Monday, August 31, 2009

new poem: insomnia

INSOMNIA



each raised pore is a spirit's home


there are many living in my face




when i can't sleep

i know spirits are gathered over me.

they vie for my patient ears to hear

their stories too melancholy for the daylight,



my skin picks them up

from the places i've travelled

and refuses to put them down.



my eyes have always been dull,

each fidget with the pillows

or shift to the other side,

they hold their calloused tongues. i cry for them

in the same way i would cry for myself.

soft.restless.stoned.



i envy them -- but only in the superficial ways i'm supposed to

not because they are like me,

wanting to share a story but with no one to listen--

being elegantly free

in the same space with me

as if i was the Free

they are trying to escape to.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Poem in the Shop

Not so special treat today, I have a poem that is currently in the shop, meaning it's untitled and unfinished. In the following weeks I'll try to workshop it and see what evolves. In the meantime, enjoy the appetizer.


a brown man like a boy toddles forth in my thoughts
eyes so wide they see only me
i am remembering
things he said
(but forgetting places he touched) and wondering
where i stopped loving him –
was it in jamaica when i saw men give of themselves like fruit trees
or was it in jersey where the concrete walks
resound so hard against timberland boots they make rain come down?

i want to call the sort of love he gave denial
but his fishlike eyes say he knew no better,
that i am the one mistaking fat cherubs for lovers.

where are the fingers to rewind my lukewarm-satirical
romance?
in this performance i am the shrewd to be tamed with bright words
like plucked strings like wind chimes tingling (because) when he comes
he is like the wind
as hard or as cool as he wants to be

but no. it's like pinching. when i think of him. a pain so sly it waits
to burn you.




This material is copyrighted. Small quotes or citations are permissible with the permission of the author. Any attempt to reproduce the above material will indefinitely result in lawsuit.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Not Reading

I am over him - my legs pinning his own in one of the awkward

positions that cars force them in. He places his hand shyly

on my haunches and I turn to him, his eyes - behind his thin frames -

the only light in the coal-color of night and I snatch off his baseball cap

and top myself off with it. He only stares at me, the way you would

something unfamiliar. I lean my head on the crook of his neck, I want him

to feel that I want him, though I don't. He makes no more moves. (my skin

under his palm. warm. the whiteness of the windows. stubbled legs. toughness

of clothes.) I reach for his hand, slipping my long fingers

between his. I admire our hands together, or maybe just my own. I wish

he would place a finger or two between my legs instead. "You know,

I really like you," he whispers on my neck and I squeeze his hand.

"I like you too," I soothe back; meanwhile my vagina sighs.


This material is copyrighted. Small quotes or citations are permissible with the permission of the author. Any attempt to reproduce the above material will indefinitely result in lawsuit.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

We Live Up Here


When you are an immigrant or the child of immigrants, there rests on your heart and thoughts what must be done in the name of dual loyalties. The home and new country do not war for affections, only space in your memory, space in your creations. Lenelle Moise is one such poet who finds that the integration of Haiti and the United States into her pieces elevates her work to a whole new level. Originally born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, her family migrated to Massachusetts while she was young enough to remember and later recall its impact. Primarily a slam poet, she finds her background has made her pieces more definitive. Her poetry spans topics like Haitian politcs, pomosexuality, feminism, migration, and much more.

I first heard of Moise from Word Warriors: 35 Women Leaders in the Spoken Word Revolution, which I picked out while shopping for books for class. In it, she details a story of how she was first introduced to poetry through her uncle, Sergo. Sergo is described as being "cruelly handsome, a bit of a philanderer and slightly effeminate...blend[ing] three different women's perfumes to create a potent, aura-outling signature scent." Sergo performed his poetry in Creole for their church congregation. Though services were performed in French, the "standard" or formal language, Sergo delivered his poems in the langue-lakay, or home-tongue.

