Literature 11-21-2006

What Light: This Week’s Poem: Ruth Williams

"What Light" presents a new poem every week by a Minnesota poet, chosen by a jury of writers, publishers, or editors, and sponsored by Magers and Quinn Booksellers.

Ruth Williams


I want Chinese fans for fingers, attached to fandango wrists.
Remember how he said: you have the worst nails, crazy head?

I’ve sprung limp hair and a quick-action revolver.
I’m a loose bang! Risky tack of your heart in mine.

So the rock star wouldn’t fondle much? I raise and see that lack
with a scatter of glassy green: wine bottles behind my bed.

Poetic monologues only patch erratically over reckless fizzles.
Oh Ruth! Those chills are the seeps from his glance, all askance.

Possibility: tease the body to an easy-to-read map:
clean-cut topography of lips, eyes, heart—all my small bumps.


I am very intrigued by poetry that offers me a glimmer of a narrative, but remains taut or ripe with the untold, the shadowy story outside of the page. The ghazal traditionally offers up stanzas that are intended to stand alone, with only the barest of connections between; like Jean Valentine or Anne Carson’s work, the ghazal forces the reader to come into the poem to make meaning, narrative, coherency. In this poem, I wanted to poke fun at the idea of the poet attempting to recover the perfection needed to snare the beloved (unrequited love being a common theme of the traditional ghazal), but simultaneously conversing with herself about the impossibility of that endeavor. Instead of looking out toward the beloved, the ghazal is bent, loses it rigid rhyme form, but keeps a traditional refrain as each stanza turns back to self-indulgently stare at the poet.


Ruth Williams is a new transplant to Minneapolis, Minnesota. She moved here from Washington State where she recently completed her MFA in Creative Writing at Eastern Washington University. Her poetry has appeared in Lake Effect, New Delta Review, Plainsongs and is forthcoming in Hubbub. Prior to moving here, Ruth last saw the Midwest in Chicago, Illinois. She’s readjusting.