poetry

untitled

there’s a poet buried inside
of me – somewhere in the veins of my clothes
he vibrates through
the melody of my words

shut up! (i tell him)
i am trying to think & live in the fragments
of the real world

last night the streaks of
rain ran in rivulets
into his soft bones
i could hear a gurgle or two
escape from his morose throat

except today
well, it changed him like the
laughter of laundry that
scampers from the toasty depths of the dryer

(what i’m trying to say is)
that poet began to smile today
when the trees exploded with gossip
and a stutter of squirrels
painted the neighbourhood
almost like a poet does – like
it was meant to be

Standard
poetry, Reviews

Poetry is doomed: So you don’t like poetry?

It’s been quite a while since I’ve been scribbling, and sharing my opinion. Here’s an amazing article on poetry I stumbled across!

Enjoy 😉

PhilosopherPoet

This is a different type of column for me in that it isn’t for my typical audience, meaning people who are already interested in poetry in some way. This column is specifically written for people who have absolutely no interest in poetry. Before I get into the meat of it I want to tell you why.

One of the topics that comes up a lot in poetry circles is, why isn’t the audience larger for poetry? Theories abound, and many of them are right in their own ways. There is no one reason, considering the number of people who commit an act of poetry in any given year, why its audience isn’t larger. There are even arguments to be had about how to define that audience (another column to come). In any event, most poets and poetry critics agree that, considering poetry’s reach throughout history, an audience of some size and note should exist for an art so old and varied.

One of the recurring problems with critics speaking on why something isn’t more popular in general is that they talk about how hard it is to access an art form and dismiss what isn’t hard to access about it as facile. A lot of their observations come off like this:

“Dude, you should totally get this [obscure punk band with 3 songs]. The Ramones were WAY overrated. You don’t know anything about punk if you like the Ramones.”

That sort of thing. If you’re the kind of reader who simply must have it in poetry terms think of it like this:

“My good man, until you’ve dined with Stein you have no palette for poetry. However shall you find your way into a genuine appreciation of the written word? Through BLANK VERSE?!”

(Spit out wine through nose, gag, mumble something about Eliot or post-modernism, etc.)

Anyhow, I wanted to take some time here to dismantle that excuse, the I-Don’t-Get-It excuse, or IDGIT as I like to call it. (Of course it’s pronounced just like it looks, and perhaps, around the edges a little, means exactly what it means in old Western films.) This will, at times, feel a little workshop-like, or remind you of when you were in high school again and Mrs. Brandenburg was trying to stuff poetry down your throat. I assure you that it won’t hurt a bit and unlike high school, you are welcome to get up and go to the bathroom without a pass any time you see fit. I have picked the poems for this exercise very carefully, so as not to bore you or scare you off.

Understand that if, by the end of this article, you are not compelled to seek out another poem on your own or bring it up in conversation during the course of the next week then you and poetry were possibly not meant to be. At the very least you can remove the excuse that it is “too difficult to understand” from the list of reasons why you have no interest in it. Perhaps that second goal should be our focus here anyway. While I give great workshop, I don’t want to be responsible for your entire relationship to poetry. Don’t be blaming me because you don’t like good art.

Let’s begin!

1) Poetry understands your pain.
A lot of people say it’s too hard to understand and that the poet just comes off like they’re trying to be obscure and indecipherable. The first thing I want you to know is that POETRY KNOWS THIS. Poets have not always been very accessible – many remain this way and on purpose – and that’s okay because there are plenty of poets and poems out there that want very much to be your friend. For instance here is a poem that speaks directly to the issue.

Quote:
Poem For People That Are Understandably Too Busy To Read Poetry
by Stephen Dunn

