Old Places

Unlike most of the poems I’ve features, this month, I didn’t read Daniel Johnson’s Inheritancefor class. Actually, I stumbled across it online while looking for more poetry to feature.guess it worked. The poem reminds me of my Jewish Literature class, and for good reason. I like it because of the sense of history it invokes. It’s got good line breaks too.

My poem for today comes out of some of the filming one of my band-mates did during our trip to Paris.

And here the beautiful Paris skyline
This centuries-old church is a wonder to see
A theatre rebuilt twice after bombings
The oldest building in France, and… A KFC

Poetic Beginnings

My inteoduction to Billy Collins’s “Introduction to Poetry,” is a little bit funny. I read it for a literary analysis class. When our teacher asked us what meaning we got from the poem, we all said, “well, he wants us not to do what we’ve been doing here.” And our teacher said, “well, not exactly…” What else was she supposed to say? Acknowledge that she’d given us a poem which undermined her entire job? She was doing herself in.

In retrospect, I agree with the class. I also agree with the teacher. I do not think poetic analysis and enjoying poetry are mutually exclusive, and this, in my mind, is the point of Collins’s poem. Poetic analysis (and all literary analysis, for that matter) should not occur in a stale unloving vacuum. It should not be surrounded by dry books approached with no interest. Poetry gives back what it recieves, and poetic analysis should be a byproduct of slow, deep love affair with a poem (or, on occassion, a quick, deep love affair). And the analysis only deepens the love which the reader has for the poem. Poetry is meant to be discovered, not forced upon us.

I think this is a lesson we forget too often. As a society, we complain that kids aren’t reading, that they aren’t interested in literature, so we force literature upon them. We say “read this, it’s a classic.” Many a classic has been ruined for me in this fashion. And I have BA in English. Imagine the hell my science oriented friends went through. We have to stop arranging marriages for children and books. Instead, we need to be the clever friend who casually introduces two friends at a party and watches how things take shape. One way to do this is to stop telling them what to read and what not to read, and just encourage them to read, period, the end. Sure, as kids get older, maybe you can find a way to broaden their literary horizons, but broadening doesn’t mean saying, “okay, now that you’re old enough to read classics, you shouldn’t read anything else.” (Something my 9th grade English teacher said.) There is a wealth of beautiful writing out there, into which children are walking and turning on the light. And if we try to strangle the meaning out of the work while the kids are in there, we strangle the kids too.

Speaking of meaning, I have no idea what this one’s about, aside from music:

Give me alchemists
building children’s kisses
for melancholy diplomats
living near the bus.
Joyous stanzas–kiss and go.
Trumpets near completion of the movement
and grab kite tails.
The meter is made from the sound of toys.
Given one life, the song coasts into the sun.
It is icicles and books in a potion
passing through ten skies
application after application
to ears of passersby.
Sometimes the police adventure
to the first ministry of culture.
Begin marooned laureates!
Prayers of special pages
Where the north prays back,
childhood and pages
will boil down into song.

Humming Nasals

I first read “Indian Boarding School: The Runaways” in class. (I think I’m beginning to sound like a broken record.) This was in college, after having discovered the joy of analyzing the sound of poetry, so I sound analyzed this one for class. I like the subject matter of these poems, and the imagery pounds down around you, always coming back to that main idea, but after reading it over and over, I found a single chord humming from the page. In the first half of the poem, Louise Erdrich uses a lot liquids (l and r sounds). It gives the words a feeling of consonance. Then, in the second half, she breaks into nasals (m and n sounds.) This is right around the part where she speaks of the humming highway, and the use of nasals allows the reader to hear the highway himself. For this reason, I have been obsessed with the word “hum,” ever since reading this poem. (Maybe next time I need to write about silence humming.) You can read it yourself here.

I have no introduction for my poem today. You can decide for yourself if it fits thematically with the above:

In the spring, the ice breaks and grass grows where it’s able.
Caged birds watch their free counterparts take flight.
Letters lay unsent upon my table.
I’m sorry. I’m too busy now to write.

Sound of Silence

The last few days, I’ve included rather short intros to the poems I’m featuring. I’ve been busy. I’ve been stressed. But today, oh ho, today I am going to rant. This is not the omg-my-day-sucked-let-me-tell-you-all-about-it rant. They have their place, but this is not it. This is the other type of rant, the omg-I-have-the-most-amazing-thing-I-need-to-tell-you rant. Because today I get to tell you about one of my favorite authors.

