Sunday, March 27, 2011
From the Academy of American Poets daily e-newsletter, on March 22 they sent the following verse:
by Carl Adamshick
I always thought death would be like traveling
in a car, moving through the desert,
the earth a little darker than sky at the horizon,
that your life would settle like the end of a day
and you would think of everyone you ever met,
that you would be the invisible passenger,
quiet in the car, moving through the night,
forever, with the beautiful thought of home.
This afternoon, while cleaning out my inbox from the past week, I stumbled on this short poem, reread it, and suddenly realized how well Adamshick's theme fits into my current project.
Where my poem sits currently, in order to explain issues of loss, I am going to have to show personal definitions of death— plus show the contrasting definitions from Bob's perspective. From that point, the lines will be able to shift in a new direction, avoiding the stalemate situation I find myself currently experiencing.
More information regarding Carl Adamshick in available at Poets.org.
Saturday, March 26, 2011
a slow week: almost finished an opening series of verses regarding loss—the shock of loss—of change. Of course, my lines do not mention either element, the phrases isolate a dream-event from last November or December. The date is not relevant. With closure of part one, then the mind shifts over to part two: it is out of focus still. Even now, at this moment of typing. A blur on the horizon. While reading four poems by Sophie Cabot Black in the recent American Poetry Review I feel a commonality, a match burning—but the cat entered the room and distracted me, and the line skipped away, the thread between my self and the past was cut again—
and then later: Unavoidable, an idea formed while driving on the highway after work—and then disappeared in the middle of a resulting traffic jam before I could commit it to memory. The more I try to reconstruct the formula of words the less phrases cohere. Patches remain. Unstitched fabrics.
On exits. The other leaving on a final exit. Ha left the building. But the runs into cliché, expectations, and pop-cultural references. Maybe twist the actuality into the verse? State the obvious.
a strange sense of depression: It lowers over me recently. I keep examining the sensation wanting to shrug it off, but the emotion persists. Ironically, what is certain, I know it does not center around a recent rejection letter. The magazine’s note actually made my hour brighter, included an encouragement to submit more material and spoke about the time spent discussing the possibilities for publication. Notes like this confirm one’s struggle, offer a sense of recognition. So much more so than the standard formula-template-carbon copied letter too many journals use these days. But I ramble. Depression was the topic at hand and I do not know its source—as if I am wandering in a thick brown river in a leaky boat. Without apparent reason.
sitting on the unmade bed.
Watching the clock shift.
We breathe easier
as the room begins to fade,
swallowed in darkness.
We lie side by side
in a well-lit room— our hands
just inches apart.
The drone of a plane
slices through the night, passing
In the mail: a book.
Older than myself. Pages
yellowed. Stained edges.
Gathering more stones
to line my pockets, keeping
me still through the night.
Sunday, March 20, 2011
Friday, March 18, 2011
a delay: Temporarily I postpone all writing projects. Yet, I feel their presence in the back of the brain, all of them queuing up, waiting to be reworked, eventually to be placed on paper, then transposed to computer screen. A handful of nights ago I felt the need to explore the poem to Bob, the other memoriam on my list. For a few moments I played with ideas, with a title, with a breakdown of the intentions of the form— yet, recently I realize it would be more important to shift the situation, alter the persona’s voice from discussing directly to the past using second person pronouns. Shift the voice towards addressing the reader directly— in this manner the memory of past events becomes central focus, and not the person, which was my initial concept. This will be awkward in a memoriam format of course. But in this particular case, I want to acknowledge the distance between Bob and myself by displaying the relationship from a distance. What results would be an illustration of how I think, showing a process, rather than just what I think.