Relax. This won’t last long.
Or if it does, or if the lines
make you sleepy or bored,
give in to sleep, turn on
the T.V., deal the cards.
This poem is built to withstand
such things. Its feelings
cannot be hurt. They exist
somewhere in the poet,
and I am far away.
Pick it up anytime. Start it
in the middle if you wish.
It is as approachable as melodrama,
and can offer you violence
if it is violence you like. Look,
there’s a man on a sidewalk;
the way his leg is quivering
he’ll never be the same again.
This is your poem
and I know you’re busy at the office
or the kids are into your last nerve.
Maybe it’s sex you’ve always wanted.
Well, they lie together
like the party’s unbuttoned coats,
slumped on the bed
waiting for drunken arms to move them.
I don’t think you want me to go on;
everyone has his expectations, but this
is a poem for the entire family.
Right now, Budweiser
is dripping from a waterfall,
deodorants are hissing into armpits
of people you resemble,
and the two lovers are dressing now,
saying farewell.
I don’t know what music this poem
can come up with, but clearly
it’s needed. For it’s apparent
they will never see each other again
and we need music for this
because there was never music when he or she
left you standing on the corner.
You see, I want this poem to be nicer
than life. I want you to look at it
when anxiety zigzags your stomach
and the last tranquilizer is gone
and you need someone to tell you
I’ll be here when you want me
like the sound inside a shell.
The poem is saying that to you now.
But don’t give anything for this poem.
It doesn’t expect much. It will never say more
than listening can explain.
Just keep it in your attache case
or in your house. And if you’re not asleep
by now, or bored beyond sense,
the poem wants you to laugh. Laugh at
yourself, laugh at this poem, at all poetry.
Come on:

Good. Now here’s what poetry can do.

Imagine yourself a caterpillar.
There’s an awful shrug and, suddenly,
You’re beautiful for as long as you live.

How was that? Pretty awesome, right? Pretty laid back for a poem, right? Almost like a conversation. The thing I like to point out about this poem is how Dunn flies in that stuff that you supposedly don’t like about poetry at the very end, but by the time you get to it you’re primed for it so it goes down smooth…like Budweiser dripping from a waterfall!

2) Poetry doesn’t always read like a poem.
Poets have done some interesting things with poems, and thank God for it. Expecting all poems to look the same is like expecting all of the songs you hear to be 3-minutes long. Think of all the cool songs you’d have missed out on if this were true! Same holds true for poems, like this one:

Quote:
Reasons You Find a Wheelchair in the Dumpster
by Bill Campana

someone has decided
to start walking again

it wasn’t fast enough

someone is being very cruel

I know, right? Pretty awesome and quick, like a little switchblade of poetry.

3) Poetry knows what you like.
It’s not all about nature. Hate your job? So do poets! Try this one on for size the next time you’re hung over and don’t want to get out of bed.

Quote:

Telephone Booth Number 905 ½
by Pedro Pietri

woke up this morning
feeling excellent,
picked up the telephone
dialed the number of
my equal opportunity employer
to inform him I will not
be in to work today.
“Are you feeling sick?”
the boss asked me
“No Sir,” I replied:
“I am feeling too good
to report to work today.
If I feel sick tomorrow
I will come in early!”

Tell me Pietri doesn’t understand your troubles. There is video of him doing this floating around the web as well. Check it out.

4) Poetry isn’t setting out to bore you.
I know a lot of poetry seems like it’s going out of its way to be boring (as opposed to inaccessible, which may be true of some poetry, but that’s a different point for a different column). There are lots of reasons why you might think a poem is boring, but most of time it’s not actually boring…you just need to know a little more about what it’s trying to accomplish. Some poems are like mysteries or puzzles, but those aren’t the ones I’m talking about. I’m talking about the poetic equivalent of, say, Donnie Darko: oh, but if only the director had left in some of the special features footage I would have GOT IT. So here is one that is an awesome poem that, at first glance, might come off a little “off”, maybe even schizophrenic, until you know…well, I’ll just let you read it and then we’ll talk in a minute.

Quote:

“After Experience Taught Me …”
by W. D. Snodgrass

After experience taught me that all the ordinary
Surroundings of social life are futile and vain;

I’m going to show you something very
Ugly: someday, it might save your life.

Seeing that none of the things I feared contain
In themselves anything either good or bad

What if you get caught without a knife;
Nothing—even a loop of piano wire;

Excepting only in the effect they had
Upon my mind, I resolved to inquire

Take the first two fingers of this hand;
Fork them out—kind of a “V for Victory”—

Whether there might be something whose discovery
Would grant me supreme, unending happiness.

And jam them into the eyes of your enemy.
You have to do this hard. Very hard. Then press

No virtue can be thought to have priority
Over this endeavor to preserve one’s being.

Both fingers down around the cheekbone
And setting your foot high into the chest

No man can desire to act rightly, to be blessed,
To live rightly, without simultaneously

You must call up every strength you own
And you can rip off the whole facial mask.

Wishing to be, to act, to live. He must ask
First, in other words, to actually exist.

And you, whiner, who wastes your time
Dawdling over the remorseless earth,
What evil, what unspeakable crime
Have you made your life worth?

