Sharon Dolin uses a symbol to make her poem “new”

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Sharon Dolin‘s poem, “The Tip,” appears in our Winter 2010-11 issue, edited by Terrance Hayes. Read the opening lines here:

That he left is behind when he left.
That it has three teeth.
That it might be the horny snout-end of a defunct dragon.
That I remember him, early on, putting it in and turning it when it
broke off.

Dolin tells us how she used the symbol of a key as a way to make this poem (on a subject she acknowledges has been done before) her own.

My material doesn’t just choose me; it is thrust upon me, especially when it comes to matters of the heart. Thus, I have written a flurry of poems around the subject of the breakup of my marriage. But how to “make it new,” which I know is a very old idea: how to tell a story without writing only narrative poems?

Objects for me are omens and can hold a talismanic power. The subject of “The Tip” is initially the tip of a key, which of course evoked so many other kinds of tips that the poem seemed inevitable and practically wrote itself, once I decided on the catalogue form and not to use the word “key” in the poem, which would have robbed it of its mysterious power.