By: William Aarnes
All of a sudden is a roundabout way of telling ourselves we want a more sudden word than suddenly. But, if unexpectedly and in the blink of an eye and even without warning hold the sentence back then all at once, in a flash, tout à coup, and just like that introduce a sentence with no more dispatch than suddenly, than soudainement. We still lack a transition so abrupt that–poof–the sentence shows up sentences too soon like the comeuppance of rolling down the corridor toward the readied room where the decisive surgeon, whose name you didn’t catch, will make his incisions.
William Aarnes has published two collections with Ninety-Six Press—Learning to Dance (1991) and Predicaments (2001)—and a third collection, Do in Dour, from Aldrich Press (2016). His work has appeared in such magazines as Poetry, FIELD, and Red Savina Review. “Suddenly” is one of a series of poems that I have been writing for about twenty-five years, poems that I think of as entries in a wordbook. These poems come out of a blend of impulses: the kind of attention one might find in a usage handbook, a focus on how the meanings of words shift (the kind of thinking that informs Raymond Williams’ Keywords), and, if I am lucky enough to have the inspiration, a bit of narrative that suggests how a word plays into a person’s life. “Suddenly” started long ago as an entry that focused on usage (a wish for a quicker word) but my undergoing bypass surgery helped me move the poem from commentary to urgency.