Seeing as we’ll be in 2015 by next Friday – life happens that quick! – I thought I would do something different to wrap up 2014.
Below is a short reading from my chapbook Corpus Christi Octaves done on the banks of the Ohio River earlier this week. Note the heavy fog on the river: by the end of recording, we were halfway in fog ourselves.
Special thanks to my wife, Ani, for going above and beyond the call of duty in the name of poetry by both recording this reading as well as providing the cover art for the book:
The collection deals with the passing of Dennis Flinn and Christine Maloy, poet friends from my hometown Corpus Christi, Texas. The poems read – “Sky,” “Stage,” & “Snow” – are written in an eight line form, each with its own syllabic measure.
Thank you to each and every one of you who stops by and reads this blog. My goal when I started was to have a forum in which to send a little positive poetry-centric energy out into the world. Through your readership, I feel that energy to have been returned many times over.
Enjoy the reading – awkwardness, fog, & all! Good writing and reading to you in the new year!
We’ve had some steady days of clouds making their way over us. The early mornings have been looking something like this:
In my work, I’ve been working with repetition in some recent poems of mine, trying to incorporate repeating words and images conceptually. The poem below by Tomas Tranströmer is a good model for what I mean. Each time a word or image is repeated, it is reembodied and adds to the overall effect. It’s almost as if the first “blow” in the beginning of the poem sets the details of the poem in motion.
A Winter Night – Tomas Tranströmer
The storm put its mouth to the house
and blows to get a tone.
I toss and turn, my closed eyes
reading the storm’s text.
The child’s eyes grow wide in the dark
and the storm howls for him.
Both love the swinging lamps;
both are halfway towards speech.
The storm has the hands and wings of a child.
Far away, travellers run for cover.
The house feels its own constellation of nails
holding the walls together.
The night is calm in our rooms,
where the echoes of all footsteps rest like sunken leaves in a pond, but the night outside is wild.
A darker storm stands over the world. It puts its mouth to our soul and blows to get a tone. We are afraid the storm will blow us empty.
The above, by the Honduran writer Augusto Monterroso, is credited as being one of the world’s shortest stories. Monterroso is one of my favorite writers in the Latin American microcuento tradition.
When I first read him, I was amazed at how much spookiness can happen in a short amount of prose. The form – which in English goes by various names: flash fiction, prose poetry, short shorts, microfiction, etc. – allows for a certain kind of sensibility to play.
Myself, I find a complicated humor in the form at times, as can bee seen in two new pieces published in Star 82 Review’s Issue 2.4.
This particular piece has been 10 years in the making. A lot of living and learning – both via books as well as cultural and emotional understanding – was undergone to get to the final draft. I am grateful to have it out in the world in such a fine forum.
Thank you to judge Carmen Gimenez Smith and the good folks at Blue Mesa Review! And congratulations to the other winners!
When I read poetry, I want to feel myself suddenly larger … in touch with—or at least close to—what I deem magical, astonishing. I want to experience a kind of wonderment. And when you report back to your own daily world after experiencing the strangeness of a world sort of recombined and reordered in the depths of a poet’s soul, the world looks fresher somehow. Your daily world has been taken out of context. It has the voice of the poet written all over it, for one thing, but it also seems suddenly more alive… —Mark Strand, The Art of Poetry No. 77, 1998
What moves me most about the above quote is how clearly it states the power of a poem to color one’s view of the world. You can’t step in the same river twice, Heraclitus said (and Borges quoted religiously 🙂 ). Poetry, then, is a way to document what the second steps into the river – and the third, fourth, etc. – feel like. You leave a good poem different, not for any act of manipulation, but simply an act of listening and attention, words that apply to reading and prayer.
I was happy to share the following poem with my students this week. I told them one of the things I love about it is how Strand gets away with repeating “someone” and “something,” big no-no’s that I look for when I revise my own work. Usually “something” is not pointing to an ethereal wonderment, but at a lack of specificity. In Strand’s poem, the words become the very air of a party, and then the air of the universe.
From the Long Sad Party– Mark Strand
Someone was saying
something about shadows covering the field, about
how things pass, how one sleeps towards morning
and the morning goes.
Someone was saying
how the wind dies down but comes back,
how shells are the coffins of wind
but the weather continues.
It was a long night
and someone said something about the moon shedding its white
on the cold field, that there was nothing ahead
but more of the same.
a city she had been in before the war, a room with two candles
against a wall, someone dancing, someone watching.
We began to believe
the night would not end.
Someone was saying the music was over and no one had noticed.
Then someone said something about the planets, about the stars,
how small they were, how far away.