Lenelle continued to write, taking the advice of her somewhat eccentric uncle. He later disowned her when she admitted she was a pomosexual. Despite that, she still credits her uncle for showing her that the marriage of words to performance is as natural as able-bodied lovers.
"If [Sergo] could see me now - one hand punching the air with my fierce, feminine, feminist fist - perhaps his heart would sing. If he could hear me now, singing protests songs in our langue-lakay, I think my crazy, troubled uncle would be so proud. "

"we live up here" is one of my favorite poems by her, hopefully you will enjoy it as well. To find out more about Moise's work (she's also a playwright and performance artist), check out her website, http://www.lenellemosie.com/ She also has a blog of her own, subscribe to it, http://www.lenellemosie.blogspot.com/


we live up here by: Lenelle Moise

roxy has a secret and i know it.

roxy--fresh
from the dominican republic--
lives on the first floor
and me--a haitian talking
american-- i live
on the third, she's twelve
years old
and i'm nine but we're friends cuz
neither of us is allowed
to go outside. there is no play

for the daughters of immigrants
who rest under project ceilings.
we are our parents'
only investments.
in their dreams, we birth
second-story houses in the suburbs, strong
fences and theft-less streets, jewish
neighbors walking well-groomed
dogs, graffiti-less
two-car garage doors.

there is no room
in our parents' fantasies
for the brown
folks of our dreary daily lives
who work or loiter
or die around us. who don't know
coconuts and guava, mango
and kenepas. who don't muse over
lost motherlands and ancestral languages
the way we do.

here we are kept
away from the dark
men who grab
their nuts, blare
boom-box blasphemy and deal
medicinals that never heal. i say,
there are great expectations
and no play
for the daughters
of immigrants.

so when roxy and i get in from school
or church, we poke protected
heads out of our respective dense,
scraped windows and watch
hood rat games of tag, ambulance
arrivals, dss departures, welfare
check elation, various evictions
and arrests, we watch our people
who are not our people
from the safetry of our homes.

roxy's english is still
thick with spanish
and mine's so thoroughly bred
in cambridge, massachusetts, that we avoid
speaking to each other. instead we communicate
by lifting bored brows, frowning or rolling
our eyes, sometimes she asks me
what curse
words mean -- slut, asshole, screw --
and when i tell her, sometimes she smiles.

but most times roxy hates me
cuz i am her
mirror: trapped and also brown.
i throw down
the drawings i make of her.
she winks
up at me, fellating
bananas
and in this way, we
are close.

roxy has a secret and i know it:
while her parents are asleep or out waging
their undocumented minimum,
roxy has a white boy
climbing
in and out of her
first-floor window.
he's irish and athletic, in high
school and cute. he
brings beer.

roxy sticks sepia
arms out -- pulls
him through her plastic pane,
into her prison
which i imagine is painted pink and stinky
with perfume, cluttered
with neglected porcelain dolls, purple
diaries plastered with stickers of fake
locks and keys
that probably never get used.

for hours, i wait, missing
the top of roxy's head
as i imagine moans and firm
bananas going mushy
on her thighs, inside. eventually,
it is time for him to leave and i spy
his lean body withdrawing
from her bedroom, his tongue
fast-knocking the roof
of her tongue. she says,

te amo and he whispers
tambien like
tom-ben and she giggles
like the girls do
in the movies and me and roxy
rest rapunzel-like
elbows on our sill--palms
crushing the faint chin--hairs
wewill later pluck to feel
more american. we become

women as we study
her boyfriend's flat butt, fleeing
our end
of this broken world, back
to his house in the 'burbs.

one day my mother says, i'm so glad
we live up here. and that's how
i guess roxy's secret
is out. i hear noises
through her window
now: an aging mother hailing
mary loudly, a father
weeping then breaking
things, beating her.
and when she finally hangs her head

out of the window again i say, hi
over and over then ask where
is your boyfriend? to which she replies,
screw you, asshole, and i think
slut but dare not pitch it.

these days, roxy wears
the sweatshirts the missing
boyfriend gave her
to conceal the swell of her
belly, these days, roxy
wears headphones, repeating
the standard inflections she hears, trying
to sound like the new
american duaghter
she's expecting in the fall

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Malapropism: Good Poets Suffer, the Greats Lie


Today on poems.com the featured poems, "The Good Son" and "Ocean," were from the late Jason Shinder. His poetry is frank, and slightly reminiscent of Modernist imagism though slightly less patchwork. He died of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and leukemia. From the outside, he seemed to ignore the magnitude of his illness, choosing to spend his summer on a writing retreat in Greece rather than starting chemotherapy. After his death, his friends uncovered that he dealt with his illness through his work using it to work out his denial and other feelings. He was quoted saying, "Cancer is a tremendous opportunity to press your face up against the glass of your mortality."
"The Good Son" is my favorite of the two because the feelings expressed are much more frank than what you would expect from the speaker. By this I mean that the speaker's voice and tone denotes someone who is normally diffident, especially regarding their true feelings. The poem serves as a confessional for him, something he is not supposed to say -- that his own pain is not secondary but above that of another's.

