Poetry Sunday: ‘Word Pond,’ by Susan Kolodny


Word Pond

Go back, past the curtain of details, the wall
of chores, the grimy surfaces that obscure.
Go around the corners, under the broken fence,
crawl if you have to over moss, snail
slime, climb up the uneven hills
and down the dips through the snarl of vines
to the word pond  with its scummy surface, frogs,
pond you found when you were seven,
and you slipped on mossy stones
and fell, breaking your birthday watch,
its yellow crystal, its bent and loosened black
Roman numerals, stopping time.
Pond you have had each time to refind,
kneel beside, brace yourself against
falling into, and reach into–fingers, wrist,
arm, shoulder—down, and down.


Susan Kolodny book cover_after the firestorm_12-12-15

First published in HazMat Review. From After the Firestorm (Mayapple Press 2011) and published with permission of Mayapple Press, mayapplepress.com.

Susan Kolodny’s work appears in New England Review, Beloit Poetry Journal, Bellingham Review, and in other journals and several anthologies. She has been featured on American Life in Poetry and Poetry Daily. Her first collection, After the Firestorm, was published in 2011 by Mayapple Press and can be ordered at mayapplepress.com. Kolodny is a psychoanalyst practicing in Oakland and the author of The Captive Muse: On Creativity and Its Inhibition (PsycoSocial Press 2000). susankolodny.com


Poet’s Notes

My Work on Creativity

Several years ago, wanting to understand my own difficulties with writing and having worked as a therapist with a number of artists and writers, I set out to determine what makes writing and other creative work often so difficult and what makes it possible. I was particularly interested in the nature of the anxieties that inevitably accompany and may derail such work and why some people, despite those anxieties, are able to proceed. I knew from my clinical experience and training as a psychoanalytically oriented psychologist that there is more here than a question of talent. I knew, too, that despite some people’s beliefs, creativity is not a result of or inextricably linked to psychopathology, but rather can be hindered or destroyed by it. These explorations resulted in my book, The Captive Muse: On Creativity and Its Inhibition (PsychoSocial Press 2000).

The Captive Muse and “Word Pond”

My work on creativity was possibly an influence on the writing of my poem, “Word Pond.” Other sources seem more compelling though. Long before The Captive Muse, I had given a writing teacher what turned out to be a bad poem except for a detailed description in it of a specific though not consciously remembered watch. She said, “That watch wants a poem of its own.” I put the poem aside for several years. In time, through writing and psychoanalysis, I came to recognize how powerfully water represents the unconscious and that water creatures—some beautiful, some terrifying—for me stand for its contents. I discovered, in part through dream analysis, that for me there are specific bodies of water, including a childhood pond, that are charged with meanings about discovering what lives hidden beneath the surface. I was able finally to give that watch—it turned out to be a previously forgotten gift for my seventh birthday—a poem of its own. I didn’t realize exactly the connection the pond and the watch had to writing, though, until I happened on the title in revising.

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  • marianne sippel September 25, 2016 at 2:25 pm

    Just beautiful. I completely understand it. Thank you.

    Another Poet.