Maxine Chernoff is mostly known for her prose poems. A form which she compares to metaphysical poetry claiming it “may be a contemporary equivalent […] since in both cases metaphor can expand to become the central concept (conceit) of the writing.” The Poetry Foundation calls her innovative, decidedly post-modern poems “surreal, witty, and politically engaged.” A fact which won her the PIP Gertrude Stein Award for Innovative Poetry in 2006.
Chernoff has also written fiction, and her short story collection Signs of Devotion was a New York Times Notable Book in 1993. Her translations, with Paul Hoover, of the work of Friedrich Hölderlin won the PEN Center USA Translation Award.
Chernoff has authored more than a dozen collections of poetry. She is an editor of the journal New American Writing and a professor at San Francisco State University.
My below poem is inspired by Chernoff’s poem “Lost and Found” and uses the poems first sentence as a starting point for a reflection on the internet’s obsession with imagery.
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I am looking for the photo that would make all the difference in my life. It is at a certain height, at a certain angle. It catches the light in a certain way. It makes the scene. It stands out. It is me virtually. It shows where I am and where I am coming from. It displays how far I have made it up until now. It reveals my potential. It projects my path. This photo is my past and my presence. It lives my dreams. It reflects my soul. This photo holds meaning. It tells a story. It captures some profound truth. This photo sends a message. It shows a completely different side. It expresses the way I feel about you. It reveals my deepest secrets. This photo is a connection. It makes you think. It wants to challenge. This photo captures every little detail. It hides those embarrassing spots and blemishes. It erases scars. It cleans pores. It draws your attention to the beauty of the world. This photo gives you hope. It makes you laugh. It reminds you of love and sympathy. This photo makes you think about me differently. It says what I never dared to say to you. It wins you over. It makes me cool.