from Toward A Poetics
that fire hydrant hasn't moved in months
I've been watching it
waiting for it, resisting it
for in resolve endures
happy yellow deistic rain
and nut trees
I'm trying to say something here
that I love you
as Groucho Marx loved
all oblong and obfuscated
awkwardly truncated of a leg-like evening
I love you! can't you see that I love you!
clear as a moustache
gushing forth in platitudes
and fine hyperbole, irreverent cliche
I want to give you
all the things
I'm not supposed to give
morning summers and hands
beach shaped boxes and hearts
I want to lay a head cheese in your lap
and put my tongue in it
my feet, my hog
all of my boiled parts and jelly
Perhaps Anne gets enemas, but only yearly. Rarely even at dinner, if nobody guesses.
1/28/10 7pm @
Terrible horrible Ethan wearing all yellow, pushing over Sarah's trashcans.
Language is never in a state of rest, it's Bill dripping. We'll wake one day, inevitably, to wish we'd been awake.
Please visit www.thewaypost.com for more details. They have beer.
So much of poetry today seems like young adult fiction, meant for a readership who can’t sit still for more than five minutes, and certainly not if they are confused. This is my favorite kind of poetry.
Listening to the story, I exercise my will to believe. Looking at the painting, I make a story of it, and find it beautiful. Waking in the morning, I find her fresh, new, and choose to be in love with her. We may be the happiest or the most miserable people in the world, it is up to us to a large degree. A broad black butterfly is white with this.
There is, of course, inherent meaning in every work of art. The most abstract painting still says at least “white paint,” or “orange line,” “shape,” or “I am an abstract painting painted by someone who chose to put this here, that there, etc.” At some point in the painting’s narrative we pick up the meaning and run with it, and may take it wherever we want. There is no one to say whether we are right or not, whether our reading is the correct one. There is no correct reading of any painting or any poem. An artist who implies that there is, is making porridge rather than art, and should stay out of it besides.
Poisoning by spraying of DDT for Dutch elm disease in the 1950s was instrumental in generating concern over the potential for a “Silent Spring.” The concern was this: that the DDT-coated elm leaves would be processed by earthworms, which would then be eaten by robins. The robins would die and no song would fill suburban mornings or either evening cul-de-sacs. This is the joy of art and poetry and living.
Real art has the capacity to make us nervous. I do not propose any attempt to “figure out” a painting, or a marriage, but to sit before it, to let it speak all the things it seems to speak and might be speaking. To allow these possibilities to also be the painting. Obfuscation can be a rich porridge indeed.
Misunderstanding is one means of understanding a work of art. To allow for misunderstandings is a device as valid and as useful as metaphor or meter.
The question to me seems to be this: Is misery real, or is it narrative poetry that makes us miserable? That dresses us in sweatpants and sits us in front of our televisions. That takes us to the mall on Sundays, and to Applebee’s after. Don’t tell me who I am or who you are either I really don’t care unless of course you are unknowable or at least seem unknowable then yes I would love to have sex with you later on if the weather’s nice. It is why I see when I look out at it.
Of course, no marriage lasts forever happily along. Even a block of wood gets bored, and a lightpost will die if you let it. This is why we have museums.
The organ that birds use to produce vocalizations (songs and calls) is very different in location and structure from that of a poet. The vocal organ of birds is a unique bony structure called a syrinx, which lies at the lower end of the trachea, is surrounded by an air sac, and may be deep in the breast cavity. The vocal organ of a poet, in contrast, is a linear structure called a syntax, which may take any shape at all depending on mood or temperament, and is most often surrounded by a wine sac. Like a songbird, the poet’s organ may be deep in the breast cavity, but also may be found in other locales, so long as it is deep.
You don’t become the world’s casual dining leader by serving up tampon spondee or blonde fondue. Her wings are a different matter.
The initial step is a gesture, a word if you will but usually, for me, a phrase. If you need the world to be put together for you, then you most probably don’t belong in the world. The world is a series of fragments, each as important as the other. Peach as important as a feather. Of course I’m wrong about this, you can’t fly with an arm stabbed by peaches.
Everything rhymes with everything, it’s only the other things that don’t.
Finally, Mary Oliver writes in A Poetry Handbook, “A reader beginning a poem is like someone stepping into a rowboat with a stranger at the oars; the first few draws on the long oars through the deep water tell a lot – is one safe, or is one apt to be soon drowned? A poem is that real a journey. Its felt, reliable rhythms can invite, or can dissuade. A meaningful rhythm will invite. A meaningless rhythm will dissuade.”
there's little that occurs in a night
that will render our next days obsolete
though we wish it
and cling to the hope that
will be different
so postponing the proverbial Monday morning
we look beyond in the frontispiece of our skulls
of course, there are glimpses
and even real successes along the way
but these only work to perpetuate the myth
we are liars if we believe them
cowards if we don't
this, then, is for you:
a bucket, a rope, a well
a hill and hawthorn trees
beyond them a field of fireweed
sloping down in the orange evening light
to a small sandstone village
roofed with red tile made more red
by dusk and bats and laughter
which we can hear now, and join in
if you want, and disappear forever
"...perhaps it was the discovery that language is an order of reality itself and not a mere mediating medium - that it is possible and even likely that one can have a confrontation with a phrase that is as significant as a confrontation with a tree, chair, cone, dog, bishop, piano, vineyard, door, or penny - that replaced her [Gertrude Stein's] commitment to a medical career with a commitment to a literary career."
It's interesting to imagine the phrase with which she might have had that confrontation: from the waiter at Chez Max: "more creme broulee Ms. Stein?"; or Hemingway arriving early with sparring gloves: "how about a few rounds with old Papa!"; or maybe Alice: "have you tried the bisque moules at Miss Kitty's Parlour... Oh!"
It's the penny that's most beautiful in the quote above, and most confrontational.
Do you see that sunflower
Looking in the bedroom window?
It stares in my room all day.
I feel uncomfortable undressing,
Drinking a glass of water,
My god, my husband
Has seen less of me.
Do you see that sunflower?
It has been looking in
As long as I can remember.
Although I cannot remember
When it first looked in,
Certainly before I lived here,
Before August, and the children,
Before the advent of other flowers.
Do you see that sunflower at the window?
In the summer it was as yellow as god.
In the winter it was numb as a limb.
I asked someone to prune it,
And it grew taller.
When nobody is home
It has seen the cracks open in the wall,
The carpet grow like grass,
It has seen the light coruscate
It has seen one perfect ghost appear
And then, rethinking, disappear.
Do you see that sunflower,
Planted outside my window,
Stuck in the ground like a flag,
Like a first attempt
To take stock of this world,
The man and woman who live here,
Light separating from shadow,
As if it could,
As if it were meant to?