Rhyme is honored to publish an interview with Amy Foreman, one of the best contemporary poets.
What was your relationship with poetry before you started writing it?
I have always loved reading literature, including poetry, so, even though my BA was in Music and Theology, I got my MA in English Language and Literature. Poetry, especially the rhyming poetry of such greats as John Milton, George Herbert, John Donne, Emily Dickinson, Robert Frost, and, of course, William Shakespeare, always appealed to me. I especially enjoyed formalistic criticism, in which we look at the poem’s structure, and how that adds to the meaning.
What prompted you to start writing poetry?
Our family moved to Arizona in 2014, and, in our new community, there was a group called “Writers on the River” which met and publicly read personal works of poetry, short stories, or essays. I decided to have our seven children try their hands at poetry (for home school credit!) – and it looked so fun that I thought I would try it as well. That first poem I wrote, “Jesse’s Hands”, was well-received by the “Writers on the River” crowd as well as by my husband Jesse, for whom it was written… so I kept at it!
The inspiration for this poem is the miracle of our seven beloved children, gifts from God, each one. It has been my greatest earthly privilege to be their mother, to walk with them from birth to adulthood, and to partake in their joys and sorrows, their dreams and achievements, their fears and ultimately, their faith.
“The sum is greater than its parts,” or so the saying goes.
And now the two of us can see the proof as each one grows,
Distinct but similar in code, the perfect mix and match
Of you and me but with a little extra in each batch.
You gave your chromosomes, all twenty-three, and I gave mine:
That nose like yours, those eyes like mine, his humor, her hairline.
The two became one, yes it’s true, that one plus one is one,
But each of us gave more than us to daughter and to son.
Gently blow and stir the fire,
Lay the mutton down to roast,
Dress it nicely I desire,
In the dripping put a toast,
That I hunger may remove:
Mutton is the meat I love.
On the dresser see it lie,
Oh! the charming white and red!
Finer meat ne’er met my eye,
On the sweetest grass it fed:
Let the jack go swiftly round,
Let me have it nicely browned.
On the table spread the cloth,
Let the knives be sharp and clean:
Pickles get and salad both,
Let them each be fresh and green:
With small beer, good ale, and wine,
O ye gods! how I shall dine.
Amidst the days of pleasant mirth,
That throw their halo round our earth;
Amidst the tender thoughts that rise
To call bright tears to happy eyes;
Amidst the silken words that move
To syllable the names we love;
There glides no day of gentle bliss
More soothing to the heart than this!
Cold in the earth – and the deep snow piled above thee,
Far, far removed, cold in the dreary grave!
Have I forgot, my only Love, to love thee,
Severed at last by Time’s all-severing wave?
Now, when alone, do my thoughts no longer hover
Over the mountains, on that northern shore,
Resting their wings where heath and fern-leaves cover
Thy noble heart forever, ever more?
Cold in the earth – and fifteen wild Decembers,
From those brown hills, have melted into spring:
Faithful, indeed, is the spirit that remembers
After such years of change and suffering!
Beneath these fruit-tree boughs that shed
Their snow-white blossoms on my head,
With brightest sunshine round me spread
Of spring’s unclouded weather,
In this sequestered nook how sweet
To sit upon my orchard-seat!
And birds and flowers once more to greet,
My last year’s friends together.
If by dull rhymes our English must be chain’d,
And, like Andromeda, the Sonnet sweet
Fetter’d, in spite of pained loveliness;
Let us find out, if we must be constrain’d,
Sandals more interwoven and complete
To fit the naked foot of poesy;
Let us inspect the lyre, and weigh the stress
Of every chord, and see what may be gain’d
By ear industrious, and attention meet:
Misers of sound and syllable, no less
Than Midas of his coinage, let us be
Jealous of dead leaves in the bay wreath crown;
So, if we may not let the Muse be free,
She will be bound with garlands of her own.
I’d like to hear your reflections, dear readers, on this poem.