Austin Hart on “The Persistence of Memory”

“The Persistence of Memory” found life, as all my writing does, through a kind of erosion. My poetry, however, is often constructed through ideas and feelings as I see them occur day-to-day in the lives of others, or as I see them through myself; struck by images and emotion, I (like so many) desperately search for the right words. I’m intensely attracted to sound and rhythm in language, music, and other forms of art— indeed, Rilke said that [even] “architecture is frozen music.” I often find myself using poetry in trying to figure out the world through relationships of various kinds, the effort to be, questions of belonging, and the things we put in place of the things we lose.

This poem was inspired by Billy Collins and the way many of his poems move about the narrative space; I’ve always been fascinated by his playfulness in many of his pieces, and though he may not be a highly-respected academic poet, he is still a highly-respected poet, and his work is well-worth some exploration. What I tried to replicate with my piece is the grace and feeling of his “signature” narrative movement. As the reader moves through the piece, they start out with one image, but that is contradicted shortly after as the whole scene builds. It seems much like a jarred collection of water, be it a puddle, in a cup or tub, etc—the shimmering and turbulence of the surface disrupts a clear reflection, but with time and patience it slowly clears up.

I am not only a music fanatic—something I hope shows through my work more than any direct references to musical equipment or musicians—I am quite interested in Cognition (how the mind works). This interest helps me as a teacher in many ways, but I have seen it manifest in my creative work as well; in this particular piece of poetry, it
shows up as a questioning of not only how memory works, but also how music and memory are related. Oddly enough this piece was originally created in the form of a Sonnet, but the idea and feelings contained within the piece simply didn’t suit the form in any reasonable sense. This was my 6th or 7th draft, but I finally found (what I hope my
readers feel) a satisfactory approach.”

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