The Cortland Review


Yusef Komunyakaa
  An interview with Yusef Komunyakaa by David Lehman and a reading of some of his finest poems, all in RealAudio.

Chantelle Bentley
  Listening for the Whispers Above the Screams: The necessity of poetry in the age of technology.

Daniela Gioseffi
  From the Serious to the Silly: A review of three new anthologies of women's writing from the Stone Age to the Present Age.

Renee Bandazian
  Visions of Wheaties Boxes Danced in My Head: A report from the Poetry Olympics.

John Kinsella
  Next Door to the Racing Pigeon Clubhouse: The next chapter in John Kinsella's continuing autobiographical series.


Chantelle Bentley

Chantelle BentleyChantelle Bentley is the editor of the annual directory Poet’s Market and a frequent contributor to Writer’s Digest Books.

Chantelle Bentley


Listening for the Whispers Above the Screams:
The necessity of poetry in the age of technology

Yesterday morning I actually managed to sit down and stare out the window. I was rocking my 5-month-old son to sleep for his midmorning nap and as he slowly gave in to the weight of his eyelids, I watched the leaves ride the rain down the street. For the first time all week my breathing slowed, my muscles relaxed and my thoughts played piggy-back with the leaves.

In these high-paced, technological times, being able to stop and focus on one thing is as rare as finding a business card without an e-mail address. Time to ponder the day and contemplate tomorrow is not readily available when the telephone, television and computer are constantly waving their arms and screaming for your attention. And as we hurl toward the twenty-first century, that pace promises only to get faster and the scenery to get blurrier.

To curb the numbing effects of day-to-day life, include “write a poem” on your To Do List. I often feel the same calm when writing that I experienced while rocking my son. Poetry requires you to slow down, to look at the details, to listen to the little voices that can’t be heard above the din. When you sit down to write a poem, you must step outside the whirlwind and consider the shapes of things flying by as well as what’s brewing inside.

Poetry provides a safe way to express emotions. The sounds of words have healing power and the ability to release troubling thoughts. Poetry combines language, metaphor, rhythm and image into a method of self-expression. Even the anxiety of beginning a poem can be eliminated by drawing a box in the middle of the paper and limiting your writing to that space.

Writing poetry can also improve your health by restoring balance. The rhythm of poetry parallels the natural rhythm of the heart and lungs. Just twenty minutes a day of poetry writing can reduce stress levels and enhance your ability to cope with turmoil. Consider it a form of literary meditation.

Most of all, poetry reconnects us with who we are and engages us in a dialogue with each other. As people spend more time staring at a computer screen and less into the eyes of other human beings, we need to find a way to go beyond polite conversation. Because it is not subjugated to the almighty dollar, poetry can speak for all nations and races. We can tell our stories through poetry in a way that others can not only understand, but feel.

Poems can be the shelter or the soothing raindrops that carry us out the window and down the street.


� 2002 The Cortland Review