Poetry

Poetry Sunday: 'Why Publish?' by Rhina Espaillat

Why Publish? Dusty and brown on some forgotten shelf a century hence—or two, let dreams be grand!— this wry and slanted gloss upon myself has slipped into some stranger’s browsing hand. A woman, maybe, growing old like me, or a young man ambitious for his name, curious about my antique prosody but pleased to find our motives much the same. He cannot know—nor she—what this one life from the late twentieth craved, or cost, or found; he will forget my name; but mother, wife, daughter, has struck a chord, sings from the ground a moment to his ear, as now to yours, for what is ours in common and endures.   First published in Pivot #45, Sept. 1997. From Irresistible Sonnets, edited by Mary Meriam © 2014. Reprinted by permission of Headmistress Press.    Rhina Espaillat book cover_5-19-16     [caption id="attachment_110713" align="alignleft" width="196"]Photo credit: Curt Richter. Photo Credit: Curt Richter[/caption] Rhina P. Espaillat has published ten full-length books and three chapbooks, comprising poetry, essays, and short stories, in both English and her native Spanish, and translations from and into Spanish. Her work appears in numerous journals, more than seventy anthologies, and dozens of websites, and has earned national and international awards, including the T. S. Eliot Prize in Poetry, the Richard Wilbur Award, the Howard Nemerov Prize, the May Sarton Award, the Robert Frost “Tree at My Window” Prize for translation, several honors from the New England Poetry Club, the Poetry Society of America, the Ministry of Culture of the Dominican Republic, and a Lifetime Achievement Award from Salem State College. Espaillat’s most recent publications are two poetry collections in English titled Playing at Stillness and Her Place in These Designs, both available from their publisher, Truman State University Press. Order Playing at Stillness here. Espaillat has also published a book of Spanish translations titled Oscura fruta/Dark Berries: Forty-two Poems by Richard Wilbur, and a book of Spanish translations titled Algo hay que no es amigo de los muros/Something There Is that Doesn’t Love a Wall: Forty Poems by Robert Frost, both available from Amazon.com. She is a frequent reader, speaker, and workshop leader, and is active with the Powow River Poets, a notable group she co-founded in 1992.  

Poet’s Note

“Why Publish?” was inspired by a thought that probably occurs to all writers at some point in their lives. The desire to write is understandable, at least to those of us who do it. But why do we want to send our printed words—our solitary thoughts—out among strangers? Why does it matter to us whether others, even people we will never meet or hear from, encounter those thoughts? This sonnet is the closest I’ve ever come to an answer. Maybe what I want is to speak to the future, as the writing of others speaks to me out of the past. Maybe I’m trying to believe in the unity of human beings across both space and time, and the ability of language to count on that unity, in order to escape from the solitude of life under my one skin, my one set of circumstances.

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  • Jacqueline Lapidus August 8, 2016 at 3:02 pm

    Would you believe, I feel just the inverse about my poems: If nobody else sees them, why bother writing them? I don’t know why I feel the urge to write poems, it’s just hard-wired in me, but I have never written “for the drawer.” The work comes from beyond me and must be sent out to the world beyond me, even though I may never know whom, if anyone, it has touched.

    Reply
  • Jacqueline Lapidus August 8, 2016 at 3:02 pm

    Would you believe, I feel just the inverse about my poems: If nobody else sees them, why bother writing them? I don’t know why I feel the urge to write poems, it’s just hard-wired in me, but I have never written “for the drawer.” The work comes from beyond me and must be sent out to the world beyond me, even though I may never know whom, if anyone, it has touched.

    Reply