If it wasn’t clear, Snodgrass isn’t indenting just to be “poetic.” *

Each of these stanzas alternates between two voices, and the last 4-line stanza is a third, conclusive voice. Now, Snodgrass could have made it more obvious, say with quotation marks on some stanzas. However, if you read a lot of poetry you might ascertain what’s happening without extra stuff, so it kind of works for multiple levels of audience in that way. However, if you didn’t know that the even stanzas were the voice of a drill instructor you might not glean the multiple voice device here. Once you realize that there are multiple voices it kind of makes more sense and lets you read more into it. If you really want a treat, listen to Snodgrass perform this poem. He was one of the most engaging readers of the academic set, and he really brings a lot of life to his work when he performs them. Here is audio of it:http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/171513

5) Poetry can be downright fun.
The fun in poetry didn’t stop with Shel Silverstein. Check out this piece by Kevin Young and see if you don’t crack a smile. For extra kicks, read it out loud.

Quote:

Errata
by Kevin Young

Baby, give me just
one more hiss

We must lake it fast
morever

I want to cold you
in my harms

& never get lo

I live you so much
it perts!

Baby, jive me gust
one more bliss

Whisper your
neat nothings in my near

Can we hock each other
one tore mime?

All light wrong?

Baby give me just
one more briss

My won & homely

You wake me meek
in the needs

Mill you larry me?

Baby, hive me just
one more guess

With this sing
I’ll thee shed

Come on: you can scarcely read it with a straight face.

In conclusion, I hope that this meager smattering of poems gives you, the uninitiated, some idea of what’s to be had out there in the big bad world of poetry. I’m sorry to say that poets and poetry critics do not always make it easy for you to get with the program. Some of them like it that way.

But this isn’t about those guys. This is about you – the person who doesn’t know if they like poetry, or thought they didn’t until they read one of the five I presented here – and it is my fervent hope that you found some merit here because, left to the devices of many poets and critics, poetry is doomed.

* – This poem is not as perfectly indented as it is in print. I had to mess with it to get what I got, but you get the idea. If you want to see it perfectly indented, google it.

Standard
Rantings

Facebook interrogates our privacy

What’s on your mind?

I’m sure you have heard that one before. Everytime you log on to facebook this is the sentence that daunts you. People often simply add a few mudane facts, from anything to walking the dog, a strange dream they had, or what is currently happening to their taste of food. Sometimes I don’t want to read stupid shit, but since I did sign up for facebook, I do allow certain sentences to rain down on me. This is obviously dependant on the friends I’ve chosen to add.

Something else facebook does rather unconsciously, is turn more and more people into proud bloggers of their own universe. Let’s say that most people have no more than 500 friends each. By adding a status, whether it’s funny or not, you’re asking people to comment…often provoking an online war when that wasn’t your intention. We’re the new proud generation that don’t confront any more, but rather sulk and angrily blog on our iPhones in our bedroom.

There are adults doing this! I read an article in the local paper a few days back. It was based on an academic study of how social networking sites, like Twitter, are making us more lonely. An example the article gave was that at a funeral people were seen checking their blackberry’s for updates. Personal tragedies and mourning no longer have the same effect on us, they’re merely another sordid headline we just turn the page and carry on. This bothers me.

I can’t say I’m damning smartphones since I own an iPhone myself. Although, it feels to me that we’ve been outsmarted by our own gizmos. Social networking may gives us a voice, but perhaps we are bending our personalities to fit in with it all?

I suppose each generation has it’s own problems to conquer. Three brief examples that come to mind are the following:

1980s – The rise of heavy metal in the commercial arena. Now we have parents and churches blaming their kids for listening to devilish music; when all they wanted was to get together with a few friends, some booze, a bankie of weed and lose themselves in the music. Can you blame a few kids wanting to escape? (Its a pretty natural reaction to escape the fiery clutches of bad parenting.)

1990s – The pokemon craze lands. Now millions of kids are suckered into buying cutesy cartoon-studded paraphernalia. The headlines read that a kids jump off buildings or stick their fingers into plugs, claiming a pokemon told them to do it. It sounds idiotic but nonetheless still plausible, that a cartoon can empower a troubled kid and give them a warped sense of comfort.

2000s – Technology booms. Teenagers become addicted to texting and generally walk around with iPods growing out of there ears.

