The Poet's Perspective: 'The Reasons' considers past innocence

April 25, 2011

Robin Becker, the 2010-11 Penn State laureate and professor of English and women's studies at the University, is sharing several of her poems via video during the 2010-11 academic year, aiming to engage people "in the deep pleasures of poetry -- language crafted and shaped from words, the 'ordinary' material we all use every day," to explore how and why poems move us.

"The Poet's Perspective" is a weekly poetry video series scheduled to appear during the fall 2010 and spring 2011 semesters on Penn State Live and in Penn State Newswires. Prior to each poem, Becker offers her thoughts about what inspired her to write the piece, then poses a question to consider. Below and in the video link of the final installment of Becker's laureate posts and videos, "The Reasons" explores a place from the speaker's past and considers the innocence of her former self.

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Just short of a 14-line sonnet, this brief lyric explores the speaker's return to a beloved place from her past. After the list of cherished scents and sights and textures, the speaker asks a question on which the poem turns. Finally, we learn that poem concerns betrayal, that crucial ingredient of adulthood.

Question to consider: In the movement from innocence to experience, we shed and acquire aspects of ourselves. What beliefs, perspectives or positions have you lost and gained in this process?

The Reasons

I came for the impassive face of Taos
Mountain, its stoic calm, green veins, rock thrusts.

To walk beneath the giant cottonwoods
of Burch Street, an arching, trembling canopy.

For the grazers, their eternity of grass.

To conjure, in the scent of sage,
the woman I was -- trusting as snow pack,
loyal as the hawk to her hungers.

What might she say to the one betrayed?

All resilience, she swings along
the trail, doesn’t see the algorithm
of fault lines in my face. I let her pass

into the good, long run she’ll have.

"The Reasons" originally appeared in Prairie Schooner, Fall 2009.

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To read or watch the videos of previous poems in "The Poet's Perspective" Penn State laureate series, click here. To listen to entries form an occasional podcast series where Becker and a small group of students and faculty discuss one of her poems, visit "Liberal Arts Voices."

  • To watch a video of Robin Becker reading 'The Reasons,' click on the image above.

    IMAGE: Penn State

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Last Updated May 05, 2011