Full disclosure: maybe nine years ago, I had the pleasure of being scared shitless in Judy Jordan’s workshop when, unblinking, she told us—her students—that we had no business turning in a poem for workshop unless we’d spent twenty to forty hours on it.
I remember some of us exchanging cocky smiles as we attempted to conceal our panic. I’m sure we were all thinking more or less the same thing: What in the hell are we supposed to do in a poem that could take forty hours?
Well, Judy’s own poems illustrate in every line a lesson that I needed maybe half a decade to internalize. Yes, every once in a while, a good poem appears on the page with the speed and practiced ease of a caricature artist scribbling in a park. Usually, though, it takes more. A lot more. The kind of flinty, lyrical acrobatics and emotive spell-casting we see in Judy’s poems obviously takes time; more than that, though, it takes primal love and dedication that remind me of Michelangelo craning his neck at that chapel ceiling, mounting scaffolds he built himself, brushes clamped between his teeth.
A glance at Judy’s bio reveals that her background is as colorful and unique as her poetic style. Her poems are often pastoral but they are also boldly, nakedly personal and they are never, ever escapist; the social commentary here may not be as obvious as the lyrical beauty, but it’s there.
One last thing, then I’ll direct you to Judy’s poetry (which is the real reason you came here).
Being the history geek that I am, I went to a Colonial rendezvous a while back… ok, I went to two of them… and I spent a long time watching blacksmiths and flintknappers demonstrate their art to spectators who, despite having little or no prior knowledge about what they were witnessing, all walked away a little awed, shaking their heads. Like that, Judy’s poems stun the senses: furiously wrought, meticulously primal, and even at their darkest moments, joyful for the honor they do the English language.
In this Issue: