Catherine Garbinsky On Craft

Poetry can be a subtle animal; even those poems written in free verse contain elements of craft if we examine them closely. Today, Catherine Garbinsky shares a new poem with us, and reflects on how her understanding of craft shaped this particular work

Photo by Teddy Kelley on Unsplash


We made our way through the silence of the sky. No signposts,
only small suggestions of a path that once was:
my mother’s whisper, lilac shadows, a map made of stardust.
I was not worried. We were not lost.
Our footprints left cavernous pits in the clouds.
I could live here, you sighed. But we could not stay.
We lifted our pants up above our ankles, trudging through storms,
thighs rubbing together like thunder.
We had traveled thousands of miles together. 
Tired legs, tired arms embraced.
A thin golden lining traced the edge
of the horizon like a lover tickling the small of her back.

Catherine says:

I chose this poem because it started out as part of a writing game I was playing with my mother. There’s something very special about being able to play games with your mother as an adult. Most of the poems I wrote that day were really silly, laugh-until-you-cry poems that I wouldn’t publish, but this one held me somehow. It fills me with a sense of peace, though a bit meandering and strange. I’ve revised it a number of times, but the bones of the poem remain intact. 

One thing that has changed multiple times in this poem, one of the things I love switching up, is where the lines break. I’ve been told in the past that my line breaks seem a bit random, but really they are very intentional. In this poem I really wanted the lines to vary in length, to weave in and out the way that the poem does. Each shorter line mimics how “our footprints left cavernous pits in the clouds.” It is a small thing, but I think these details do affect our experience as readers. There are so many small changes that a poet can make to a poem that impact the way that it is read!