Welcome to the Farm

October 9, 2018 § 2 Comments

Welcome to the Farm

It’s hard to argue with them…
because they never listen.
To them you are
undecorated, unadorned
the composition of yourself is like a static fabric
exhausting only in the mind and apprehensions of other people.
You are rendered down
like animal fat and poured
into something else;
paint or glue
until there is nothing left of what was originally you.
People tell you: You are collaborating, You are now a part of a collective and community. But how is this so when your only contribution was as a part of the experiment, but not part of the process?
You were processed
— and here we come back to meat.
Some of us are slaughter.
Think of the pigs, drunk wearing human clothing, and eating the meat of their fellow animals.
Do you remember them? The pigs? The other animals? Staring through the twilit windows? Their animal jaws flung open in awe, and bewildered in shock- as if they, as if we, didn’t know what was going on all along.

We, you, I, he, she…they… no you…the collective us and them… we ignored too much.

We all clap hands
and we all fall down.

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Domestic Paradise

January 14, 2018 § 2 Comments

Through the window pane I watch them eating.
I see them through the sliver of silver curtains
that sweep the floor like ball gowns.
Everything is perfectly color coordinated,
and new born babies coo like doves.

I stand here day and night
through every season
Frost bitten in deep bitter snow
or sunk into hot August mud.
I can barely blink at the life
in front of me.

I watch their children grow,
the new and old marriages,
vacations planned, bought, and taken,
baseballs tossed, ballet slippers worn,
baking and sewing, building and crafting,
visits from their relatives, in-laws, divorce and death,
(not necessarily in that order)
the family life.

Through the ages I’m watching
other peoples’ lives.
If only I could turn around,
toss my envy into the compost
beside the perfect houses, and turn around
to see the many roads that reach out into my own horizon.

There are other paths
I know because I can feel the sun
on my shoulders, urging me to move,
and turn to face an uncharted future, but
my eyes are glued to the Norman Rockwells, and the
American Dream:
The instagram of domestic paradise

In The Beginning

April 16, 2016 § Leave a comment

In the beginning there was only the holy darkness,
and in that darkness there was a moment of chaos,
and the darkness shattered,
and a great buzzing occurred, a sound that was not there before,
and all the beings in the holy darkness thought that they knew
all about the accident, knew what, and why, and wherefore…
and they were righteous.

When the darkness shattered shards of light scattered
and the righteous believed they could see, truly see,
and they began to dictate, and rule, and control those who were born after
the days of holy darkness.

The righteous believed they could see
never understanding that the light was an illusion
and the noise was a lie.
The truth, the enlightenment, was back in the darkness
Where chaos always lived
where there was no sight
where the silence was as heavy as flesh.

How to Read A Poem

March 30, 2016 § Leave a comment

I first began a blog in 2008. It wasn’t this one. Back then I had no idea what I wanted to do with this whole blogging thing (still don’t, but I’m getting closer to the idea). I have about four separate blogs, a ridiculous mess, and I’m putting things into order. For the next few posts on this blog I’ll be transferring some post that were written in 2008, and posted elsewhere. 

In 2002, I had taken a poetry course with a teacher named McDowell at Portland Community College. I actually dropped the class. That had nothing to do with him, and everything to do with me. The following post is from notes I had taken while attending his course. I can’t take credit for all the information, and if I had his full name I would post it here. If anyone happens to know his full name send it my way, and I’ll update this and credit it properly. The notes were all taken by me (by hand even) and they are also adapted into my own language and examples, but the ideas are McDowell’s.

HOW TO READ A POEM

  • Read it all the way through.

What if you don’t get it? Its form is strange, the language isn’t familiar, the imagery is abstract- forget about it- don’t stop reading. Just let it go and read it all the way through from beginning to end- try to relax your mind and just read.

