Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘poetry’

Well, THAT happened!

Thirty days, thirty poems extracted from “The Stories of John Cheever” as part of the Pulitzer Remix Project. As we hit the final few days it seemed to me as if we all taking a final sprint for home. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that many of my fellow remixers might have been holding back their one final poem as a sort of send-off. For my part, I knew going in I wanted the last poem to be one of Cheever’s most famous: “The Enormous Radio.”

Here’s how the month ended for me.

April 27: hushed sect

To be honest, the was the sloppiest of all my poems. For the project I preferred to work from photocopies that could travel with me, that I could pick up and toy with while commuting or wherever I happened to have a few moments’ free time. For this particular poem I worked at home, straight from the book, trying to be as spontaneous as possible. I had edited and saved but failed to post this on the day it was due, only realizing it was still in “draft’ form the next day. As for the poem itself, I was intrigued by the portrait that emerged early on and felt determined to make the end line up.

April 28: Oy, Death

This is, I think, the very first found poem I completed back in January. I was looking for patterns in language to play with, repetition that I could bounce off of, and when “over” and its multiple meanings came into play I knew I had found what I was looking for. I had three different ways of formatting the poem in mind before finally deciding on a very measured approach.

April 29: the blow

Outside of dialog, Cheever wrote very little first-person narratives, so when I landed on his (and my) opening line I knew I had to use it. And when you look at that blunt line you realize there’s no flowery prose that you can hide behind; what follows must be equally terse. Again, I take no credit for Cheever’s dark demons.

April 30: hearts unmoored

I walked away from and came back to “The Enormous Radio” several times because I wasn’t able to make found poetic sense of it. Each time I thought I’d found something I could build on, only to have it diverge into a yellow wood and leave me at the fork. Then I realized the two-part structure, the first with its emotions and the second with its repercussions. The word “it” became pivotal and where I had been shying away from the word “love” throughout I realized I had to use it here. In the end it becomes a farewell to the project, a tribute to all who ventured along this journey, and a sad commentary about Cheever himself.

Where I had my fears about committing to so huge a project going in, I’m happy to see those fears we unfound… okay, I freaked out a little half way through. I had some gaps and doubts that I could keep pulling out poems of a decent quality. I was buoyed along by fellow remixers in the comments who, when i was sure I had just posted the worst dreck imaginable, were able to find glimmering facets I hadn’t even noticed. Though I wasn’t part of the facebook group I really felt like we were a solid clan, working the edges of our found efforts from ragged to crystalline. I’m proud to have been a part of such a huge and committed bunch of participants and to whatever comes next.

A chapbook maybe?

So here we are, post-National Poetry Month (or ponapomo, if you will) and as much as I’d like to keep going I do have some other pressing writerly deadlines and project to finish. I hope you’ll take the time to visit not only my links but to check out some of the other 2400+ poems at the Pulitzer Remix site and see what I’ve been talking about.

And in the kidlitosphere, Poetry Friday continues, hosted this week by Elizabeth Steinglass. Plenty of goodness there, probably none of it based on the work of John Cheever.

Read Full Post »

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…

Well, work.

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.

Read Full Post »

Welcome to my third roundup of my participation in the Pulitzer Remix project, wherein 85 poets are turning Pulitzer Prize-winning works of fiction into found poems. Daily.

As with adopting any habit, getting to and through the three-week mark is the hardest. Writing daily isn’t a problem, but pushing to get through the third week’s worth of poems is/was a bit of a struggle. Actually, in anticipation, I had written the first, second and fourth week’s worth of poems for the project prior to the beginning of the month, because I wanted to save this third week as a sort of additional challenge. Call it “deadline found poetry” if you will.

I picked a hell of a week to make things harder for myself.

I won’t pretend that living in Boston this week hasn’t been oddly unsettling. I’m fine, my family is fine, my friends and co-workers are fine, but I know this isn’t a universal truth. It’s also a qualified “fine” because I know that sometimes traumatic events have a way of worming their way inside our heads to deliver unexpected or unconscious consequences.

