Plain American Language

I cut a sliver/of WC William's finger
and placed it inside/my philosophy...

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

waxing poetic, and some thoughts on the recent completed workshop

so i recently finished a couple-months-long workshop hosted by the poet in residence at gdubs. i went there with great expectations: finding a community of writers, enjoying the benefits of shared poetry (i.e., commenting on each other's stuff, offering serious praise and serious criticism and receiving some of that for myself), and lastly being provoked to write in a serious and more productive manner. i think, after all's said and done, i got a tiny bit of column a, a tiny bit of column b, and not a lot of column c.

i really don't feel i've improved over the past few months. i think i've started to adjust to a different type of experimenting with my poetry, but improving? i don't know. i didn't feel like the tidbits this poet offered us were too worthwhile, and it didn't seem like he was always up for conversation afterwards. i have some pretty serious thoughts on poetry, and i feel the need to keep myself entrenched in it; i have burning questions and asked him plenty, but didn't really get too much of an answer from him.

i think one of the things that i encountered in this class is the type of reader of poetry that goes for the content of the poem, trying to get its meaning instead of what i usually see my writing as: an act. most of the time, i have an over-presiding idea or feeling--sometimes just a line or a word that triggers the rest of the poem. i don't always know what the message is behind it, but it always seems to want to go somewhere and then trail off to another place, kind of like that robert frost quote that i learned a while back: that a poem should be like ice on a hotplate--it goes one place, then off to another, it wanders. i like that about poetry, and i strive for that in my poems. but a lot of what i work with, and a lot of what i like to do and just happen to be doing is sensory things. the poem should sound for me, should cohere in a different sense that may not necessarily make sense, or apparent sense. i think that's the benefit of having a reader read things: there's meaning to be made within the reader's mind, and there shouldn't be any idea that there's a real message that the poet always wants to get out. images should be a manipulative inside the reader's mind: they're clay things and get molded by whatever the reader is intent on seeing.

now, is this me being lazy and saying, "i'm not going to revise?" i don't know, i don't think so. i'm going to revise...but perhaps maybe leave abstract things in? is that good or bad in terms of coherence of poetry, in terms of keeping a clear vision of what the poem wants? i don't know. i suppose when people say "i don't get it" there are two ways to see it: one, they aren't allowing themselves to read the poem in a way that leaves "sense" at the door; or, they don't get it because there's something too obscure that's blocking the image. perhaps it's a little bit of both.

like, take my poem "In Which I Compare Love To." I had this first draft, and it's completely obscure--to me, it's a lost-love poem, but is that line "Any longer and our smiles will refuse to point", etc. actually saying something? Is it too obscure, or is the poem allowed to actually stay that way and be fine? I don't know. Now, it's in partial rhyming tercets, Abb, Cdd, kinda thing. it's also expanded. that increases the "readability," but really, is it what i wanted? is the act of the poem that i originally had in mind, that i originally felt and wanted others to feel gone because i've expanded it? sometimes it seems that way. so who should i be? the one who follows his own rules, or the one who follows others rules? or, should i be the one that follows his own rules while taking others' into account? what did i do before, when i was in college, that made these poems i wrote different? was it the challenge of the class, the amount of talent and pure want to improve inside the room?

for now, i'm pretty sure of one thing: poetry is an act. it should be felt. it may be a dance, and a refined one at that, but at its core, poetry's got to be something that hits you in the gut somewhere.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

i am having a bummer moment, so i wrote this to get it off my chest

It seems as though the job or
the heart is to weigh heavy
on the footstools of the knees.
They knock and are unsteady,

kind of, because they're somehow pointing
in opposite directions, duckfooted.
The heart is a too-heavy dumbwaiter
and swears clumsily because it just drops.

To sigh means the branches of the day
are finally streching, but to which end--
when orange juice filled the morning's glass
or the blue paisly bed spread?

To beat hard against the chest is the heart's dream,
though the body buckles like an unlikely rickshaw.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

a moment of poetic philosophy

i wrote this on a fellow poet's poem as critique, but i think it's more about me than anything else:

"Sometimes, in my own poems I wonder if the shorter and concise-r I get, the more wallop I can achieve. To what end that is successful depends, I think, on the rest of the poem that precedes the ending, where I want that wallop. I think to (re)consider the ending would be to think, Did I say everything, or include everything in the rest of the poem?"

i clearly have a lot on my mind.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Whale Song (this is long and loose and I'll work on it later)

Who's to say I can't let
the hippopotamus that follows me
daily swallow me whole,
who's going to challenge my want
of a spinster to hold hands with
chat with over cold tea?
If it's the prerogative of poetry
to save a life why not cry into the night
and grab someone's attention
enough for them to put a gun
to the uttered words and scream, I dare you.
That windowshade wouldn't
even shudder in the wind if it weren't
for the violence of the breeze whispering
cruelties into its ear.

I feel the need to exonerate light
to then diminish its importance
and, like deer in a wintery suburb,
flock toward it again and again...
It's like an untethered shadow, the confused
child running circles in the mall, lost.
I've been beached too long.
Someone rubs me gently with sponges
but it won't keep. I tangle
with squid and yet have not looked
the grizzly's fangs of asphalt and violence in the eye
boldly enough to say I love you, will you
please reach out to my hand.

If it is poetry's prerogative to save
and make differences, where is
the whale song reaching toward--
what community will the water droplets
reach once that gargantuan tail splashes.
Two clicks, a long mournful whine
deep within the ocean and the loam.

A Riddle

I am low to the ground. I live in
the loam yet click and whirr beneath
layers of ocean. My life is long, and longer still
with my eyes closed. Short to me
is the breaths which fog on my surfaces.
What is the difference between my eyes
and the sound of walnuts cracking,
or else the stirrings of love. Differentiate
me from the stalks and strings
of plants: I grow and yet know no answer
to the question of altitude.
I have heard the knockings of wood
though trace my lineage in the asphalt.
There are things that separate
under the light. I am one of them.