For more on Shinder's life and poetry check out poets.org and this New York Times article, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/28/magazine/28lives-t.html.

The Good Son
If God had come to me and said,
if you are willing to forget your self

you will find the cure for heart attacks and compose
the greatest symphonies,

I wouldn't have been sure of my answer.
Because there wouldn't have been enough

attention to my suffering. And that's unforgivable.
But I keep on forgiving myself

with God's love. And it's strange I should say this
because my mother died of a heart attack

after months in a hospital room full of a silence
that lodged itself like a stone in her throat.

And she thought I was wonderful
and would do anything for her.



Ocean

Goodbye again. Say there is a little song in my head

and because of it I can't sleep or change my mind
about the future. Now the song runs all the way down

to the beach where I sit as if the sky

were my room now. No one, not even you,
can hear me singing. Not even me.

As if the music rose from the mouth of the ocean.

No mouth. Like rain before it reaches us.
Like wind twirling dresses on the clothesline.

Who has no one has the history of the ocean.

Lord, give me two more days. So that
the last moments may be with someone.

Monday, August 17, 2009

The Truth The Living Know

The poem I am sharing with you today is inspirited by Anne Sexton’s “The Truth the Dead Know”. This poem however is different in that it focuses on life, as a result of a new born, as opposed to death. I followed Sexton’s structure of a four-lined four stanza poem, my own exceptions being that my second and fourth lines have an extra, tabbed line. Also my own does not follow a specific rhyme scheme of abab/bcbc/efef/ghgh.

Sexton detailed two particular events in her poem, her relationship with her significant other and a funeral procession, presumably that of her parents. The weight of the procession drove her to recounting her relations with her lover. I believe this is done in large part to parallel the intense sadness of the lost of a loved one. In talking about her relationship with her lover, she is able to build up the same intensity through another related though different emotion, love.
My poem seeks to express the immense joy of a new child by displaying the intensity of a relationship between two lovers. I’ve often heard people say that raising or caring for children is taste of divine responsibility and power. Keeping this in mind, I wanted to bring the image back down to earth – so to speak – and acknowledge that human capability is often far beneath those of their aspirations. And finally, the last two lines are meant to be alluding back to Robert Frost’s “After Apple-Picking”, as I felt the point of human limitation was best exemplified with this image.

I've included a copy of both Sexton's and Frost's poems below my own.


The Truth the Living Know

Here, he’s here, I hear my mother yelp repeatedly about the blank-walled hospital,
Refusing to acknowledge the weighty sadness of this initiation,
Allowing him to be ogled and photographed like a first place trophy.
It’s June, time for soggy soil, fermenting air – I’m weary of its heat.

We drive slowly – and quietly, taking the main streets instead. I knead
My spirit in the slighted rays flashing on and off my russet skin through
the window; in the same way, your own hands press into my tenderness
in the late nights and early mornings. In every country people die,
and ones like our new are washed out to replace them.

My lover/best friend, did you know that our unintelligible sounds unlock
Ethereal mysteries – is a barbaric, adlibbed paean susurrating purples and
Autumn colors into the pitch black of our bedroom? With you, I could never
be alone. Our bodies are unfixed currency in a falling economy.

So what can be said of the living? They push hard up against soft bodies,
In their most vulnerable states. They are more human than they are divine,
Unwinding themselves until there is no more, or until there is another. They
Refuse the curse of life fiercely – arms too short to grasp
a pristine new apple high up in the tree.



The Truth the Dead Know by: Anne Sexton

For my mother, born March 1902, died March 1959
and my father, born February 1900, died June 1959

Gone, I say and walk from church,
refusing the stiff procession to the grave,
letting the dead ride alone in the hearse.
It is June. I am tired of being brave.

We drive to the Cape. I cultivate
myself where the sun gutters from the sky,
where the sea swings in like an iron gate
and we touch. In another country people die.

My darling, the wind falls in like stones
from the whitehearted water and when we touch
we enter touch entirely. No one's alone.
Men kill for this, or for as much.

And what of the dead? They lie without shoes
in their stone boats. They are more like stone
than the sea would be if it stopped. They refuse
to be blessed, throat, eye and knucklebone.