Would it change the timber or tone of my found poems?

April 13: methane melee
Okay, I promised with the limerick in the first week that potty humor was bound to return. But I swear, I don’t go looking for these things! And once I was finished the title was, and most of these anagrams have been, a happy treat of coincidence.

April 14: Neu Noir
My tip-o-the-hat to Bukowski. There is a story about me as a teen having a conversation with a wino on the street back in 1979 who I swear was Bukowski before I knew who Bukowski was. Honest. A face like his wasn’t hard to forget. Anyway, as the poem started coming together I suddenly felt like perhaps, just perhaps, Buke was raising a bottle of rotgut from the beyond and saying “Eh, nice try, kid.”

April 15: Warm People
Hunting through the original story I wasn’t coming up with anything cohesive. Everything seemed so disjointed and in lumps. Finally the word “happy” jumped out at me and I started making connections with different clumps as miniature portraits. I also realized how miserable Cheever must have been, so many of his characters seem driven by sadness and compromise.  Write what you know?

April 16: matinee
And here we are, the day after the bombing, and I’m in Rome. I wanted something simple, and simple I got. It’s best to conjure up an Italian Neo-realist movie before you start reading this one for the full effect.

April 17: whim-sea
This was an “assignment” to take two stories with connected themes – “The Swimmer” and “The Ocean” – and blend them to see what came up. This roiling result came from the first pages of each story. It wound up darker than it seemed while I was culling words and phrases initially. See my “about me” page for the personal significance of swimming pools.

April 18: old toy fever
Where the heck did this come from? I was playing with structure and didn’t even see the possibilities of parallel narrative with a shared “sigh” between them. I’m leaving it stand for now, but if I decide to do anything with this poem in terms of future publication I will probably reformat it. Your thoughts?

April 19: Euclid’s Dry Cleaning
In the original story a sign on a truck (which became the title) prompts the protagonist to ponder his life as a geometric fantasy. I was much more interested in Euclid, and what would it be like if he were a dry clearer in our modern world. Or at least in Cheever’s world. Cheever didn’t make it easy, but he never made it easy for his characters. Still, I think I managed to make it work. At least Euclid sleeps well.

It’s a bit of a long home stretch for the rest of the month, but I have the last three days already set so there’s just this coming week to sort through and decide which things are working and which just don’t make the cut.

In the meantime, there’s plenty of other poetry out there. Why, just look at the Poetry Friday postings over at Live Your Poem. Irene’s got the roundup from the kidlitosphere.

Read Full Post »

Well, the Pulitzer Remix is humming along and there’s just so much great stuff everyone is producing that I’m finding it hard to even skim through them all! It’s possible I’ll wind up spending the rest of this year casually reading all the participants’ submissions because I’m sure I’m missing real gems.

Of course, I’d love it if you discovered my gems first. Here’s what I’ve posted since last Friday, with notes about the poem’s origin or construction following the link.

April 6: The Babe of Clancy Tower
Yup, I went with a bawdy limerick. It was impossible to resist. The original story’s main character was a crusty old Irishman from County Limerick, so I just had to try! But in hunting out rhyming words I found that I had to shift the focus. The results are, well, what came together. (This will not be the last time bathroom humor appears in my found poems).

April 7: Halt
This one I think of as my dystopian poem. The source was a dark suburban tale that felt like Cheever exorcising some sort of inner demons. What I found within that were two clans of people engaged in some power struggle.

April 8: Cafe Rep
This was taken from the Preface to the collection, and as I was reading through it I wanted something that felt like a tone poem about Cheever’s New York. The duality of it – the “public” embedded within the “private” – surprised me when it was finished because I didn’t see it at first. One commenter called it “cinematic” and that probably best describes how it felt at the time I culled it.