  • Read it again but this time read it out loud.
Poetry like plays are meant to be heard. There are always exceptions to every rule and form but just go with this one for the purpose of the exercise. Of course, some poets may feel that their poem is meant to only be read but so much poetry is meant for the mouth, the sounds that the words make can sometimes reveal meaning that the quiet mind may have missed. I hated Shakespeare till I had a very passionate theatre professor teach a course on Shakespeare. It was an acting course, but he could not impress more that Shakespeare was meant to be heard not read. Once I began reading it out loud slowly without attempting to “Act” it I finally began to understand much of the language.
  • Word by word
A trick in writing poetry is the idea of taking away- Imagine that the poet’s first draft is filled with tons of words swimming aimlessly on the page, with each reread the poet scoops out each unnecessary word that may take away from or slow down the meaning of the poem. There is a definite art to this and I am often awed by the work of a clean and crafted poem. How does the poet find the perfect word or image to convey a thousand meanings or one single thought or idea where so many others end up writing three sentences to try and say the same thing? So what’s this mean? If you don’t know a word look it up. That word, that one word could be a secret key in the telling of the poem besides it can help increase your vocabulary.
  • Look for the Imagery
I love imagery. For me it’s what grounds the poem. The poet is putting the reader right there in the place of the moment, the feeling and the action- read this bit from Dylan Thomas’s “After the Funeral”
I know her scrubbed and sour humble hands
lie with religion in their cramp, her threadbare
Whisper in a damp word, her wits drilled hollow,
her fist of a face died clenched on a round pain;
And sculptured Ann is seventy years of stone.
To me that description is so vivid- I can see her hands, her face and also get an idea of the kind of woman she was in life. I’ve never considered myself to be a poet or much of a reader of poetry but the type of prose writing I enjoy reading and writing are often filled with the vivid imagery.
  • Read for Organization
Who is speaking? Who is the poem addressing? Is there a pattern? What is the pattern, does it have anything to do with the meaning? What is the tone? How are all of these elements put together? Take the puzzle apart.
I’ll be honest with you, this is pretty much where I stop and my mind decides I’ve had enough of breaking the poem apart. Unless forced by a grade, I’ve often neglected this part of the process, but if you love poetry and you want more out of the poem going through this process can be very rewarding. When I read the Death of the Ball Turret Gunner  by Randall Jarrell with these questions in mind I felt like so much was revealed to me. I knew the poem was about war- but after reading it with these questions I saw the birth in the poem the purely sad and tragically empty affects of an individual position within a war and what it does to a body. The visual image of there being so little left a person physically that what is left can be washed away with water. That’s powerful.
From my mother’s sleep I fell into the State,
And I hunched in it’s belly till my wet fur froze.
Six miles from earth, loosed from its dream of life,
I woke to black flak and the nightmare fighters.
When I died they washed me out of the turret with a hose.
  • Read for Technique
The craft of the writer. Metaphor, simile, personification, metonymy, meter, rhyme scheme, adaption, adaption of sound to sense and use of symbols.
If I didn’t get through step five you know for sure I didn’t get through step six unless assigned for a course. My mind fought this process until I took a course with David Biespiel at Portland State University. As a teacher he had a way of making poetry come down from it’s lofty elitist cloud of flutes and angels, and stand on the ground in dirty work boots and a human voice of any color, any gender, any class, and suddenly I could see technique. If you happen to live in Portland, Oregon and have the money and the time I recommend taking a course with him at The Attic (or any of the teachers there) or if you are a student at PSU and he is teaching a course you should take it. He has a wonderful way of removing the fear out of the poem. “Poetry is for the working class”.  He’s a pretty great poet too. Still, that doesn’t mean I am such a disciplined reader that I always look to find the techniques, but if you want to explore your poem at this level like I mentioned in the above step you can make some very rewarding discoveries.
    • Read it with all the above– I’m just going to quote McDowell’s bullet point here:
  • Often a poet will go through dozens of drafts of a poem before allowing it to be read by anyone else, much less published. Dylan Thomas often went through 80 or 100 drafts. You can be assured that if you are alert, you’ll gain more from another reading. Poems aren’t like newspapers, to be read once and then tossed into the recycling bin. Each year you’re a different person; you’ll find that when you return to poems read years before, the good poems will seem to be telling you exactly those things you learned in the interim; they’ll seem like different poems. Every poet, every age, every country, every emotion, every climate, every language, every temperament produces different types of poetry. If you don’t like a poem, do it the justice to find out what about it you don’t like, and then move on to a different kind of poem.
I’d just like to add: if you want to figure out why you don’t like a poem take the time to figure out why you don’t like it, but if it doesn’t appeal to you don’t strain yourself to find out why- maybe you just don’t like it. If you are new to poetry find a poem you like and put your love into discovering why you love it, and then if you go on to be a lover of poetry maybe one day you will stumble across that poem you turned away, and perhaps this time you will see it differently. In the interim maybe you’ll learn some new things that make you feel that you want to put your energy into finding out why it doesn’t appeal to you or maybe you still just don’t like it. What I’d like to emphasis is don’t let go of the idea of poetry even if you’ve read a hundred poems and you never liked them maybe somewhere out there is a poem with your name on it. Remain open to the art form, one day it will speak to you and to you alone.
Speaking of difficult poetry I’ve often struggled with Sylvia Plath stumbling over her metaphors. Most of the time I feel I miss the meaning, but even getting one poem is incredibly rewarding to me so I’ll leave you with one I “got”.
Mirror