After Apple-Picking by: Robert Frost

My long two-pointed ladder's sticking through a tree
Toward heaven still,
And there's a barrel that I didn't fill
Beside it, and there may be two or three
Apples I didn't pick upon some bough.
But I am done with apple-picking now.
Essence of winter sleep is on the night,
The scent of apples: I am drowsing off.
I cannot rub the strangeness from my sight
I got from looking through a pane of glass
I skimmed this morning from the drinking trough
And held against the world of hoary grass.
It melted, and I let it fall and break.
But I was well
Upon my way to sleep before it fell,
And I could tell
What form my dreaming was about to take.
Magnified apples appear and disappear,
Stem end and blossom end,
And every fleck of russet showing clear.
My instep arch not only keeps the ache,
It keeps the pressure of a ladder-round.
I feel the ladder sway as the boughs bend.
And I keep hearing from the cellar bin
The rumbling sound
Of load on load of apples coming in.
For I have had too much
Of apple-picking: I am overtired
Of the great harvest I myself desired.
There were ten thousand thousand fruit to touch,
Cherish in hand, lift down, and not let fall.
For all
That struck the earth,
No matter if not bruised or spiked with stubble,
Went surely to the cider-apple heap
As of no worth.
One can see what will trouble
This sleep of mine, whatever sleep it is.
Were he not gone,
The woodchuck could say whether it's like his
Long sleep, as I describe its coming on,
Or just some human sleep.

Legends

Legends spend autumn nights naked
bowled in wetness dreaming a fretful freedom
Pinching their lips on a stale slice of American pie
awaking hours before dawn hungry
sweat sopped in the crotch
Why don’t they tell us legends are born and reborn in muddy waters
drink until their eyes favor opals
tread roads alone -- dust/ash trailing behind them
(If legends knew their fathers like they knew their mothers perhaps they’d just be saviors)
G-d sees fit for their deeds to live longer than the gyre of forever
Legends follow the route etched in their palms
There is a metaphorical prison they’re running from
a broken iron fetter the ever-present reminder of cemented untruths and delayed deaths
Years after school teachers with the softest hands and the brightest eyes
will call their agoraphobia and mania
simply beautiful



This material is copyrighted. Small quotes or citations are permissible with the permission of the author. Any attempt to reproduce the above material will indefinitely result in lawsuit.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Love Sirens

What they do not tell you is that love is not different.
It is like any other emotion that at any moment like
white smoke passes into nothing right before your
eyes. But it's a feeling, unlike the others, that is quickly
missed. Months spent scouring love's residue off places
where it's hardest - the elbows and behind the knees -
are easy forgotten. The anger that comes sporadic like
a metallic rain shower pelleting its heaviness where
there is none. Moments where quiet makes you mad.
If you lay in bed alone, love memories crawl up beside
you - fingering your better judgement and fondling your
will to remember pain - with songs that sound a lot like
the pleads and promises of former lovers.



This material is copyrighted. Small quotes or citations are permissible with the permission of the author. Any attempt to reproduce the above material will indefinitely result in lawsuit.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Wow...Nicolas Guillen


Yesterday I shared a contemporary with you, but today we're going back a bit. I became aware of Nicolas Guillen from The Oxford Book of Caribbean Verse. Guillen is an Afro Cuban poet(1902-1987), he is best remembered as the poet laureate of Cuba. Though I know very little about his background, I do know that he was a member of the Communist Party and his poetry was often infused with issues of social and political concern. While the issue of politics is a heavy handed subject, Guillen's poetry is never overwrought by it. He is very clever when it comes to critique, and image construction.
Most of what I have read by Guillen is translated and for that perhaps I am at a disadvantage. Translations provide definition and general meaning, but what they cannot do is carry the sounds and connotations of a language's history. It's what separates it from another. Still what I have read by Guillen is nothing short of extremely well thought out, and brillant. Two of my favorites, incuded below, come from his collection of poetry the The Great Zoo translated by Robert Marquez.


The Usurers

Ornithomorphous monsters
in wide black cages,
the usurers.

There is the White Crested (Great Royal Usurer)
and the Buzzard Usurer, of the open plains,
and the Common Torpedo, that devours its offspring,
and the ash-colored Daggertail,
that devours its parents,
and the Vampire Merganser,
that sucks blood and flies over the ocean.

In the forced leisure
of their enormous black cages,
the usurers count and recount their feathers
and lend them to one another for a fee.