April 9: untruths
One of the exercises I tried was to pick a page at random and limit myself to what was on the page. Page 341 being 90% dialog pretty much forced my hand: I had to find some new or different meaning in what was on the page. This mini play turned a domestic dispute into an absurdist farce.

April 10: geld
Another single-page-limited poem, and this one came together only after I started playing around with the original title. “The Pot of Gold” contains the word “geld” which is an old English word for “tax” and a German word for money. It’s also the root word for “gelding,” as in, to castrate a horse. Suddenly I saw the possibility of a poem set in the bedroom of a play by Moliere…

April 11: Withholding
Cheever used the word “cupidity” twice within two consecutive sentences, and I had to look it up because I’d never encountered it before. Excessive desire; greed, avarice. Huh. I was going to find a way to use the word when I then found Jupiter and realized I needed to extract Cupid and see what happened.

April 12: idle taste
Perhaps the most “poetic” of my found poems, simply because I wanted to find the best imagery to match the “dream.” I struggled for a long time trying to make a smoother transition between the wave and the mountain, then decided that in most dreams such transitions don’t exist.

This coming week, this is going to be a bit rough. In the past for National Poetry Month, while putting myself on a schedule to write three-plus haiku a day I found that there comes a point where the brain just starts to rebel. Things start to feel forced. Or at least they did for me. As I pushed along to get over the hump it started taking longer and longer to “see” poems within the text, and I started having doubts I could finish what I started.

How’d I do? check back next Friday and see!

In the meantime, Poetry Friday is happening elsewhere on the interwebs. Many fine people writing and sharing wonderful stuff. Check out the roundup over at Random Noodling.

Read Full Post »

For the past couple-three years now I’ve celebrated National Poetry Month with a personal challenge of tweeting upward of three original haiku or limericks a day for a month; a fun way to play a little and keep my wordsmithery focused. I usually followed this up by rounding-up the week’s tweets in one place to share with those who might have missed them in my twitter feed.

This year I decided to take myself and my writing a little more seriously and joined Pulitzer Remix, a month-long project where poets use a Pulitzer Prize-winning work of fiction as the basis for creating found poetry. Each of the participants — 85 of us, or 82, 80-something — has committed to creating and posting a new poem daily for National Poetry Month, which is going to yield an insane number of new poems when it’s all over.

My source book is “The Stories of John Cheever” from 1979. When choosing a book I wanted two things: a book published during my lifetime, and a collection of short stories where I could use each as the artificial confines from which I had to choose my words. The process I used in approaching each poem varied. For some I would glance through the story looking for interesting words or phrases to latch onto and see what they suggested. In other cases I went in with an attempt to try a particular form, structure or style — some less successfully than others. And sometimes I started with a title and tried to build from there. I should note is that the titles of all my poems are taken from the original stories themselves, near anagrams. I say near because I don’t end up using all the letters but I tried to use as many as would make sense.

Our agreement with the project is that we not repost our poems anywhere else until after the project is open, so with my weekly round-up I’ll be giving some background to the poems I’ve composed along with links to the full poems so you can check them out.

And while you’re there you should check out all the great work my fellow found poets are up to as well.

April 1: come monday

This was an early poem and took a while to coalesce. I wasn’t actually sure what, if anything, it was building up to until I came upon the phrase “the noise” mirrored at the beginning and end of the original story. It then became a question of contrasts that were bound by another mirrored word – want/wanted.

April 2: truce

For this poem, I had underlined some sections I liked and then, as I read them straight through, felt they both had the feel of a fever dream mixed with a sense of urgency. I formatted it a couple different ways before I finally settled on the tight column. I wanted it to look rigid and stiff (like the narrator’s flesh) and yet running down, running dry.

