November 2022
Dee Cohen on Poetry
Dee Cohen

June Powers

Poetry: Hold on and don’t let go.

For Phoenix poet June Powers, writing poetry is about remaining receptive. “In a poem, your innermost thoughts can wander the page, can teach, can draw images with words. I see poetry as a very strong connecting force between what we see, what we think is expected of us, and what we really feel.”

June believes it is essential to follow what a poem is trying to communicate. “The most important thing for me is to let the words come through without force. Then go back and adjust, revise, tweak, to make sure the words hang together and make sense. The poem will tell you if it is finished or needs more. It took a while to learn this. I used to pick a subject and go after it. Now, I still pick a subject or phrase to start, and then wait for the words to come.”

June experiments with varied poetic techniques and styles. “Writing becomes an exercise in stretching — stretching in different directions, stretching to limits I didn't know existed.” She often writes narrative poems, which integrate elements of storytelling. She also writes dialog poems that incorporate contrasting voices. She credits the work of other writers with influencing and expanding her work. “I make a point of reading short stories and poetry from all over the world. This assists me with a global perspective, cultural information, and new writing styles.” Her favorite poets include Nikki Giovanni, Rita Dove, Victoria Chang, Billy Collins, Camille T. Dungy and Joy Harjo. “These are poets who give us a new way to view the world, who help move us toward constructive anger, who give us laughter and peaceful tears in the same breath and the time to unravel them. Gorgeous writing by other poets and authors continually lifts me.”

Besides exploring diverse methods, June has wide-ranging inspirations. “I am greatly influenced by art and the beauty of ordinary things. Photography, film, dance, and a beautiful day all help me construct a poem. I am drawn to the intersection of what we do to the environment, what we do socially, and mental-emotional health. I write about relationships from all angles, and I enjoy presenting global perspectives to bring us closer.”

June’s written three chapbooks: CHILD/poems of consciousness, SOUTH/poems of passing through, and HEART/poems of love. She approached each book with a distinct topic in mind: CHILD covers issues of social awareness; SOUTH concentrates on history and family; HEART celebrates romance and love. She found that the books overlapped and influenced one another. “This was an exploration, a series of paths to follow, and the words and emotions they brought were in charge of the process.”

Ultimately for June, poems are means of finding common ground with others. “I want to accomplish connection. I want to share possibility. I want a shakeup, an unexpected moment where the reader or audience says or feels, “Aah, yes, that’s it!” Poetry is about bringing images and emotions to life, be it love, anger, history, abuse or a long walk in a gentle breeze. They all have a place in the narrative, waiting to be shared.”

In discussing the following poem, June describes “a loving point of view and a feeling of lightness that goes beyond sharing, into the realm of becoming.” She captures a beautiful moment where people in love “become part of one another.”

She encourages readers to “consider a poem as you would a walk in a beautiful garden or the new section of a city that will soon become your favorite. Let the poems embrace and capture you. Hold on and don’t let go.”

To contact June:

A Part of You

If I stand next to you

will I become as beautiful as a summer storm

that can’t determine the color it should be the

force, it should have or not have and so continues

for days

at a back-and-forth pace

until the sun taps in as reminder to stop now

just stop. It’s enough to see clearly the pink haze,

the horizon in between the buildings — skyscrapers

and houses holding the laundry trying to dry

for the umpteenth

time we forgot — we forgot to take it in and so left it

waving the same

way I see your hand when you reluctantly board the train.

I cry for not seeing you.

I am not going to see you for days which will seem

like “neverness” that long

until I can stand next to you

and breathe again the freshness of your smile again

and grow more beautiful again —

as a part of you.

Dee Cohen is a Prescott poet and photographer.