Hunger

This is hunger. An animal
all fangs and eyes.
It cannot be distracted or deceived.
It is not satisified with one meal.
It is no content
with a lunch or a dinner.
Always threatens blood.
Roars like a lion, squeezes like a boa,
thinks like a person.

The specimen before you
was captured in India (outskirts of Bombay)
but it exists in a more or less savage state
in many other places.

Please stand back.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The Work of A Poem and A Muse is Never Done



Kim Addonizio is a favorite poet of mine. Sadly though I am behind the curve when it comes to her newest publications. I've been looking at Goddard University for graduate school where she is currently visiting faculty. Her collection What Is This Thing Called Love? is so far my only copy. Sorry Kim, I'm going to buy the others, I promise. I also have her joint effort with Dorianne Laux, The Poet's Companion which is summed up in the title. But if the one collection I have is any indication of what she's capable of then I will definitely continue to be a fan.

"Muse", a poem from the collection has served as a namesake and inspiration for one of my own poems. Though they bear no resemblance, I think, I know and now you the reader, know that her poem was the starting point for my own. My "Muse" however is currently in the shop right now. I just decided to do it in parts and so far all I'm sure about, at this juncture, is part one which I've included below.

I recently heard a spoken word poet say that there is no such thing as a finished poem. Most writers know this tid bit of information. On average a writer may spend hours formally and informally working with a piece: pulling, tweaking, mending, destroying, and building up again. Striking an aha! moment is far less likely than actually being able to read over your work without wincing, or my favorite -- feeling like God after creating, a moment in which you can look on your creation and say with assurance, It is good.

In this particular case however I am not speaking about a poem not being finished or good in the eye of its poet, but rather a poem not being finished in the sense that it is constantly giving birth to new poems and concepts. Addonizio's "Muse" sparked the match for my own poem. Similarly, great poetry that has lasted through the ages continues to impact new writers and their poetry. Each new bit of writing produced is a light to another one like a spliff that we want to blow on a few more times before the guy on the left notices you're hogging.


There are no new subjects under the sun, how many times have you heard that? A writer of any sort mulling over how she is going to create new subject matter is certainly wasting her time. The truth is the entire world, your life is a cliche. Still love and heartbreak, the longest standing cliches known to mankind are also the most riveting. We write about it, we watch it, we discuss it. We find ways to stand it. We take the hand-me down recipe, throw some Scotch Bonnet on it, douse it in some browning and we make it our own. It's the same with poetry we love, poetry we hate, poetry that's alright. We find a way to stand our admiration, our hatred, our blase.




MUSE by Kim Addonizio

When I walk in,
men buy me drinks before I even reach the bar.

They fall in love with me after one night,
even if we never touch.

I tell you I've got this shit down to a science.

They sweat with my memory,
alone in cheap rooms they listen

to moans through the wall
and wonder if that's me,

letting out a scream as the train whines by.

But I'm already two states away, lying with a boy
I let drink rain from the pulse at my throat.

No one leaves me, I'm the one that chooses.
I show up like money on the sidewalk.

Listen, baby. Those are my high heels daggling from the phone wire.

I'm the crow flapping down,
that's my black slip

you catch sight of when the pain
twists into you so deep

you have to close your eyes and weep like a goddamned woman.




Like what you read, then definitely check out Kim Addonizio at http://kimaddonizio.com/bio.html




MUSE by Andreen Anglin

I.

When I saunter out, boys’ eyes buoy on my backside.

They all

balloon my nakedness in their minds,
suck the sides of their mouths,
rub their hands against their jeans.

They all want

to camouflage my body in the stud mass of their own,
to slide their palms over my skin, feel how it runs like water all around,
to say my name, their lips eager to form the shapes --
syllables thwarted on a wave of tongue, sounds hollowed shut in their gums.

They never lose my scent, the way the air
taste of ripe mango after I’ve left. I don’t
need to see them to know they do it. I can
read the room’s Braille in the cushion of my fingertips as I wave good night.



I have included the original of this piece i.e. what it looked like in its raw state. I'm pretty partial to it. I like it this way; it's experimental and carries the heaviest voice I've ever written in. However, in an effort to tone down the vulgarity, it has come to look like the above version which I am still trying with. Because the original is so explict, showing it often makes me insecure. I believe people will judge me or my other works based on this one.

I don't want other writers or readers to think that the vulgarity is meant only for shock value, it's a voice, a very unique and particular voice, perhaps one that people aren't used to hearing or want to hear. I would also like to say that I hate defending my work, it is not something I make a habit of, however, in the case of this poem I have made an exception. I'm still figuring it all out. If you have any helpful tips or advice please email me, I welcome any advice or criticism you may have.