April 3: cohorts

The final structure of this poem owes a debt to Maurice Sendak’s book “Alligators All Around,” one of the tiny books in the Nutshell Library. I was actively hunting down adjectives, not really sure what I wanted to do with them, and they started to pair up nicely. In Sendak’s abcadarian the Aligators are doing things that start with one letter of the alphabet — N, Never Napping, O, Ordering Oatmeal, etc — and the resonance of that scheme just popped out at me. Not a perfect fit, but once I found the word “cohorts” in the original title, and then the phrase “fond models” I felt I’d gotten as close as I could.

April 4: Mutineer

This is actually one of the last poems I wrote, and it was because I was having problems whittling down all the material I had uncovered. As with most “lost” things, sometimes in order to find what you’re looking for you have to stop looking. After a few weeks put aside, I opened the story to a random page and found a section offset from the rest of the story that had everything I needed. The title was a happy gift.

April 5: to grieve

It took a while, but I finally found a story with a line that worked out as an ending but at the beginning, and so I pulled an e.e. cummings. Or rather a cummings-lite. With this story I started to get bugged by the way Cheever treated female characters, so I wanted something a little less… hysterical?

But enough about me, there is literally a sea of poems over at Pulitzer Remix, so if you really want to sink your teeth into a whole mess, I mean a monumental passel of poetic goodness, just head on over and jump right in! And in case you weren’t aware, there’s another whole roundup of poetry happening over at Robin Hood Black’s blog Read. Write. Howl.

 

Read Full Post »

Signs of advanced age: I was getting sparked up to write a cranky post about how it seems like the majority of commercial YA looks like crappy romance novels when I decided to scrap it. The world doesn’t need a case made for the obvious, and my birthday deserved something better.

So I started scrawling out a poem. Yeah, that’s age for you right there. Skip the cranky and get loopy.

It’s a sort of personal influences/appreciation/homage thing that came to me in a sing-song way while my brain was still trying to noodle off on my morning commute to work. Pretend it’s 50-plus years from now and you’re a kid in fifth grade who stumbled onto this.

Vonnegut, Pinkwater, Steinbeck, and Lear,
One tall, one squat, one stoic, one queer.
They sailed the seas for a day and a year,
Old Vonnegut, Pinkwater, Steinbeck, and Lear

Vonnegut, being tall, volunteered as the mast
With his back to the bow and his eye on the past,
Shook his head at the foibles of mankind so vast,
“You’ve got to be kind, so it goes, nothing lasts!”

Pinkwater sat cross-legged, he centered the craft
With plenty of ballast both forward and aft.
Self-appointed zen master both thoughtful and daft,
You could hear lizard music whenever he laughed.

Steinbeck manned the oars with a heave and a ho.
When the seas were becalmed he pulled steady and slow
From bowls full of dust on to cannery row
Drunk on wine from the vines where the grapes of wrath grow.

Old Lear was their captain, a man prone to fits,
Who crafted the boat out of lyrical bits,
Like “There once was a man from thr Isle of St. Kitts…”
That despite lacking sense were as good as it gets.

They hadn’t a map but their course was still clear.
The point of the voyage: Carry on, persevere!
Though they fade in the distance they won’t disappear,
Old Vonnegut, Pinkwater, Steinbeck, and Lear.

Freely, I admit this could be better. And I feel a little sorry for including Pinkwater among the names of the long-gone, but his name fit the meter and his verse came easiest, almost in an instant. It’s also extremely unfair that so many other great influences of mine didn’t manage to fit in the boat – Francesca Lia Block and John Dos Passos in particular comes to mind; I just didn’t think they fit inside that absurd boat but they’re as equal an inspiration as the other four.

And these are just the writers, if I’d started mining illustrators and photographers I’d end up writing a Homeric epic!

Down the road I think I’d like to revisit this poem about four absurd travelers, much like Edward Lear’s longer works like “The Owl and the Pussycat” or “The Jumblies.” Down the road. And it’s all downhill from 51, or so I’m supposed to believe. Let’s just say “for another day” and leave it at that.

I thank you all for your kind attention.

Read Full Post »

Ohi.