Now why did I choose to use these crazy examples? Well music and cartoons are all understandable when it comes to escape. The problem with technology is it spills over into the adult world as well. I’m in the IT industry so I am not totally against technology but when I see it changing certain nuances in our lives and our language it does make me wonder…are we managing it correctly?

PhilosopherPoet

Standard
Reviews, Thoughts

The Art of Scribbling

Writing is an unexplained energy that flows through us all. I’m not the slight bit religious or sentimental, however I’ve come to realize that writing is a rhythm and a desire for us to plunge ourselves into the consciousness of something unseen. Think of the Greek symbol of infinity (a numerical eight pushed on its side). This is what I think of when people blame the Muse, some other entity, or situation for their work. When we write, and whatever it is…we’re accessing a constant rhythm. Sometimes we might scribble down something terrible, and other times, a masterpiece.

I’m a chaos addict. When I first grabbed a book and explored poetry, metaphors of Ted Hughes, and the mythology of Yeats entranced me. Like anything, learning to write came as a challenge. After much criticism, and some confusion I liked what I saw. The reason being, after enough exposure and plenty practice, you learn to internalize the craft. I like to think that all good writing has three critical components: exposure, practice, and mentorship.

Exposing the Animal

Starting off as a writer is a sign that you’re learning to listen to the inside of your own psyche. It’s tricky and exhausting, but the first time you’re seized by the characters of a novel, or the images of a poet…it becomes hard to let go. A writer needs as much of this as possible. I’ve always loved books because they’re the cheapest form of entertainment. (If you disagree, try and turn off your TV for a month or two and watch your habits change.) When I take out a library book the fine is 20 cents a day. An overdue DVD or a month’s subscription for satellite TV is considerably larger.

So start to expose your brain, with something else that the general public isn’t trying. Secondhand book stores are often my retreat to explore other people’s lives, and the words that have gone before them. Also don’t just limit this to books. Join clubs and societies that think along the same wavelength you do. You don’t always have to pay to have an experience.

Scribbling

Writing is also fairly cost-effective. Paper is widely used and a pen or pencil isn’t going to break your piggy bank either. The Harry Potter series was started on a bunch of serviettes. People are generally scared to start something that might burn up their wallets. I’m placing an emphasis of money because it has little to do with starting out. If you can find a surface that enjoys a pen…you’re half way there. I first kept a journal, and then went on to put together school exercise books labeled Writing 1, Writing 2, Writing 3, and so on. Writing means getting a pen, paper, and an undisturbed part of the house to practice.

It’s just scribbling. Nothing makes sense at first and doesn’t always have to either. Keep it as a mental note to get down and do. I sometimes like to go and sit out in a park, and wait for a usual person (who is poem-worthy) to come along. The South African poet, Kobus Moolman calls it ‘bum discipline’ and this is exactly it.

Mentorship

Find an admirer. Even if it’s a lover looking into your eyes, and listening to the words you sculpt. If you’ve scribbled enough, someone is bound to listen to you, and find you interesting. Writing is as common as any other pursuit. If you can do it, chances are, a million other people are also trying it out is fairly high. There are also people prepared to help make your words stronger and original. Taking advice can be very hard at first, but once you do, bouncing back is easier.

Why the fuss?

It’s there a point in breaking everything down into a category? I like to think so. When you’re suffering from Writer’s Block, your emphasis is just on writing and you may need to change your stimuli. If you’re feeling bad for not writing enough, you’re still busy exposing yourself and waiting for the penny to drop. We may feel like we’re stuck in a pattern, and just repeating ourselves. If so, then you need to get a friend to give some advice.

I’m sure from time-to-time you’ve heard the clichéd hermit writer, who’s socially illiterate and avoids the public. This craft does tend to lean towards introversion. Any editor will tell you an award-winning novel that takes 2-3 days to read, has probably taken the same amount of time (in years) to reach you. This covers the birth of the idea, until the final copy is laid to rest on the shelf.

However tempting the backstage work becomes, the best writers are activists. Seasoned writers become the exposure that new and naïve writers seek out. In this country alone, the number of voices exceeds the amount of fingers I have to type this.

My advice would be to seek them out, and become exposed.

PhilosopherPoet

Standard
Prose

What a happy novelist does…

Happy is the novelist who manages to preserve an actual love letter that he received when he was young within a work of fiction, embedded in it like a clean bullet in flabby flesh and quite secure there, among spurious lives.

Vladimir Nabokov (1899-1977)

Russian-born U.S. novelist, poet

PhilosopherPoet

Standard