MUSE

when i saunter out eyes buoy on my b a c k s i d e they all

suck sides of their mouths and rub their hands against

t h i g h s they call me into bed and ask me to star in their

wet d r e a m s camouflaging my body in the stud mass

of their o w n i don’t need to see them to know they do i t

i can read the rooms braille in the cushion of my fingertips

as I wave g o o d n i g h t they blow me up in their m i n d s

& carry me on out onto their d i c k s riding them backwards

so they can watch my hair s w i n g contortions of my back

like still w a v e s but mostly my ass fruit as it slides and w i n e s

pumping the juice out through the other s i d e they never lose

my s c e n t they way the air taste ive left the whistle of my hips

that call soldiers and big-headed dogs to a t t e n t i o n you don’t

stand a chance in this w a r ive got explosives that can nuke your

saints & your g o d s break up & smash t i m e ive got gypsy tanks

that can roll over your thoughts before they come to m i n d listen

b o y s im americas most w a n t e d the jailed jezebel scraping

through to your r e a l i t y staking you out on the corners down the

block from your h o m e s my knee high boots hold two atomic

bombs e a s y my serpentine flesh is not the eve of nativity or n a ï v e t é

im the lillith kneeling in between swallowing whole generations

purring your name a f t e r beware of me in your h e a d reading

your journals ransacking a l b u m s im a judas at your dinner t a b l e

im a puppeteer throwing arms up in surrender



This material is copyrighted. Small quotes or citations are permissible with the permission of the author. Any attempt to reproduce the above material will indefinitely result in lawsuit.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

BabyGirl

Let's say I'm still bow legged broad-backed foot bottom hard
from dragging in the okra-colored garbage bin to the back;

let's say I'm a gash that for too long has gone undressed,
gangster pathogens have readied me for labor so I'm paying;

let's say the amphetamines you gave me keep my teeth from
rattling and my bones from turning cold on my sheetless bed;

let's say I'm losing you pulling up alongside, asking me to come
with your sun-diluted eyes, saying I'm pretty, asking my name.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Also Today, Carol Willete Bachofner's "Asleep Then, Despite Color"

I cannot help when I read this poem to think about the most popular grass poem ever written, of course I'm speaking of none other than Walt Whitman's "Song of Myself". It's tragic to think that every grass poem from now on will be compared to Whitman's. But I suppose the gate opener always deserves praise or at least a hail. Anyhow, Bachofner does a damn good job with hers. Consider these first few lines:

The elusiveness of grass, though we walk on it

every day, is its motive:

to crush the weed, to sponge water

from the air and sky, to say green

to the desert on the other side

of the whole country, where black

moods and orange flames persist in eradication.

It goes on to comment on humanity's seeming disregard, perhaps even nonchalance for nature. The speaker explains that nature particularly grass, everyday rain or shine, (because those things are expediencies and not inhibitions), continues to fulfill its life's purpose. But why would it continue when we repay it with disrespect? It's humbling to recognize that nature reacts in the same way we would, and why would it not? Humans are as much a part of nature as any other creation, though we'd like to imagine and carry on as if we weren't.

If we sleep, and most of us do, with disregard

for nature outside, we miss the bending in prayer

of these small gods of oxygen. We miss

the slow unfurling heavenly blue morning glory,

its fuchsia twin whispering

in the open mouth of daybreak.

In this regard, the poem is environmentalist in tone. Yet on the other end it seems also to be a critique on humans and our tendency to sleep through the significant things, the beautiful things. When we are awake, we sleep walk oblivious to our world, longing instead for more unnecessary material with which to saturate and drown ourselves in.

The speaker is ultimately trying to convey a concern for the effects of global warming in a new light. So you don't care that your summers are a bit hotter than in the past, or that the erratic effects on the ocean may be bringing another hurricane your way but what about grass? Do you care enough about having the aesthetic possibility of grass? Maybe it's not as self-centered as it sounds. Maybe it's what some people need to know to care. The speaker of the poem finishes with the following:

Impossible, you argue, to see everything

grass does. Sometimes it does it miles away

at the edges or in the cracks of the city,

or under rotted boards of a chicken coop.

