Lydia Johnson is a poet and writer from Gary, Indiana. She is a graduate of the Master in Fine Arts in Creative Writing program at Butler University. She has been published in BLACKBERRY: a magazine, Glamour magazine and the book, Women in Clothes.
Lydia Johnson talks about detail and anaphora in “Timekeeper.”
By Lydia Johnson
My grandmother forgot pantyhose.
She forgot her birthday—February 16th, 1927.
She forgot lace handkerchiefs in the creases of deep armchairs.
She forgot The Lord’s Prayer.
She forgot a hymn and started over again, humming in the wrong key.
She forgot how to walk.
She forgot the stack of twenties she’d sewn into the bottom of the thick curtains at the living room window.
She forgot the lights of Chicago.
She forgot how to paint on stretched canvas, thick glops of acrylic on a plastic palette.
She forgot her children’s names: Roderick, Clifford, Lawrence, Rosalind and one more.
She forgot the round faces of her grandchildren.
She forgot the spring of 1947, the lulling pace of Covington, TN; the bite of Buffalo, NY in ’83.
She forgot that she once ate the tough meat of chicken feet.
She forgot peonies and lilies, of sounding out chrysanthemum with her mouth.
She forgot the courthouse wedding, her young man’s shaking hand as he slid the ring on her finger.
She forgot to breathe.
[Originally published in BLACKBERRY: a magazine, Time Issue, Vol. II, Issue I]
Writing Prompt: Using Lydia Johnson’s “Timekeeper” and Elizabeth Bishop’s “One Art” as models, create a poem that uses lists (or a list as its whole structure). You might begin with a brainstorm, thinking about things forgotten, or you might think about things that remind you of a place you don’t know as well any more or a person you’ve lost touch with–you decide.
Definition of Terms
Anaphora is the repetition of words and phrases.
A villanelle is a fixed form (or a form that has a recipe and has been used by/developed by other poets) that has a long history and is known for its repetition of lines. A famous villanelle you might know is Dylan Thomas’ “Do Not Go Gentle into that Good Night.” You can click here to learn more about the form and its recipe.