I’ve missed a bunch of you since dropping out of the Poetry Friday scene earlier this year. After 18 months of posting original poems and making the rounds I felt like I needed to take a break (or give you all a break, depending on how you felt about my poetry!) and refocus my energies on other things. Getting a job after 4 years of unemployment was one of those “other things” and the result was that the writing balance in my life sort of shifted onto a back-burner. I’ve been slowly looking for opportunities to nudge back onto creative turf and this week I stumbled onto something that became a perfect catalyst.

Also, it makes a good poetry challenge for all, and could be the start of something big and new.

Over at Guys Lit Wire there was a re-post of a Neil Gaiman video where he’s proposing everyone give someone they know a scary book for Halloween, a project he’s calling All Hallow’s Read. Neil hardly needs my help getting the word out about anything, but if you want to see what he’s up to (along with a half-dozen people playing zombie in a graveyard over his shoulder) the you’ll want to check this out. But also in the post was a link to someone who had taken Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Raven” and printed it as a single-sheet self-binding booklet to be given away. It’s a cool idea, but it got me thinking.

What if, instead of a chapbook, all of us poetry advocates decided to give out something a little more manageable, spooky but fun? What about something as bite-sized as those little candy bars that get handed out, I wondered. What if, along with a treat, we tossed into trick-or-treater’s goodie bags…

An original Halloween limerick!

They would fit nicely on those pre-perforated business card sheets that you run through a computer printer, dozens of them would be super cheap, and they’re just the right size for carrying around in a pocket and sharing on the playground the next day! Share with friends! Collect them all! Trade them for valuable candies!

Why limericks?

First, it’s short and fits the space nicely. Five lines with an AABBA rhyme scheme that literally sings. The limerick also has great tradition of both nonsense and a twist ending, a character and an undoing or a fatal flaw. Plus a limerick feels most complete as a narrative style, it doesn’t necessarily invite reflection so much as it tells a great little story. In rhyme.

My personal feeling about this is that these Halloween poems is that they be like little birds (or ghoulish ravens, if you will) released into the night and allowed to spark and ignite a correlation between scary and fun and poetry, or any combination thereof. I would certainly expect that if you were to do this that you put your name on it, and maybe a website or email address, though there might be something scary-fun about an anonymous poem magically appearing among the candy. Maybe on the back of the poem you could print up a “Happy Halloween 2012 Trick-or-Treat Poem Day” or something like that along with some scary fun clip art. As long as the fun of the poem wasn’t diluted with a marketing promo, a moral message, or an obnoxious copyright warning that has a word count more than twenty characters or so, I think what it looks like is up to you.

What do you say? Anyone up for this?

I would be jazzed if people posted their poems as comments, and it would be a kick to see photos of the final product. Feel free to share this idea with anyone and everyone, just convince them to drop by and share what they did in the comments.

And now, just to show you what I mean, a trio of newly minted Halloween limericks!

In the rain a young pumpkin named Josh
Rolled down into the lane for a slosh.
His friends back on the vine
Couldn’t warn him in time
As a car came and turned him to squash!

A single dead playboy named Lance
Tried to score at The Afterlife Dance
He came dressed to the nines,
Spouting bad pick-up lines,
But he hadn’t a ghost of a chance!

On All Hallow’s Eve, dark and pale,
The same wretched thing happens to Gail;
She casts spells the whole day
To keep strangers at bay–
Trick-or-treaters show up without fail.

So it’s Poetry Friday, here and there about the internet. A little early, perhaps, but you can go a-trick-or-treating about the offerings over at Live Your Poem where Irene is hosting today.

Read Full Post »

May came, and for all the people it took with it, it couldn’t have left too soon. I was beginning to wonder if these people knew something the rest of us hadn’t figured out yet, perhaps getting an early start on the Mayan 2012 rush. Then Ray Bradbury left us and I had a strange feeling like there really was a connection.

The Transit of Venus.

