The following Poetry Corner feature was originally published in the Independent Tribune in September 2010.
Negating Natural Erasers
I walk the rocky road after midnight,
moon overhead, feel dew descend,
land on dusty weeds at the road’s
edge. The soft wind will strive to
negate my walk, blow my scent away.
I will write my name in dark sand
near the ocean, hum a tune that can’t
be heard over the breakers. They will
wash away all evidence that I walked
here. Can I prove them wrong —
from now on — by writing love songs?
-- by Helen Losse
Helen Losse has a window to the world. And she’s not afraid to use it.
Losse, a poet and editor, writes a blog called “Windows Toward the World” -- in reference to the place where many of her poems originate. “The view from the window gives me a place to start,” Losse explains. “I can go anywhere from my back yard.”
Losse has composed hundreds of poems over the years. She is the author of a book of poems entitled Better With Friends (Rank Stranger Press, 2009) and two chapbooks, Gathering the Broken Pieces and Paper Snowflakes. She is poetry editor of Dead Mule, an online journal of southern literature.
“Much of the imagery in my poems can be seen out my window,” she explains, taking some poetic liberties with the actual contents of her yard. “Trees, deer, wind, grass, rivers, the ocean, the cabin our family had in Oklahoma when I was a child, the ocean, the Mulberry Tree at the back of our yard when I was a child -- all appear in multiple poems. The mountains and the coast of North Carolina provide rich settings that appear over and over.”
Losse traces her interest in poetry back to her earliest memories of childhood. “I was exposed to poetry as a child without being told it was poetry,” Losse says. “My mother read and quoted nursery rhymes and songs, and sometimes she read poems she had known from her childhood—poems her mother had read to her. I had no idea I was listening to poetry. I just liked listening to my mother recite and sing.”
These days, Losse still appreciates the music of poetry. “Poetry can present useful and powerful ways to look at life,” she says. “Important ideas (and ideals)—such as love and hope—can be expressed through images and in the musical element of human language.”
This combination of music and imagery is what – Losse believes – makes poetry so special. “Imagery and musicality are exaggerated in poetry,” she explains. “These images and music can change the world. Because images are not judgmental, they allow readers to bring their own experience to the poem in an honest way.”
Losse’s poem, “Negating Natural Erasers” was inspired by her memories of evening walks she took with her mother, father, and older son Troy the year she was pregnant with her younger son. “My husband had left Troy and me in Missouri to spend about six weeks with my parents,” Losse recalls. “While there, we often spent part of the week at my parents’ trailer on The Grand Lake of the Cherokees near Grove, Oklahoma. The trailer was in a quiet, rural retirement village, where many of the residents walked in the cool evenings. The ‘rocky road’ and the ‘dusty weeds’ were located there. The ocean scene was an extension of the lake scene—connected by the presence of water.”
Like other poets and writers, Losse is inspired by the mystique of the sea. “I love the ocean because its vastness puts life in perspective,” she explains. “The tide and the wind wash away much that “proves” we were here -- and thinking about something that big and powerful opens me up for large questions.”
“Negating Natural Erasers” addresses some of these large questions. “I can make my mark on the landscape, but will it remain?,” Losse asks. “Is making and leaving a mark on humanity more important than the one we make on nature? Can I change the world so that it is a better place when I leave it than when I came? How? Is it ‘by writing love songs?’”
In this case, Losse points out that “love songs” are more than the catchy tunes we hear on the radio. “I meant ‘love songs’ in the broadest way one can imagine,” she says. “An ode to the ocean is a love song, for example.”
When she’s not writing her own poetry, Losse is busy reading and editing the work of others. As poetry editor of Dead Mule, Losse appreciates the place poetry holds in this region of the country. “The poetry scene is North Carolina is vibrant,” she explains. “The more poets I meet, the more I feel I am a part of something large and diverse -- something that matters.”
Poetry matters, Losse believes, because of the unique perspective of those who write it. “Poets—in their search for truth—can say things no one else can, because poets are not bound to a particular set of doctrines or world views,” Losse says. “Poets can bring truth and, therefore, social change to the world in ways no preacher, columnist, historian, or teacher can. Poets challenge the status quo.”
As a poet, Losse wants to do her part. “I want to share the hope that is in me through my poetry,” she says. “I want to explore and discover ‘truth’. I want to allow others to think with me and to come to see that the truth matters so much more than the facts.”
From her window, Helen Losse sees a variety of images and possibilities. She also sees an opportunity to make a difference in our lives. “I want to share the hope that it is possible for us to be human together and live in peace. I write to make the world better.”
• Read Helen Losse’s blog, “Windows Toward the World”
• Read a variety of southern fiction and poetry at Dead Mule
Bill Diskin is director of admission and financial aid at Cannon School in Concord. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.