Guest Note

Marvyne Jenoff ~ On Poetry

Decades ago I was asked for my definition of poetry. What I came up with, and I stand by it to this day, is that poetry consists of music and implication. “Music” because the sounds are very important to me: rhythm, assonance, even how the words feel in my mouth as I say them to myself. “Implication” because I feel that any line or image or format should imply more than its literal meaning. The art is what draws the reader in, giving the pleasure of simultaneously knowing both the literal and undercurrent meaning(s), like harmony in musical compositions.

I like to think my readers take the kind of pleasure in reading my poetry that I take in writing it. How delightful to come up with le mot juste. Notice I didn’t say “find”, since it is not usually a matter of searching (I do occasionally look online for synonyms). When I am in poetry-writing mode, ideas come and sometimes leave me breathless—with words to use unconventionally, and with leaps of meaning, the logical and illogical at the same time. I welcome these and chuckle over the aptness, even if the subject of the poem may not be pleasant in itself.

The subject of a poem, what it’s about, is only one part of its content. The same subject could also be dealt with in different kinds of writing. And is the poem really “about” something or, as art, is it something that exists for its own sake, inspired by or constructed around the subject? I think so. To use a visual example: a painting of a flower may have started with the sight of the flower, but it is not just the flower, it’s how the artist’s vision interprets it and what the artist implies about it and around it in art.


Marvyne Jenoff is the author of five books published by Canadian literary presses. The most recent is her poetry collection Climbing the Rain (Silver Bow Publishing, New Westminster, BC, 2022), which was reviewed on Poetry Notes and is archived on its website. Marvyne’s conversation/interview/reading on March 14, 2023, hosted by Valentino Assenza on HOWL – CIUT 89.5FM, can be heard through a link on her website


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