In our rhetoric- and form-deprived age, it’s a treat to encounter a poet who knows her way around a rhyme. Enter Catherine Tufariello, director of a reading program at Valparaiso University’s Center for Civic Reflection, who’s game for just about any rhyming form. She loves to play with line length, as in the reinvented ballad stanzas below, using the shorter lines with the virtuosity of a storyteller or stand-up comic: to make room in the narrative for irony and wit.
This year’s Valentine’s Day selection on No More Corn tells the tale of lovers who want to “be stalked by a mountain lion.” What happens next? Dear reader, rip the cellophane off that heart-shaped box of chocolates, and with or without a sweetheart of your own, see for yourself what Tufariello has in store.
On Not Being Stalked by a Mountain Lion BE STALKED BY A MOUNTAIN LION! said the brochure. But we weren’t stalked, Although for a lazy hour along the path We strolled and talked-- Totally helpless, as you pointed out, Pitifully clueless, meant for lion-prey (Apart from the fence and the ditch too broad to leap Even for mountain lions). You scanned the sway And shadow play of branches for a glimpse Of that quicksilver shape-- O the rising unease, the chills, the chase, the last- Minute, hairsbreadth escape! “He’s probably sleeping,” the gate attendant shrugged When you complained No icy green-gold gaze had pricked our necks. Later it rained, And we drove back and chased each other into bed And slept an hour or two. There was nothing boring about not being stalked By a mountain lion with you. This poem originally appeared in Able Muse Review.
Catherine Tufariello’s first full-length collection of poems, Keeping My Name (Texas Tech UP, 2004), was a Booklist Editor’s Choice selection for 2004, a finalist for the 2005 Los Angeles Times Book Prize in Poetry, and the winner of the 2006 Poets’ Prize. Her poems and translations from Italian have appeared in such journals and anthologies as Poetry, The Hudson Review, The New Penguin Book of Love Poetry, Western Wind, Contemporary American Poetry, and The POETRY Anthology: 1912-2002. In a statement of poetics on poetrynet.org, Tufariello says, “I find the objective, ‘impersonal’ quality of form especially valuable because my subject matter is often deeply personal. I’ve never aspired to be a confessional poet, and form (I hope!) gives me the necessary aesthetic distance to avoid that.”