They say we're young and we don't know
We won't find out until we grow . . .
We've been playing the "Let's Pretend It's 1859" game in my rural community, watching the lights flicker, our insider warning that 1859 is not that far away, then pow-- darkness. It's not uncommon to lose our electricity out here, we lose it when there's a wind storm or when a seagull sneezes.
Because one by one our neighbors have each purchased gas generators, now when the power goes out, instead of the quiet lapping of waves on the shore we hear what sounds like a symphony of leaf blowers, the buzz of our generators all purring through the night.
But since I'm typing and posting here, you can trust that for the moment, the power is on.
Bigmouth Strikes Again or Oscillate Wildly --
I've been reading through some essays, articles, and thoughts by poets and I have a huge headache. Yikes. Let's make a deal, when we are talking about poetry, let's just say what we mean in order to communicate the main points instead of blah, blah, blahing across the page trying to sound smart. (By the way, if you think this is directed at you, it's not.)
It's really annoying to be reading an essay only to realize that the writer wants to show off his Free Rice vocabulary level instead of inform. And when I say "him," I could mean "her." Or better, I get to the end of the "thoughtful essay" only to realize the writer has not actually said anything, it's as if I've been Eddie Haskell'd.
And I'm not saying the name of Poet X to be coy, cute, protective, or mysterious. I'm not using the name because I like Poet X and at sometimes I can be Poet X and it's a good reminder to myself to speak clearly and not to stutter. And this little post right here, is almost an example of how I am imitating Poet X except I think I'm being wittier and more forward, but honestly, I'm blah blah blahing across the page as well.
Me and Poet X, we're going places. Let's stop, step off the train, and look around. There's no reason to be afraid.
This Charming Man --
So after I complain to myself about bad poetry essays, I find this lovely little gem by David Biespiel on an Olena Kalytiak Davis poem. And what made this such a gem and David a charming man? This:
"The poem begins with a stark declaration tinged with self-pity:
I have been a day boarder, Lord. I have preferred the
table to the Bed.
I have proffered, Lord, and I have profited, Lord,
but little, but not. I was Bored,
Lord, I was heavy, Lord. Heavy bored. Hopeless,
Lord, hideous, Lord. Sexless.
I was in love, Lord, but not with You. The nine
malic moulds, Lord.
The butcher, the baker, the under-taker. Lord, I was
taken under. . . .
I had to look up "malic," which is a word describing the acidic flavor of raw fruit such as apples or almost-ripe green grapes. Davis' tone is certainly tart; her devotional posture is marked by wishfulness and despair. Though not a true believer, she truly wants to believe."
The most refreshing thing I've read today, a poet and editor admitting to not knowing a word and having to look it up. When was the last time I've seen that in print? I thought his honesty and openness to the reader--the Oregon citizen--was a way of opening a door. He's saying, I don't always know myself, but I follow through and find out. We can learn together. Don't be intimidated by language. He's saying, there are doors everywhere in a poem to let you in. He's saying, pay attention to details. He's saying, I'm human. We can figure this out. He's saying, Relax, this isn't a lecture where I'm right and you're wrong. He's saying welcome.
I've been reading essays where it feels the poet is afraid not to know something, and I wonder isn't that all of us? Aren't we afraid of being found out for the black holes in our education, in our vocabulary? It's one part of the literary world of not fond of, this feeling as if we need to know it all. Hurry up please it's time.
There were times in my MFA program when I wanted to hid under the table because I could not think of a poet or poem. And maybe this should be for Confession Tuesday, but there were a couple times when I didn't ask a question and just pretended I understood because it was easier. It was easier (and less embarrassing) to remain quiet.
When the poet I was working with told me to listen to The Waste Land instead of reading it with its nation of notes, I found the music the poem had never had for me. HURRY UP PLEASE IT'S TIME.
And maybe this is why newer poets aren't writing critically as much because it's intimidating. There are shelves of poems we haven't read. There are shelves of poets we have read, but then...we've forgotten them. There are words we know and ones we don't. Let's forget what we don't know and remember what we do--we write because we love words, we read because we want to know more about the world and ourselves. We try. We fail. We succeed. We are all in this together, even when it fels as if we're not.
--I got you, babe.
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