William Stafford and Marvin Bell, Segues (Godine, 1983)
[originally posted 19Jul2001]
Marvin Bell and the late William Stafford, two of America’s old guard of prizewinning poets, came up with an idea during a (boring, we infer) writer’s conference to correspond in poems, using the last-received poem as the genesis of ideas for the present poem. It’s something poets do quite often, but without the kind of structure and formality they were setting out. The result, after two years of correspondence, was the book Segues.
It’s a neat little package, and you can pick it up assuming that what’s inside is going to be good writing; both poets have a solid track record of excellent work. But what’s most interesting here is a chance to look at the way poems come to form, to look at an image Bell puts in as an aside that becomes the basis of a Stafford poem, and the tangents that poem sends Bell off on, etc. The fact that the poetry is quite good seems to be something of a sidelight, given that. ***