August 2022
Dee Cohen on Poetry
Dee Cohen

Cynthia Loucks

Poetry: When nothing else will quite do

Prescott resident Cynthia Loucks is a great appreciator of poetry. “I love to study poetry, and I love the craft.” She admires the “economy of poetry, the ability to say more with fewer words,” which makes it uniquely challenging. “It is about cutting out what is unnecessary, but without losing the music and beauty. That process of thinking about every word, what to add and what to take away, is one of the things I truly enjoy about writing. I want to write poems that are well crafted and succeed in communicating something that moves me. I especially like when I can make someone laugh at the same time.”

Cynthia Loucks

She is surrounded by inspiration for her poems. “I am continually engaged with the natural world and with my own inner process. I write poems on a wide array of subjects, from personal and interpersonal to global, nature to science, politics to spiritual, and sometimes much of that mixed together.” And she is often moved by reading the work of other poets, which she sometimes does aloud. “There is a great sensuality in the way some poems enter my ears as sound, and thrill my tongue as I pronounce the words. Combining that with content that means something to me is a fullness beyond what either captures alone.”

Cynthia feels poetry in one form or another has been a constant thread in her life. She can trace its roots back to her childhood, when her mother recited poems to her. As a young adult she was captivated by the rock poets of the 1960s and ‘70s. Later, as a practitioner of Buddhist Vipassana meditation, she studied the poetry of Rumi and other sacred poets. Many contemporary poets influence her work, especially Mary Oliver and Billy Collins. To improve her skills, she has taken poetry classes at Yavapai College and joined local critique groups. “I feel that studying poetry enables me to gradually learn to craft poems more effectively and more beautifully. It is, after all, about beauty, isn’t it?” She was also a member of the MAD Women Poets, where she publicly performed many of her poems. “We had great audiences, and it was a wonderful experience to be able to share my poems.”

She feels that poetry is a means for sharing insight. “As someone with a lifelong habit of exploring my own psyche and that of others, I find perceptions are often most effectively expressed poetically.” She trained as a therapist and worked for years as a bereavement coordinator for a local hospice. She found that poetry “could be effective in making an emotional connection for people experiencing grief, expressing something they may not be able to find words for. In the most difficult times for people, a poem can express what is needed.”

For Cynthia, “poems are a way of saying things when nothing else will quite do. I encounter things that astonish me all the time, everywhere — in nature, in my reading, on the news. While what astonishes and amazes invokes wonder, I also often encounter horrifying things. The sorrow is as great as the wonder. These are not things that necessarily need to be analyzed or even described, as one would with prose. They want to be sung! So what enters me via my senses and amazes me comes out as poetry.”

Cynthia’s lived in Prescott for 20 years. In her leisure time, she enjoys “hiking and playing with my dog, along with writing poetry, drawing and painting, just being here on my little piece of Earth.” When it comes to writing she is able to create “pretty much anywhere, anytime. When I find the words jamming up in my mind, I try to quickly find some way to write them down before they slip away.” After the initial burst of inspiration “comes the work — the work I absolutely love — of shaping, refining, revising. Writing a poem can be like sculpting — start out with a block of words, and removing everything that isn’t the poem.”

About the following poem, Cynthia says, “As someone who follows the news and chooses to witness what is happening in this world, my gratitude for living some place as peaceful and safe as Prescott is considerable and genuine. But at this point in time, I believe we all need to do a whole lot more than be grateful. If anything, that could be a path of complacency.” Cynthia captures the simple beauty of a summer morning coupled with the knowledge that it could easily be taken away.

Morning in Prescott

rosy brush stroke across the sky

the color of healthy cheeks

the color of dawn signaling

we’ve made it through another night

not such a tenuous prospect

in this small city in the mountains

if the minions of the latest unholy war

ever decided to savage it out here

— no, I’m not going there

it is enough to be grateful

that the sounds of this city waking up

don’t include rumbling tanks or mortar fire

strolling in cool morning air is especially sweet

knowing the temperature

slogging a load of humidity

will march into the nineties by afternoon

coyotes singing along

with the inevitable early morning siren

will soon be sleeping off the night

and the cottontail who can’t decide

whether to hop away or pretend to be a rock

will likely live another day

this is just the beginning of what I’m grateful for

but it’s a good place to start

Dee Cohen is a Prescott poet and photographer.