W. F. Lantry

Letter to Susan

W.F. Lantry, a native of San Diego, received his Licence and Maîtrise from the Université de Nice, M.A. in English from Boston University and Ph.D. in Literature and Creative Writing from the University of Houston. The recipient of the Paris/Atlantic Young Writers Award, and the CutBank Patricia Goedicke Prize in Poetry, his work has appeared in The Wallace Stevens Journal, Prairie Fire Magazine, protestpoets.org: Writing for Human Rights, Gulf Coast, The Hippocrates Prize 2010 Anthology and The 2010 Ellen LaForge Poetry Prize Annual. He currently works in Washington, DC.

ars poetica
Never make stuff up. Seriously: Never make stuff up. I don't care about the imagination. Look around, at the actual, and try to see clearly. There's plenty of meaning and mystery in what's at hand. Go outside and walk around. Do things. Tell me what happens. A good poem lets us live in the poet's mind for a few moments. It's not 'about' anything, except it's about being a human being, at one exact moment, in one particular place. That's the beauty and mystery of it. It should make us want to live there. That's what happened with "Letter to Susan." I looked outside, and wrote down exactly what I saw.

We walk around, most of the time, not seeing anything, our minds blank, or filled with constant chatter. And yet, every once in a while, we have a transformative experience. Something changes our lives. "I fell in love with her at 1:52 pm. It was a Friday." What did you see at exactly that moment? What did you literally feel? Can I become you for just those two minutes?

Let's forget theory for a moment, and be painfully honest: through her, I have had an experience of something beyond time and space, something infinite and eternal. It changed everything I knew. Now, every poem I write is an attempt to do for the reader what she has done for me. My only goal since then is to write a poem which gives the reader a place to dwell, where the reader may have that same experience. I don't blame people for not believing me. I wouldn't have believed it myself. But I'll keep trying. Remember: I don't make stuff up.