Thursday, October 27, 2011

A Snarky Letter

Dear Neruda,

I'd like to write something gloriously beautiful one day. I feel obsessed with it. I want to fill books with it. Maybe my vision is a bit blurred by the want of it. I want to only see beautiful words and read lines that I can feel - ones have thoughts and work behind them.

A really good poem has to have thought behind it. The selection of words should build, lift the poem up to a height that can be seen beyond one's self. I know that there is talent, that not every poem is meant to be pressed on gilded pages but I also know when I read egotistical bullshit - if we're honest, we all do.

Enough of the false syllogisms, just because you can find an example of it in art doesn't mean that every example of it is art. Because good poetry, poetry worth writing, cause "all the rivers [to] sound/ in my body [and] bells/ [to] shake the sky" when they are read.


I enjoy Larry Levis's poetry more than Williams.  His poems have such striking lines in them, they stick inside of me like a splinter. What is great is that his style seems like a merging of poetic rhetoric and common speech. The diction isn't dense or vague, it's beautifully simple and the narratives are powerful. One of the lines that has stuck with me is from Poem Ending with a Hotel on Fire:
                   "No," I said, "But what about Murder Two? Isn't that just . . .
                    The same thing done with a lot more feeling?"

You laugh, you pause and think about it.  It doesn't have fantastical allusions or figurative language or even very powerful images and yet it works, it's outstanding. I think it is because of the poetic rhetoric and the conversational tone that makes these lines both real and also an insight into the human condition.  Our struggle with making sense of the world.  It's true, the end is the same, someone is dead, but it's also true that some deaths are considered more heinous than others.  Some acts are graver than others, even if ultimately, they are both just transgression of the law. This is all from just two lines of a long poem! It's like the philosophical moments in Mad Men. The good good stuff, not the slap-on-the-ass-drink-before-noon-everyone's-into-misogyny-stuff.  (although there may be an argument for that in this poem...) Williams just didn't have the same effect on me.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Strings Strung Together

Juaréz by Elaine DeKooning

This is the  attempt to make a fragmented poem with stolen lines from this week's poets, spliced with my own prose in places.  It's a mess, hopefully a beautiful one. *sigh* Speaking of beautiful messes, I think this picture by  Elaine DeKooning is a great companion to the ideals of beauty, fragmentation, and abstraction. _______________________________________________
A Vision

Anybody with twenty dollars can have a vision.
They can buy new moments
that seep in -
pulse beneath the skin.

Without the sun to interfere
shadows, red and orange lights 
poke through windows, like stone wings 
and they don't fit into little pretty places.

You taught me to exist without gratitude. 
Conceit leaps back into me on your wet kiss.
Bright stars in your eyes when I cut
someone down, their feelings 
would drain from their face and pool
at their feet.

I thought it was because we
were righteous. Because
I am goddamned fuckin’ beautiful.
And you saw me.

But the walking dead don't 
make me laugh. They tell me those stars
are named woodworm.
The room, this bed, and the bones of my arms,
have been found out.
I am sick in solitude, in the rain, and in the roads. . .

Last night I'd been trying my best to explain
something important. It seemed boring to apologize 
to weeds and insincere as well.
Years later, I can bring blood closer 
to the surface of my skin.
It’s a beautiful wound.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Fragments, Strange & Experimental

Fragmentation and strangeness and experimental poems, I confess, are not typically my cup of tea.  I can appreciate them, but they aren't what I'm drawn to as a reader or writer of poetry. I didn't connect with many of these poems we've read for this section. I am intrigued by the associative qualities of these poems. I like the possibilities for exploration of association and the greater role the reader takes in creating meaning.  Some leaps, however, are too great. Without the guidance though the poems that stronger rhetoric and more closely associated images impart, the poems felt a bit haphazard and removed. There wasn't the satisfying feeling of seeing what the poet is pointing to and for me, it leaves a big hole. People can go on and on about them, but I feel like they are missing something essential - the crafting of language into expression of human experience. It's all art and no substance for me. Chaotic and jumbled is interesting to a certain extent, and there is definitely a place for it in poetry but it doesn't hold the same power to reveal ourselves and our world the way more directed poetry does. This expression embedded within poetry provides one of the ways in which we share our vision of our environment and our self observation; it is the inward and outward exploration of life. 

I did enjoy Katie Ford's poem Last Breath in Snowfall.  I like it because I think it effectively creates these beautiful images and leaps, but doesn't let the reader fall through the cracks. There is a level of rhetoric that directs the reader. Simultaneously, the loose associations in it create a space for the reader to  be more actively absorbed in the poem. The imagery is beautiful, it is the main element that keeps me reading it though to the end. The fragmented nature of the language also parallels the content of the poem, reinforcing the ideas of thought, disjointed - life frozen and ending. The diction of religious iconography and imagry also support these themes. Finding the connections and elements in this poem is satisfying. Her poem demonstrates the incorporation of rhetoric and diction within the stylistic choice of fragmentation to create something intriguing and expressive without being completely opaque.

Last Breath in Snowfall
                  --Katie Ford

I loved one person do you see the evergreen there in fog
   one by one
I was taught to withdraw firts fro him do you want to
   know how

the mind works under extreme cold ice forming on the
   eyelid or wind thrown
at me I felt every needle felt every breath I've seen a vision
   of you I was told and

in it disobedience in it nakedness you have not surrendered
   have not torn his letters
liken yourself therefore to the messenger who broke the

take the letters and bring them but it is cold out our God is
   a jealous God and so I
did street warmed from beneath dark sky dark hands took
   the photographs the letters twine-

bound tore them let them down through the grate what
    now I said just instruct
I have emptied am the earthen vessel no mementos no

make straight the way of the Lord they said letters soaked
   with rainwater drifting
towards the city and twine a new twine binding me

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Solo Performance of Louise Glück

I like Louise Glück the best of the "three tenors" listed in Hoagland's book. I found it interesting that I tended to like the earlier stages of each poet's craft.  I found something interesting at all stages, but I like the idea of keeping poetry generally accessible and not venturing too far into "art of the initiated" territory. That is why I appreciate Louise Glück. There are shifts in her work but it doesn't become obfuscated by the development of her work.

I love allusions and layers of meaning in poetry, when they are present and clear, a thousand tangents spring from them and you tap into the associations that those allusions have, the possible readings ripple forward from them. I also like the idea of taking on the voice of something that doesn't have one, like flowers. It has a rich possibility to it, it affords a transformation of perspective that you can't necessarily achieve when you put on the face of someone else; a being comes with a built in personality, perspective, and bias. Maybe flowers do to, but maybe they don't and that is what makes the perspective interesting because it can become what the poet pours into it.This is what makes Louise Glück awesome and her poem Witchgrass amazing. 


Beginning lines of a poem of place in the style of Glück

Dry oak and earth propelling upward,
will swell in tandem with hot updrafts these days.
It will rage along golden grasses and collide
face first surprised to find it's ambition isn't alone.

Another pours in
cool salt surf insisting,
clothed in marine fog. 
Temperatures bow before the chill.
Beautiful battle lines rendered in shore line.