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Featured Guest Poet
Gaetana Cannavo


Spring finds you at it again.
On unprotected knees,
one hand with spade,
tomato seedling in the other,
your wide brimmed hat
shielding your thinner head of hair,
you arch your shoulders,
still strong and broad,
over newly turned topsoil and loam.
Today the sun's nowhere in sight.
There's drizzling rain in fits and starts.
"Good day to put the babies in", you say,
those sprouted heirloom seeds
of Brandywine and Early Girl
that have since March
displaced my amaryllis and hibiscus
from our dinette's sunny window sill.
Last night, eager to plant the packs outdoors
you hoped I'd help with that today.
"Soil's not my thing," I said,
somewhat contentious,
"I'd rather write or read."
Your indulgent silence kindled guilt.
I might have yielded.
But now, not for a world of guilt appeased,
would I deprive my eye and soul
this sight of you out there,
nor I not feel as I do now
how sweet and fleeting
the life that holds us.

April, 2001

Gaetana Cannavo's Questions:

Is the poem sentimenal, maudlin, mawkish (I tried to avoid that) rather than reflective and ironic?

Is the title fitting? Any other suggestions?

Early Girl and Brandywine are names of heriloom tomatoes not available commericially. I wanted to use them not only because it is factually correct but also because the names add texture. Are they confusing? Is it clear what the names refer to?i

The word, contentious, was problematic. (I use it adjectivally to describe her attitude at that moment rather than adverbially to qualify the verb said. Does it convey the attitude of her response? Would haughty or scornful work better? Any others?


I jumped at the tittle I have a poem that has the same one, but then I read and yes it is a different moment you are wirting about. I read through your verses several times to be able to comment on it and do it justice.The names of tomatoes as you explained are not a source of confusion because one would think they ought to be plants. Definitely I would have not known they were tomatoes but flowers. Contentious is fine because this describes the attitude of a person who does not want to helpwould rather read. I stumbled twice though. 1. thinner head of hair. I think it would read better had it been an thinning head of hair 2.nor I not feel as I do now I have to read slowly here to myself to figure out the meaning, I keep on expecting an (is) at the end of the last verse. So the last 3 verses as beautiful in meaning as they are make me read slowly to figure it out. You have beautifully framed a fleeting moment between two people who have learned to share life on their own terms. I like your peom. Inaya
Inaya Nasser
Lebanon - Wed Apr 25 10:59:30 2001

Not being a married individual myself, it's difficult for me to read some of the literature or poetry out there that is aimed for more experienced people. And yet your poem works very well, nonetheless. I think my fairy-tale age makes my comprehension of your poem all the more pleasing, because I have no knowledge of how to compromise with a spouse. It's a very insighful expression. While reading Inaya's comments, perhaps in the last line if you were to write," sweet and fleeting IS the life that holds us," it might be more grammatically satisfying. As to the "thinner head of hair," perhaps it could be better clarified. I pictured some wonderful gardener who looked like his head was a little lop-sided from zesty weed-pulling. Very lovely. I enjoyed it.
USA - Mon Apr 30 15:36:44 2001
Your poem is very well done in the craft sense though I agree that thinning would be better than thinner. I do not agree with the second correction. Having said that I would like to say that you show a moral lapse in your poem. The scene is touching to be sure and quite vividly done but you imply that the speaker of the poem is now enjoying a very wonderful reward that (she? he?) got by refusing in the first place a humble request for help. I don't quite see the justification for the poem, there fore. She actually says she would prefer it just the way it is now! Am I being unduly judgmental?
Andrea Galbans
USA - Sat May 5 12:13:50 2001
I find your poem to be very expressive but not very clear in certain respects. what is the gender of the two? This is important because if he denies her it is worse than if she denies him. I think the idea of a woman on her knees and the man looking down her is a kind of put down, don't you think? It's like a metaphor for begging to be accpeted.If HE is on his knees then it seems better becuase it reflects a vulnerability in the male whoich is indeed touching and could go far in winning over a woman's heart. I am neither a macho nor a feminist so please do not attach any socio-political statements to my comment. therefore I need not state whether I am male or female. The comment stands on its own.
Senzore Atteca
USA - Sat May 5 12:24:55 2001
I like "thinner head of hair" because it conveys the passage of time and the aging process since last year's planting.
Joyce Conner
USA - Thu May 10 15:10:33 2001
Dear Fellow Readers I appreciate all your responses here and by mail. I have received so many comments and that is always rewarding because people are responding to you negatively or positively- no matter. The fact is that you are not being ignored. And I do agree with the change to thinning. The first time it was suggested it seemed right and now that Joyce has put it that way, yes, it is absolutely what I wanted to say. The poem is based on an actual experience. Every time we deny a loved one a request we risk something. In this case the speaker is not only denying but implying that her interests are of a higher order that digging in the soil. The sight of him next day produces an unespected result. There is the loving sight of him bent at his task and also the exquisite pain of remorse. It is a very tender moment and quickly she weighs the two responses and finds she wants the one that rewards her with the love the sight engenders in her. Many of you have written to say that her denial results in reward. True, in a way. But she also realizes howmuch she really loves him. Her heart goes out to her. In that she realizes her love and he is the beneficiary of it for surely she will act on that feeling. It's a complex response as all love is comples - part selfich and part altruistic; part kind and part druel in its demands. The complesity of the poem had not dawned on me until I received all your responses. Thank you one and all. Gaetana Cannavo P.S. I also want to thank the APW for being there. It is a wonderful medium for those of us who write or read poetry, to exchange and grow.
Gaetana Cannavo
USA - Fri May 11 15:46:14 2001
I am in a serious relationship and there are many times I have denied my other something. I don't think this is about denial. I think the speaker is very self absorbed, maube a writer or poet. I find the poem pretentious in its ego centrism and I certainly would not want to be loved by the speaker. Myabe I'm looking at the poem in a non-critique way. Maybe a poet would analyze the poetry of it.I'm looking at the poem and trying to understand what kind of person the speaker is. In all likelihood its the same person as the poet. If so he/she got an extra reward out of all this -- a poem! If not then the speaker of the poem got the reward the poet intended and that amounts to the same thing.
Greta Eichan
USA - Sat May 12 20:14:31 2001
I absolutely love this poem -- it is one of the best you have written. Tha fact that I am your daughter may have something to do with why it brought tears to my eyes, but I think it has universal appeal. Some have said here that it is morally flawed, but that is nonsense. The poem describes a very complex emotional experience, which you very aptly describe in your response above.and which, again, I believe many could relate to. The comment I found interesting was the one about identifying gender. It occurred to me that of course I know the gender of both parties, but if I didn't I wonder how the poem would strike me if I thought the gardener was the woman-- it actually might have a very different effect. So, perhaps some identification of the gardener as male would be useful in preserving the very moving imagery in the poem. The only other thing I would change is the line near the end which begins with "nor" -- I dont have the poem in front of me so I cant quote it directly. I understand the meaning but the construction is a bit unclear and I found myself reading it several times for clarification. I also agree with the "thinner head" comments. Otherwise, I wouldn't touch a hair on this poem's head -- its a gem.
Francesca Antognini
USA - Sat May 19 04:10:43 2001

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