Late Tuesday afternoon Brendan and I listen to cello suites from Bach: the raising and falling. Which matches my moods, mixtures and various. Brendan falls asleep halfway through the selection without complaints or fussy rants. His dislike of naps or bedtime can provoke minor whining—
All day I thought about items to mention, short everyday topics which could spiral into something greater, a concise observation of human behavior which could merge into larger essays— but now of course I do not recall any of the subjects—
Ever since the earthquake in Japan and the unfolding, ongoing crisis, I wrestle with finding a metaphor to place in a haiku— without commercializing or trivializing the chaos, the loss of lives—from what I have read, it appears these verses never take on such calamities anyway. The poems stress more of a dis/connection with nature, but never the tragedy of natural disasters. The scope of the focus falls down to an individual reaction to a mundane event, which often transform into something symbolic, something larger and unobvious to a casual reading.
Within every room
of the house a different hour
shows on every clock.
After a brief storm,
we circle the pond three times,
watch turtles bobbing.
Silence can weigh down
the tongue with a loss for words.
Spring still shifts forward.
Against midday heat,
and the sun lifting slowly,
I swing shut the blinds.
In the dark kitchen
an empty glass rests. Silent.
Filling up with air.
Sunday, March 13, 2011
Saturday, March 12, 2011
The following paragraphs are opening material to a longer article found on poet John Gallagher's site: Nothing to Say and Saying It. Click on the article to read more information.
The third paragraph is relevant to class lectures detailing "what actually IS poetry?" — There is a point of inspiration that arrives outside of the poet's own personality and intellect. A matter of subconscious influence from a Prime Source. That matter which separates us from other animal species.
But [W.B. Yeats] finally decided he’d ask a question or two of the spooks as Georgie was in her trance. And he asked a rather good question. He asked, “What are you here for?” And the spooks replied, “We’re here to give metaphors for your poetry.”
That’s something which is in all English department lectures now, but it was the first thing since Blake on the business of taking poetry as coming from the outside rather than from the inside. In other words, instead of the poet being a beautiful machine which manufactured the current itself, did everything for itself – almost a perpetual motion machine of emotion until the poet’s heart broke or it was burned on the beach like Shelley’s – instead there was something from the Outside coming in.
Now the difference between “We have come to bring metaphors for your poetry” and what I think most poets who I consider good poets today believe – and this would include people as opposite in their own ways as, say, Eliot on one hand and Duncan on the other – is essentially that there is an Outside to the poet. Now what the Outside is like is described differently by different poets. And some of them believe that there’s a welling up of the subconscious or of the racial memory or the this or the that, and they try to put it inside the poet. Others take it from the Outside. Olson’s idea of energy and projective verse is something that comes from the Outside.
• a declaration: I need to organize a new idea for a new, full essay. Ramble more often, yet with defined purpose. Accidental poems can emerge from a daily rant.
• positive paragraph: received a “maybe,” a tentative acceptance from publisher in regards to my older manuscript A Gathering Of Stones. At least now I know it has some merit, someone other than myself considers its worth. Foolishly I daydream about it becoming published by this summer. I do have some hesitancy regarding self-promotions once/if the material is in the public’s domain. Let’s put it like this: I have an intense personal life beyond the school, beyond the career as an instructor. Poetry is a personal tool, yes. However, not everyone of my poems are my voice. Not all the material reflects my story. Often I use a persona-mask of an imaginary character, an unknown figure. I imagine him gaunt, with a shock of black unkempt hair, a darker version of myself, a bitterness personified. Still. I would love to sit and hold the finished book. Just hold the physical nature of my book and acknowledge the reality of its existence.
• negative paragraphs: I have Roxane Gay’s voice/writing style stuck in my head. Her detailed, and at times painfully-honest insights, the choice of phrases and vocabulary become addictive after a few days of reading her commentaries. This happens of course when you read any other writer on a regular basis: their words become your words, then transfer back to their words. A cycle. Cannibalistic. Vicious. A snake devouring its own tail. A series of negation. An act cancelling itself out. So I keep writing. Avoid the critics in my head. Ignore the dry cough in the back of my throat. Look at what you need to say. Validate yourself.
Moral: yes. I judged a book by the cover and paid the price. However, now knowing what the contents are, in the near future I’ll give it a second chance a give it a less critical reading—without expectations.