It visits twice, eight years apart, with a century-plus in between pairings. Charging across the sun, I imagined the Greeks seeing the goddess flying across the sky, making a brief visit to check in and then departing on her journey across the universe. The hop-skip-jump of imagery made it all seem so logical: Venus was a tour bus dropping off its last group of passengers back in 2004, refueling, then picking up the next tour group this year. The announcements went out in May and those with tickets climbed aboard.

the transit of venus

dashing across the sun
first to off-board

returning eight years later
to pick up new travelers

a final boarding call
was sent out in may

collecting visionaries
for a galactic tour

writers and artists
musicians, teachers, dreamers

traveling time’s distorted rails
will return home refreshed

their brief two weeks
a mere century on earth

their visions rekindled
to guide us further

beyond the sun
beyond our imaginations

At the same time I realized all this Laura Purdie Salas offered up a nebula-sized bit of inspiration for her weekly 15-words-or-less challenge. I went with an acrostic I thought appropriate.

raygone
(22 august 1920 – 5 june 2012)

beyond

rockets
and spaceships

daring visionaries
birth entire
universes that become our
radiant

yesterdays

Godspeed, galactic travelers.

Bonus time! Found this awesome NASA video of Venus zipping past the sun. Stunning.

In a smaller universe called the Internet, it’s Poetry Friday. Head on over to Jama’s Alphabet Soup for more.

Read Full Post »

For a third year (third, right? Not fourth?) I’m tweeting haiku thrice daily on Twitter. There appears to be less twitter poetry this year, perhaps the idea of 140 character poetry and stories has played itself out. But as much as I do it in celebration of National Poetry Month I find that taking a few moments during the day to think in such a highly structured format sharpens me up. When I need to take a break, sure, I could go snack, or take a nap, or read some blogs… or I could set the metronome to five-seven-five and see what sort of tunes develop.

I’m free-form this year, no grand theme or design to guide me. The results have been pretty funky.

Sunday, 1 April
despite my claims of not having a theme, food was clearly on my mind

like rolling thunder / my stomach calls for waffles / but they don’t answer

oh, frickadellen! / savory love child of / burger and hot dog!

double leftovers / when laziness trumps hunger / leftovers again

Monday, 2 April
okay, now we’re getting somewhere! nature triumphant!

burning, stinging eyes / itchy, inflamed sinuses / many joys of spring

the umbrella dies / a gust of wind, worn out seams / instant skeleton

tendrils of sunlight / gently caressing eyelids / late afternoon nap

Tuesday, 3 April
eh, not so focused today, with an ominous foreshadowing of a dental appointment later in the week

bear in a campground / scavenges through garbage cans / a potluck gourmand

in the roots of leeks / smell the damp, sandy soil / smell the birth of spring

like a sword in stone / hard kernels of popped corn trapped / between my molars

Wednesday, 4 April
garbage day, joggers, and the lottery. timeless themes of poetry

the sentries lined up / to be relieved of duty / curbside on trash day

laugh, but you don’t see / animals in mylar suits / trying to lose weight

to number the stars / is like counting grains of sand / or lottery odds

Thursday, 5 April
and now we get to it, the mundane couching the horror of the week

though called “rush hour” / a dog chasing his tail / would get to work first

eyes shut, aching jaw / hands and arms uselessly clenched / endless root canal

a biting rip saw? / a tiger’s labored chuffing? / no, a snoring spouse

Bonus-ku!
over at Laura Purdie Salas’s place, for this week’s 15 words or less poem (based on a photo of a horse in a landscape) I contributed the following:

in your haunting eyes / do we look as majestic / as you do in ours?

maybe it doesn’t work without the picture, but then again, maybe it’s a haiku of awe told by a child to an alien.

