The Rebellion of Individuality

Today exists as a day without a concise organized movement— that is, the mind’s goals quickly become tangled into a maze or obstacles and hurdles— partly self-induced, partly outside circumstance. So. After two early morning lectures on basic Analytical Literary Criticism I walk across campus for a strong cup of coffee— set a short path to an achievable prize. Not as an act of procrastination per se, but rather as a method of stalling to clear the head. Break free of the patterns built into the blood.

Lack of sleep does not help. Last night Brendan woke up howling at 11:36, either from a nightmare or discomfort, something unknowable at any rate. His diaper was only slightly damp, but he cried continuously for a good fifteen minutes after the changing. Perhaps it all stems from the fact that last week he started walking and instantly he moved into the toddler mentality of self-independence. He understands barriers exist. He strides into the room now ready to conquer any potential obstacle. He demands attention. He expects answers. One can see the strategy of his young mind seeking preferences for the toys or the picture books scattered in the room. Last night was no exception— after the change of pajamas it was clear he did not want to be rocked back to sleep. He communicates now with arching and twisting towards his desires: away from the parent and towards the goal. Last night he wanted to be placed back in his crib and have his back stroked— only this action served as consolation— only the smallest amount of my parental presence was required, my fingertips running in circles around his shoulder blades. He and I have reached a new level of communication.

Afterward, as expected, what resulted was the fact I could not go immediately back to sleep. I lay in bed trying not to think. Scattering of responsibilities always managed to drift to the surface of my consciousness the more I tried to submerge details of the approaching day. Phrases of poems bobbed on the brim of sleep, as carp wanting food. The remainder of the night existed as a series of rising and falling motions, short series of slight slumber, then half wakeful awareness.

In my e-mail this morning however, a blast e-mail from the Academy of American Poets provided a poem by Arthur Sze that stood out, titled “Comet Hyakutake.” I cannot pin-point which specific line or image or phrase that connects, yet Sze weaves together a collection of unexpected elements to show a commonality within diversity, ancient and modern. To simply quote a phrase breaks the intense structure of a full river of information. To select only one fragmented line from a collection of fragments destroys the whole.

Here is the full poem with the line breaks preserved as the e-mail presents them: “Comet Hyakutake” Arthur Sze

Comet Hyakutake's tail stretches for 360 million miles—

in 1996, we saw Hyakutake through binoculars—

the ion tail contains the time we saw bats emerge out of a cavern at dusk—

in the cavern, we first heard stalactites dripping—

first silence, then reverberating sound—

our touch reverberates and makes a blossoming track—

a comet's nucleus emits X-rays and leaves tracks—

two thousand miles away, you box up books and, in two days, will step through the invisible rays of an airport scanner—

we write on invisible pages in an invisible book with invisible ink—

in nature's infinite book, we read a few pages—

in the sky, we read the ion tracks from the orchard—

the apple orchard where blossoms unfold, where we unfold—

budding, the child who writes, "the puzzle comes to life"—

elated, puzzled, shocked, dismayed, confident, loving: minutes to an hour—

a minute, a pinhole lens through which light passes—

Comet Hyakutake will not pass earth for another 100,000 years—

no matter, ardor is here—

and to the writer of fragments, each fragment is a whole—

In part what Sze creates here confirms what my newest project attempts, deliver minute fractures of a picture, allowing in the end for the reader to piece together his/her own unique story through a process of blending all of the supplied various elements together.

I find it ironic he uses a comet as a major vehicle for his overall theme of the work, whereas with my poem, the image of a comet is strictly a simile, a short bridge moving between two ideas.

For the Grackle, Fox, and She-Bear series of poems here is the latest:

Turn the page. The thought
lingers behind— yet splintered.
Yet whole. A red fox shifting
between cypress trees, moving
as comet, as metaphor.

Silence weighs heavy—
without warning the language
of leaf and branch snap
shut, forgotten. Phrases lost
can no longer be carried.

Reddened cypress leans
forward to tell me something—
but comprehension
scatters. Brought down to nonsense
sounds: foot-treads through under brush.

A slight smear of blood
on a pale white kimono
or a red cypress
branch spearing a bank of snow:
at one time past, this was me—

or rather a brush
fire at midnight, red trails
slipped over landscape
in the darkness, a blank page
suddenly stroked in red paint—

Now I’m limited
to one shape— one small shadow
kept clipped to the ground—
my definition remains
whole, but without translation.

Let me clarify—
Its hard to provide private
personal accounts, details
of a true hidden nature

even to myself,
even with open moments
like this: an open
book in your hands, your face close,
leaning to knots of my words…

At this point my major hurdle is preventing the work from transforming into something much larger. There is an art for simplicity and understatement. I, on the other hand, tend to overstate and over-embellish, translating a simple idea into a grandiose, complexity of language. Trimming back excess remains a challenge at times. As the world’s readers spin closer and closer towards wanting smaller clumps of information, my poems spiral out towards pages of text, volumes of discourse and (re)examination. What was to be a six stanza poem becomes almost three typed pages.

So it seems I am much like my son— wrestling against the safe and the expected. Wanting the rebellion of individuality. Only thirteen months old and he has begun teaching me new ideas about myself.


  1. Beautiful post D-G. It has made me think - opened another door. You deserve a considered response - appreciation reached through analysis - but I have not the time tonight - so I will return...
    One little thing. Yes, there is pristine beauty in the spare, pared down construct. But if you lean toward embellishment why deny your essential nature?
    You use the word "embellish" as though you did not know when to stop - but I believe you judge too harshly.
    You labour over your creation. You think carefully about words and placing them. You may admire a spare writing style. But that does not stop your own style from being valuable - it simply means that you have a different voice.

  2. It is late here as well— after 9:00 pm. Sucking on a chicken bone and trying to stay awake long enough to reply back— regarding my last post, to be more specific, I have a bad habit of seeking out flaws in my style— not from lack of confidence... but rather from trying to polish the wording to break through some of the barriers I find from publishers and editors... and these days longer poems seem less accepted due to constraints of web design— That is a casual observation. No statistics to back up the intuitive impression.

    And yes, you are right I do feel sometimes I do not know when to stop... however, at the same time I love the sensation, the caffeinated rush of falling into a moment when the poem takes over and carries itself into a long series of stanzas— words almost tripping over themselves to be put on the page—

    Which is what I like in your style for that matter. And Elizabeth's (Sixth in Line). Your writing has an energy, or even a purpose which seems lacking in other blog writing. I can fall into a flow of your impressions for an extended time period— which is what apparently is lacking these days... or it could just be I am actually looking in the wrong places.


      This may be very far beneath you...but it is a comp from my alma mater, Glasgow University.

    2. :) Funny you suggest this-- one of my New Year's Resolutions is to get more involved with contests and submissions. I'll see what the guidelines state and give it a whirl. Thanks!

  3. Dear David,

    I adore these lines :

    Now I’m limited
    to one shape— one small shadow
    kept clipped to the ground—
    my definition remains
    whole, but without translation.

    Please forgive me - in my humble opinion,

    the last word 'translation' doesn't

    belong. But hey - what do I know.

    Have a great week.

    All the best


  4. Mark,
    In this case the line you mention is under restrictions of seven syllables... but, on the other hand I do see your thought.

    I'm still experimenting with the phrasing at the moment, so any suggestion is welcomed.


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