• a rant: Earlier in the week with a rare moment in front of the television I fell across a commercial for eye contacts, one of those organizations where you can order prescription lenses and have them shipped directly to your house. Save time. Save money. You’ve seen the product before; you know it exists. Their latest campaign left me feeling annoyed. Which is the typical practice these days. Everyone in the marketing world has learned a new trick: insult the viewers to get noticed, stir up reactions, get the product name known, spiral out recognition. My anger, frustration, irritation stems from their basic premise: by ordering through their services, you can save time, so you can finally read that “great big book” you should have read in college Literature class. Better yet, do not waste time reading the “great big book” rather wait for the movie to be released about the “great big book”— (:/) .
On so many different levels the manner in which this campaign is run insulted me—not because I teach literature and often have to contend with the zombie-dead-look from a few uninspired students; not because I actually like reading large volumes of work of multi-pages; not because I want, crave, desire more personal time to read or write or spend quality hours with my son; not because I need more energy so I can continue reading my collection of “great big books”— what provoked me most is their casual, matter-of-fact attitude which supports a “dumbing down” of society: Just wait. Do nothing. Someone will give you the answer and supply you with all the details which you missed while sleeping in class. Let’s continue limiting ourselves so we can watch more useless programming that does not stimulate the faculties of the brain but only triggers reptilian, numbing of intellect.
Okay. I am breathing now. Moment of rant finished.
• a realization: Since the adoption of our boy, the world’s events carry a stronger resonance with my awareness—why this is an epiphany for me requires some examining. By nature I do not promote a callous personality towards world events. Yet, I once summed up global news to a basic cliché: the world cannot be changed. Now, with another major earthquake in the public’s consciousness I grow more cautious, washing my hands every ten minutes, triple checking traffic, confirming weather conditions hourly. Sometimes when I wake in the middle of the night I simply watch Brendan sleeping. Waiting for my eyes to adjust to the room’s darkness and clarify that he is breathing smoothly, his little heart still beating out its rhythms. For his sake I seek a way of altering future conflicts.
Friday, March 11, 2011
From the Yahoo! sites, a series of links to help: Japan was hit by one of the largest earthquakes ever recorded. The magnitude-8.9 quake spawned a deadly tsunami that slammed into the nation's east coast, leaving a huge swath of devastation in its wake. Hundreds of people are dead and many more are still missing or injured.
Thursday, March 10, 2011
I feel no need to write.
Yet, I lie to myself. Yes.
Tonight, I need words.
Locked in the garage
a mosquito hawk hovers,
darts across the floor.
The notions of haiku
spark less on days when walking
is not possible.
Day of mundane poems.
Yet, just watching you undress,
shifts the world’s axis.
The pond’s surface bends,
buckles, trying to break free.
Dogs bark at its heels.
Saturday, March 5, 2011
There is a comfort
climbing back into the swell
of an unmade bed.
Earlier today I stubbed my left foot in the door jamb—temporarily I saw stars. Even now my smallest toe throbs softly, reminding me of the clumsy actions of the mid-afternoon.
Checked on Brendan before climbing into my own bed. He lies arms tossed to either side, his small mouth mumbling—tongue darting slightly as he sleeps. That wave of parental responsibility washed over, just as any cliché moment, but it drowns so many fears, generates new fears— His left— no right arm uncurled a fist, then recoiled the fingers slightly as I put a blanket over his knees, up to his waist.
My ten years long writer’s block must remain away, at a distance. But it hovers, suggestively, flirtatiously. Close.
A silence exists
extended, strong, persistent.
Threatening to return.
I keep looking for a mystical connection with 11.10.10—the day of Bob's death. More than likely there is no connection. Why would I want there to be one? Bob died. He moved on to the next level. He is beyond me, even more so now.
But I still need to put some words down—acknowledge the knot in my chest.
Checked out a new book—
one that will sit by the cot,
waiting to be read.
Middle aged woman
stands in her driveway, arms crossed,
glaring at her house.
The cat quietly
slips between the cracked doorway,
leaving the bedroom.
Dense morning fog clings
close, covering even a
scattered flock of crows.
The cat, insistent.
Cries from the foot of the bed.