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Poetry on the Page - "Do you believe in magic?"

Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group

In today’s Poetry on the Page. Northern Illinois University professor Amy Newman and WNIJ’s Yvonne Boose explore how certain poetic elements could create magic.

Hi, Amy, how are you today?

Hi, Yvonne. What's going on?

Nothing much. Thank you so much for joining me for another episode of Poetry on the Page. Amy, what have you been reading?

Well, Yvonne, I have a little book I've been carrying around this week, I wanted to ask you, if you like magic?

I don't really get into much of magic based on the fact that my mom studies with Jehovah's Witnesses. So, growing up, I was never a Jehovah's Witness, but that was something she always talked against.

Right and magic tricks, right? Because it sounds like a trick. It's not a good thing. I get that. I actually do like magic tricks. But when I think about what the Jehovah's Witnesses say, it does make me think like, I know, I'm being fooled. And I really, I like tricks where magicians make things appear and disappear. But I know it's an illusion. And I know it's not real.

But then I when I think about it, that's sometimes why I appreciate poetry, which is kind of magical. Images that poetry might make you see something in your mind that wasn't there before. And I like Elizabeth Bishop's quote about poetry. She says, "When I, if I read a good poem, and the world looks like that poem for 24 hours afterwards, I know it's a good poem.” It makes me think that the poetry has an effect on us and transforms us. So, I guess that is a kind of a trick.

I like that. No, I can agree because even as a poet, I want to invoke something in people when I write or when they read or hear my words.

How’s your mom feel about that? I’m just kidding.

Well, I will never tell her that poetry can be magic, because then she may not want to hear my poetry anymore. So, we're not going to.

Yeah, don’t play this one for her. Because I think of poetry as incantatory. You know, the sound of it can really put a spell on you. And I think maybe one of all the techniques that poetry has the technique of metaphor, the technique of simile, those I think, are the most magical. Do you like metaphor?

I do. As a matter of fact, I received a poem today from one of my Poetically Yours contributors. Her name is Kellie Joy out of Utah. And in her poem, she wrote, “You are my fire,” And I thought that can mean so much. When I think about fire, and if she's talking about it in a romantic way, it's like, "you are my warmth. You are my passion. You are the thing that gets me up and going."

Yeah, that is a beautiful metaphor. My favorite that I think of is from Amy Gerstler’s poem, “Christine,” from her book, The True Bride. She writes about in high school when a boy touched her blouse. She says,

    like it was like a page he wanted
to turn

That's why I'm loving this little collection I wanted to talk about today. It's called Spellbound: Poems of Magic and Enchantment, and it's published by Knopf this year, in an Everyman's edition, which is a small edition, it's a pocket poets’ edition, which is such a cute size you can carry your magic everywhere.

And here's a poem by Amanda Auchter called “The Magician's Girl.”

The Magician’s Girl

This is what will be left of me
when I die: bones, slices of body, two parts

that will never reconcile. Halved in a box,
all spangles and boas, my fringed gold skirt.

Handfuls of dirt, glitter, a feather. I will
remember a saw in midair, light-struck,

how my legs spun from my arms, the round
of applause. The magician who tapped

the air, my rise from smoke. This is where
it will all end: stage and magic, canary flutter,

someone’s awful scream. Later, the mirror,
the dressing room, the cotton ball stained.

Graveside, even my skin is a prop —
the harlequin scarves

of my voice still trapped up his sleeve.

Well, thank you so much for joining me today, Amy. It's always a pleasure to talk to you about poetry.

Same here, Yvonne. Thanks for having me.

Magic extended version.mp3

Yvonne covers artistic, cultural, and spiritual expressions in the COVID-19 era. This could include how members of community cultural groups are finding creative and innovative ways to enrich their personal lives through these expressions individually and within the context of their larger communities. Boose is a recent graduate of the Illinois Media School and returns to journalism after a career in the corporate world.