There are a couple in there I don’t mind. I have some favorites. Early in the week someone on twitter retweeted one of my twitku with a qualified “um…” suggesting that perhaps it wasn’t legitimate haiku because, I don’t know, it didn’t reveal some great truth of nature? Hey, this is the Modern World, people, and garbage cans deserve poetry as much as dead umbrellas and the lottery. Does a root canal deserve to be a haiku? That’s a tough call, but sometimes you don’t know what works until you do it.

So there it is, this week’s contribution to Poetry Friday. There’s probably tons of stuff happening this month, and a decent chunk of it is being rounded up by Robyn at Read, Write, Howl this week. Go on, take a peek. The poetry won’t bite. I can’t speak for the poets…

Read Full Post »

#poetry friday: tools

Growing up I was taught that what separated man from animals was that man developed tools, and that this proved a sophistication and intelligence above all other creatures. This naive arrogance continues to be disproved as we discover more and more animals using simple tools in ways that show a level of intelligence that I think scares some people. This past week I heard about how bears use barnacle-crusted stones to exfoliate the skin around their face and neck. Add this to the Crows that drop walnuts on the roads to be run over by cars, the elephants that use bark to build sponge-like canteens to store water, and the octopi that use coconut shells as armor and I think it’s pretty safe to say that man’s only advantage is that we may ultimately end up only being the first occupants of the planet to evolve, and not the only ones.

a stick is a tool for a raven
a stick is a tool for a man
a raven will use it to forage
a man will club another man

a stone is a tool for an otter
a stone is a tool for a man
an otter will bust open urchins
a man will stone his fellow man

a voice is a tool for microbats
a voice is a tool for a man
a bat will call out for location
a man insults all that he can

a brain has the power of reason
for thought and invention of tools
the animals adapt for survival
while man adapts tools to abuse

With great brains come great complications. You would think that as our brains evolved that our inclination to wipe each other decrease.

Greg over at Gotta Book is hosting the poetry roundup this week. Lots of good stuff, including a link to the Poetry March Madness thing that’s going on right now.

Read Full Post »

In 1975 Morris Albert had a number one hit with a song in the United States he originally recorded as a chart topper in his native Brazil the year before. The song, schmaltz of the highest order, was so damn popular it was covered almost immediately by a whole host of performers including Ella Fitzgerald, Nina Simone, Caetano Veloso, Frank Sinatra, Engelbert Humperdinck, Shirley Bassey, Glen Campbell, The O’Jays, Sarah Vaughan, and Johnny Mathis. Despite its success it is also considered one of the worst songs ever, probably because it seems so fraught with empathy and yet can’t manage to articulate that emotion.

But a funny thing happened on the road to creating a cento poem when I decided to strip away the nonsense in this melancholy love song: turns out the poem isn’t about lost love at all, its defiant, angry rebuff.

nothing more

trying to forget
love
for all my life

I wish
I never met you

never come again
never

again in my heart
again in my life
again in my arms

I may never hear the song Feelings again (please!) without this newfound respect for the kernel of truth hidden within. What I had assumed all these years was some poor simp whining over being dumped is actually a firm stance against them-what-done-em-wrong.

Bonus Cento Time!

I was curious to know if, in the original Spanish, the song was somehow less banal. I found the lyrics to Sentimientos, ran them through Babelfish, corrected for some obvious grammatical issues and… nope, just as sappy. But! There were different words to play with, and once I removed all those meddlesome “feelings,” discovered a more down-to-earth narration of love-gone-south.

tell me
how to forget

tears
suffering

tell me
because now I know
the idiot that I am

tell me
already

it’s not right
because, idiot that I am
I know

you will never tell me

Ah, the delicate torture that is the silent treatment once you’ve been spurned. You know you’re in the wrong, but you need to hear it! Okay, great. Now I can quietly go about forgetting all about the original (and the original original) for another good, long stretch.

Right, on to other Poetry Friday pursuits. Or, Right On! to other Poetry Friday pursuits! It’s all in the inflection. This week Gathering Books isn’t just the Poetry Friday host, it’s Myra’s birthday so its a poetic birthday party!

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »