anthologies publishing his work include: "The Southern Poetry Anthology," "MiPOesias Companion 2012,""Best of the Web 2009," "LUMMOX 2012,""BOXCAR Poetry Review Anthology 2" and"Dogzplot Flash Fiction 2011." His most recent collections are "Cinéma Vérité" and "Inside a Broken Clock."
In 2000, he founded Blue Fifth Review, an online journal for poetry, flash fiction and art, which has connected him to writers and artists around the world.

His online journal can be found at www.bluefifthreview.wordpress.com.

Some Last Things

By Sam Rasnake

So many words to say now he'll never say though
he feels their weight in silence, though he needs
their meanings, he knows he won't find them,

still they bite at his tongue – what he once questioned
he knows for fact, what he once believed, he's long since
forgotten or dreamed away – if you whisper your truths,

they'll disappear, he'd say, so he never whispers them –
and when he does speak, his voice is the wild thud
of trees falling oceans from here in cool shimmers

of rain, in the hot curl of asphalt, in all the time needed
though there's so little now to do, and he's prayed deep
into the hole of his aching, but that's not how it ends –

in a hush, in the beetle's scratching at the baseboard,
a bullfrog's croaking from the dark rocks in his pond,
his cane leaning against the opened window

The poem originally appeared in fwriction : review
Reprinted with permission

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