With the light at the end of the tunnel in sight, it feels like this month has gone on far longer than it has. It probably has something to do with me working on these poems for the Pulitzer Remix as far back as mid-January, so three solid months of focus is at play here. No excuses; writing is hard work, even the simplest, goofiest of found poems can be unusually taxing. Not taxing in a bad way (is there such a thing as good taxing?) but simply…
I am beginning to see interesting patterns in Cheever’s work, little quirks of mechanics that have had a tendency to force a certain voice to appear in the poems. He isn’t fond of first-person, nor is he fond of conjunctions, and he is awfully fond of showing off his vocabulary. His themes of suburban unhappiness and the desire of his characters to simply get away speak volumes about the author more than they do about the characters. Some days, some poems, it was a real chore to deliberately not let his darkness through, to create alternate worlds and narratives that serve as antidote to The Stories of John Cheever.
Here we go with this week’s roundup of found poems.
April 20: the type
Like a foodie insisting on using every part of the animal, I considered every printed page possible fodder for a poem, and this one came from the colophon. The subtle rhyme of “designed” and “bind” was only discovered after the fact. I probably shouldn’t admit that, it makes me sound so much smarter otherwise.
April 21: mondo-ku
Originally titled “haiku” because I couldn’t find an anagram with a unifying theme, these four little ku were constructed in this order, with their lines consecutive within the text. One of those exercises where I hoped I could show a variety of styles and themes contained within a single story.
April 22: s/w/him
A second poem created from the interweaving of pages from two separate stories, with a title that means something to me but I don’t know how it tracks with readers. Anyway, Cheever’s dark world wins out in this one.
April 23: Stilettos
Knives or shoes? A personal favorite, mostly because I liked having the interrupting format. And the last lines. Oh, hell, it was a lot of fun all around.
April 24: Tableau
My first ever attempt at a pantoum, with its unusual patterns of repetition. After seeing others in the Pulitzer Remix use this form I was determined to give it a go when the moment presented itself. This story was the first where entire lines jumped out at me. The fact that I was able to lay them down in the order in which they appeared in the text was pure luck. Not as subtle as some pantoum I’ve seen, but I’m happy with the results.
April 25: arroyo
I wanted something short, but heavy and suggestive with meaning. I limited myself to two pages, wrote a much long poem, and then whittled away at it until it was merely a whiff of itself. That mysterious promise at the end – even I what to know what it was!
April 26: Err
To err is human, but as these distorted images collected I discovered perhaps human error has been rather destructive. I jokingly refer to this as my “climate change poem” and if I’d been thinking I’d have posted it on Earth Day. This poem also has some very strong resonance with one of the first found poems I ever wrote near 30 years ago. I wish I still had that poem about dog college…
Next week, the final roundup, including my found poem taking from one of Cheever’s best-known stories, “The Enormous Radio,” which managed to make itself the perfect summation of Cheever, his stories, and the poems his stories inspired.