It does something, too, at the lip

of the sea, wearing a disguise, or suddenly,

spontaneously, disappearing on both sides of the Atlantic,

all at once. No one knew it would go,

knew why it gave up on us. Under a waterless sky,

it did its grass thing and died. We were asleep then.


Like what you read, then definitely check out Carol Willete Bachofner at VerseDaily.org

Loose-Lingering

I workshopped a poem that I've been dealing with for a year and a half. The poem, now called "Firsts,"originally "Some Summer Nights" (Aren't you glad I changed the title?), began from an excercise in which I took my own personal memories of a place and fused it with an experience I wished happened, or fantasized about.

My friends often get caught up in the belief that everything I write is somehow autobiographical. While I believe that personal experience impacts and gives a special color to poetry, it is not the only means by which to create a poem. In many of my poems, I try to explore another personality, another age, an emotion I'm unfamilar with or hate, like love for example.

"Firsts" had many images that I still remember vividly such as the goats, my neighbor, the canal. The canal was taken from a canal that run along the front of my primary school. There was a small passage way about the width of a single car garage that led into the school, but on either side of the passage was the canal. It was not half as romantic as the poem makes you believe either. In fact, it was disgusting. Nevertheless all theses images, without the poem, linger loosely in my memory as they're not connected to any significant or even memorable experience; they are merely there, parts of the scene, the brackdrop, of my childhood. "Firsts" however gives them a home experience, somewhere to live, even if only within an imagined experience.

FIRSTS

When my house darkens and sounds settle,
I sneak out to meet him. I tread quickly to the fat-
trunked mango tree on the corner of our block.
It’s only three houses away. He is there, always
before me. “I thought you wouldn’t come,” crossing
his arms. Cocky doesn’t suit him. “Well, you
thought wrong.” It doesn’t suit me either. We kiss
a kiss that is scripted. We stop soon our bodies
too clammy to be romantic. “You want to swim?”
I nod and he reaches for my hand. He takes the lead,
I walk beside him. The neighborhood is hushed,
no vagabond dogs or passing cars. As we walk
dirt gets kicked up in our sandals. Mr. Fletcher’s
mama goat and kids are the only vigilants tonight.
They lay on their sides undisturbed by our passing.
We soon reach the canal. We start slowly,
sliding off our worn sandals. I cross my hands over
my belly grasping the ends of my shirt and swiftly
peel it off. My mother tells me not to wear bras to bed.
My shorts and panties go down together. He is
already in before I finish. “I’m going to be an Olympic
diver!” and I rush full in. “What Olympics? You need
skills for that,” he swims to the edge and climbs out.
He paces, the glow from the solitary streetlight
coloring his baby face orange, he looks for me in the water
and when he finds me, he grins wide cracking his knuckles
behind his back, “I’ll show you how it’s done girl.”




This material is copyrighted. Small quotes or citations are permissible with the permission of the author. Any attempt to reproduce the above material will indefinitely result in lawsuit.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Pheonix Rising: maybe an allusion to Maxwell's song (of myself)

Ok so I had a blog a year or so ago and it was dedicated to critiquing poetry on Verse Daily. It was primarily for a Poetry Workshop I was taking at the time. Thus not of my own volition. This effort however is. After reading Geoffrey Philps' blogs I felt, excuse me for sounding trite, but inspired and encouraged to write again.
When you're not surrounded by writers it is easy to forget that that title is not afforded without sufficient work and diligence. With that said I'd like to share some of Philps' words that captivated me so much today.

"A writer learns her craft by toil, failure, and providence. But mostly from failure. For writing is a solitary discipline--learning to create a poem, short story or poem from a fleeting phrase, an ephemeral image or an indelible experience. And she must do this by using language that is true to her life and her community while she is also learning from other writers, living or dead, how to balance tone and rhythm, metaphor and rhyme, plot and pacing while maintaining her unique vision. This, as Pam Mordecai recently stated, takes persistence and courage.

"For it is so easy to give in and fade into the crowd. Better to be a prodigal and to be welcomed back into the bleating herd of writers.But if she is lucky, she may find a way to speak with confidence in the timbre of her own voice.

If she is very lucky, she may find a living mentor who may offer her guidance at a crucial stage of her career. A living mentor, as John O' Donohue has suggested in Divine Beauty, has a valuable place in any society: 'To know they are there, day in day out, at the frontiers of their own limitation and vision, probing further into new possibility, enduring at lonely thresholds in the hope of discovery, to know they are willing to risk everything is both disturbing and comforting' (257)"