By now I’ve mentioned several favorite authors, or at least several favorite poets, but this is the top shelf. This is a passion on par with my passion for Peter Pan and James Barrie. This is a passion which my friend, Ivy, uses to define me with. Seriously, her impression of me is “let me tell you about The Name of the Wind, it changed my life!” At which point, I look at her and think, you know me too well. So, as you may have guessed, my “poem” today is The Name of the Wind, by Patrick Rothfuss because… well, because it changed my life.

My love for The Name of the Wind is three fold. First, because it is just freakin’ beautifully written. I opened got to sentence four and thought, this is going to be one of the best books I’ve ever read. Second, it is, in a way, about storytelling. And I love a good storytelling story. Third, and most important is because at the time that I read this book, I had stopped writing for several months. I didn’t realize how broken I was until I saw that broken-ness reflected in Rothfuss’s protagonist. (If you’ve read the story that sounds a little ridiculous because Kvothe’s life obviously sucks way more than mine, but it’s the case nevertheless.) For April 5, I mentioned Phillip Pullman as another novelist-poet. I like to joke that Pullman broke my soul and Rothfuss put it back together.

I could go on forever, so I will attempt to skip to the point now. Let me take you for a walk through his prologue and show you exactly why I love this:

Rothfuss opens with “It was night again. The Waystone Inn lay in silence, and it was a silence of three parts.” Okay, I love this line for the subject matter. I’ve been obsessed with the idea of the “sound” of silence since I was like… five. My early, grim, high-school poetry often features silence screaming. Furthermore, Rothfuss does an excellent job describing the silence by describing what is around it.

Then, there is the aforementioned fourth sentence which I shouldn’t have to say anything about: “If there had been wind it would have sighed through the trees, set the inn’s sign to creaking on its hooks, and brushed the silence down the road like trailing autumn leaves.” Excuse me while I repeat the last part. “brushed the silence down the road like trailing autumn leaves.” Wow.

Then he introduces the second silence, saying, “it made an alloy of sorts, a counterpoint.” Somewhere on his blog, I found a link to interview where he talks about getting criticized for using “alloy” and “counterpoint” together. I think this is hilarious because that is why I love this sentence. And this passage.

He spends the most time detailing the third silence, ending with “it was the patient, cut-flower sound of a man who is waiting to die.” Bringing this is as the final image of the passage gives it a heavy impact. (I still remember first reading the first page of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, which also ends in the idea of death and having the same sort of reaction.) But all of this aside, again, I say wow.

I would love to quote the whole prologue at you, but I suspect it’s better if you can read if yourself without me commenting over your shoulder the whole way.

Unexpected Joy

Today’s poem is another one I read in class… several classes, in fact, and I can’t place where I first encountered it. There are at least two reasons I love this poem. One is the obvious sentiment of knowing the flaws of who or what you love and loving it anyway, finding joy in what others see as joyless. As Patrick Rothfuss’s Kvothe says, “that is rare and pure and perfect.” But I’m getting ahead of myself (insert mischievous smile here.) The other reason I like this poem is that it is an updated, everyman’s version of Shakespeare, sonnet 130 to be exact. I am not sure which reason bears more weight on my love. I think mostly they spin back and forth in my head in an endless cycle of win. Oh, you want to know what the poem is called, do you? It’s “Dim Lady” by Harryette Mullen. Poets and Writers has a video of her reading it here. (And just to add a third reason I like this poem, she also gives a brief intro concerning where the poem sprang from.)

The second half of finding joy in unexpected places concerns the string of bad days I seem to have been having. I’m so frazzled that I just booked a greyhound bus ticket for the wrong day. And do to e-ticketing, I can’t change said date. But back in UNM, I had a couple of friends who had a method for cheering up when times got rough. They formed a Laugh Club, where, once a week, for half an hour, they practiced laughing. It sounds ridiculous, but the mere act of laughing made things less stressful. It only lasted one semester, but it’s a sentiment I like to carry with me. And a sentiment I should follow more often. This poem is based in that same sentiment. And it’s dedicated to Eyoälha Baker and her Jump for Joy Project.