I am silver and exact. I have no preconceptions.
Whatever I see, I swallow immediately.
Just as it is, unmisted by love or dislike
I am not cruel, only truthful –
The eye of a little god, four-cornered.
Most of the time I meditate on the opposite wall.
It is pink, with speckles. I have looked at it so long
I think it is a part of my heart. But it flickers.
Faces and darkness separate us over and over.

Now I am a lake. A woman bends over me.
Searching my reaches for what she really is.
Then she turns to those liars, the candles or the moon.
I see her back, and reflect it faithfully
She rewards me with tears and an agitation of hands.
I am important to her. She comes and goes.
Each morning it is her face that replaces the darkness.
In me she has drowned a young girl, and in me an old woman
Rises toward her day after day, like a terrible fish.

The Night Out

December 27, 2015 § Leave a comment

I owe you a night out,
And hey,
I apologize
I’m the one who said
we should drink like
Bukowski.
You should see the list
of restrictions I’ve put together
for myself:
I broke all the drinking ones.
Thanks for keeping me
straight
you settled all the bills
and the taxi—that took me home.
So thanks for the night.
I owe you one.

Window Watching

December 27, 2015 § Leave a comment

Through the window pane I watch them eating.
Through the curtains,
the silver grey curtains,
that sweep the floor like ballroom gowns
swirling confetti as they spin. They
were a gift
those curtains.
Music is playing in the background
and everyone is dancing to a well worn tune.

I stand here day and night
through every season.
Frost bitten in deep bitter snow
or sunk into hot August mud. Locusts
beating against my breast. Gnats trapped in
eyelashes and I can barely blink at the life
in front of me.

I watch the children grow,
the new and old marriages,
vacations planned, bought, and taken,
baseballs, ballet slippers, baking and sewing,
visits from relatives, in-laws, divorce and death,
not necessarily in that order;
domesticities of the modern life.

Same as it ever was- the song sang- same as it ever was- the song sang- same as it ever was-
the groove gets deeper and deeper and yet it all stays the same
was it ever the same as it ever was?

There is a life behind me,
but I can’t see it
my face is glued to the window
“that life, that life is the right life…righteous…televised…”
If only I could turn around,
toss my envy into the compost
beside the perfect house, and turn around
see the many roads that reach out into the horizon.

There is a life behind me
I know because I can feel the sun
on my shoulders, urging me to move,
there is a life behind me, but
my eyes are glued to the Norman Rockwells, and the
American Dream,
if only I could turn around,
but all I can do is close my eyes
and feel the tears of the seasons.
the seasons are always hot
even in the winter.

I stand in the window as the sliver curtains
are drawn, once again, and the chatter never fades,
and I wonder,
will they ever get new curtains?
When they do will they see me standing here
or will I finally be gone?

Art Lovers

July 26, 2015 § Leave a comment

1.

I straddle my lover’s lap and read Walt Whitman to him.
I whisper exhalations of “Song of Myself” like
talking dirty
and my legs tighten around his waist
because literature and poetry is our aphrodisiac.

My lover’s face is in my hair, his lips brush
the corner of my moving mouth
and his soft hush voice in my ear
repeating, keep reading, keep reading…
As “Leave of Grass” escape my fingers and hit
the floor with a gentle thud
my lover’s arms are around me with fingers
in my back up under my clothing
And Whitman is smiling
because he wrote about such wonderful naughty things.

2.
My lover paints me naked
he paints each imperfect curve
languid strokes of blue
hips, breasts, legs, and belly
round and rounder still
the painting always changing color
and never finished
This is the work we do together
being and being and being.
The paint never drying.

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