Name: Ross Peter Nelson
Hometown: Northern Montanifornia
Current City: Helena, MT
Age: Slouching towards geezerdom
What does poetry mean to you?
Poetry is the girl you watch shyly from the sidelines, wondering if she'd like you. And when (or if) you finally get up the nerve to talk to her, you don't understand her at all. Rinse, repeat. Then, after dozens of confusing encounters, there is clarity, a spark. To me, poetry is a distilled essence of a mood, situation, and poet, and it's so personal and idiosyncratic that unless we match at a nearly genetic level, the connection doesn't happen.
I love Mary Oliver's "Little Owl Who Lives in the Orchard."
Why do you like the poem?
I love the contrasts: it's dark; it's whimsical; it speaks of valentines; it speaks of death. It's imagery evokes so much. Her "festal mouse" conjures up an almost Arthurian gala, and the "aluminum ladder of his scream" is both aural and visceral. Her little owl is both darling and dread. It's a portrait no painter or photographer could ever match.
Mary Oliver is attuned to nature in a way that inspires awe. Her visions are clear-sighted; when she celebrates new life in the spring, she doesn't spare the observation of the whitened bones that didn't survive winter.
There is one bit of poetic advice that I try to hold to in my own writing and that is Emily Dickinson's "tell the all truth, but tell it slant," and I love writers whose own "slant" lets me see things anew.
Ross Peter Nelson self-identifies as a playwright but enjoys cross-genre experiences as well. His plays have been produced on three continents, and his drama, fiction, photography, and political essays have been published in magazines, anthologies, and appear online. His dark internet surveillance comedy Becoming Number Six premiered last fall in New Orleans, and he will spend October 2017 as playwright-in-residence at Can Serrat, Spain.