I jump when I lock my keys in my car.
I jump when my boss walks in the door.
I jump when I can’t see my sister from afar.
I jump when I fall on the floor.
I jump when I get in a fight with a friend.
I jump when my house is a mess.
I jump when my wits are coming to an end.
I jump when I rip my dress.
I jump when I burned the roast.
I jump when I’m unloved by a particular boy.
I jump when I need to jump the most.
Why not jump for joy?

Searching for Respect

After an even more rotten day today that yesterday (so much for that optimistic interpretation of “Zewhyxary.” I’ll never make that mistake again) I searched for a theme which connected my feature poem of today to my poem for today, and have decided it’s all about out intense need for respect as human beings.

I was introduced to Wendy Cope in my poetry class, and I like her because, quite simply, she’s funny. The particular poem we studied was “Lonely Hearts,” a villanelle of personal ads. And it’s funny. And it’s also about a bunch of ordinary people looking for a little more respect and a little more happiness. I guess it goes to show that you can interpret a poem just about any way, as long as you’re in the mood for it. Sometimes you even find the secret of life hiding away in them, even though you can’t find it again later. It’s the very subjectivity of poetry which makes me like it so much.

My poem (which might be more of a rant) is inspired by my bad day, and could be interpreted to go along with today’s prompt to say things to someone you wouldn’t actually say. I won’t tell you who exactly I’m speaking to, however.

Contrary to popular belief,
I am NOT a robot.
I understand that
due to the recently released line of
VERY REALISTIC® robots,
I somewhat resemble the
VERY REALISTIC PRO BOT® 2.2.
It’s okay.
Lots of people have made the mistake.
But there are a few simple ways to tell
the difference between a
VERY REALISTIC PRO BOT® 2.2
and a human being, like myself.
First of all, a robot does not require
sleep, food, or affection.
If you would like your
VERY REALISTIC PRO BOT® 2.2
to be ENTHUSIASTIC all the time, all
you need do is turn
the dial in the back. If your
VERY REALISTIC PRO BOT® 2.2
fails to be ENTHUSIASTIC
all the time, this could be a glitch
in the programming.
First, check to see that the dial is turned
to the proper setting. If it is
check the batteries. It is possible your
VERY REALISTIC PRO BOT® 2.2
needs to be recharged. If not,
call the maintenance number on the back of your
VERY REALISTIC PRO BOT® 2.2
underneath the dial.
An operator will be with you shortly.
I, however, do not have a maintenance number
on my back. And
if I am not ENTHUSIASTIC
all the time, it is not
a glitch in my programing, but a lack
of sleep, food, or affection.
Unlike myself, a robot has no need
for respect. But if you respect
me, I not only function better, I offer
respect in return.
Third, the maintenance cost for the
VERY REALISTIC PRO BOT® 2.2
is significantly lower than that of a human.
This may explain the difference between
the amount of money I have received and
the amount of money I should have received.
But given the appropriate treatment,
the delicate human is more effective than the
VERY REALISTIC PRO BOT® 2.2.
Unlike a robot, I understand
the delicate constitutions of other humans. I know
how to handle miscommunication. I offer
sleep, food, and affection to others. I predict
potential problems before they occur. I meet
the needs of others. And most importantly, I think
No, I’m not implying you’re a robot.
I’m implying you’re a soulless demon.

The Zenith

Today’s title is drawn from the “Zewhyxary” by Tom Disch. This is another poem I read for class, though in a more organic way. I was required to pick a poem from the book and give the class a 3-4 minute informal presentation about my thoughts regarding said poem. This one caught me eye because it’s like an ABC primer backwards. Instead of starting with “a is for apple,” Disch starts with Z. I fell in love due to it Seussian rhythm juxtaposed against a delightfully morbid and pessimistic outlook (which, by the way, I managed to throw my own optimistic twist into because I am an optimist… usually.) I find it fitting for today’s poem because it has been a bad day all round (and even my original “tomorrow gets better” fits in with the day… I think.)

Today’s poem harkens back two days to my William Carlos Williams post. Perhaps my imagist classmate would be proud of it:

no drinks
aboard this flight
despite the plastic mug
birthday gift from a grown up ad-
venture