Friday, January 17, 2003

I Never Promised You A Prose Garden

It's not like I presented them any other way, you know. Love 'em or hate 'em, the poems of the week on this site are all yours-truly originals.

But all have been scavenged, mined from a history of sporadic poetic output rather than created fresh for the intelligent and discriminating blogger about town -- not because I have writer's block, or because I am picky, but because I am an exceptionally lazy person.

See, every once in a while, these great poetic phrases pop whole in my head. At that moment, I have a choice. I can try desperately to distract myself with frenetic activity, blocking the phrase out of my mind so it cannot haunt me, imperfect and half-remembered, late into the unproductive night. Or, I can repeat the phrase endlessly, which for some reason results in the phrase beginning to build at the edges, finding its context, growing from phrase to sentence to stanza like a kind of snowball phrase-magnet for other words and phrases...and then run frenetically to the computer to try to recover the collected mental works before it invariably begins to crumble into a pile of disassociated, almost meaningless iambs and triplets. As you can see, only the former of the two choices offers instant gratification (although it admittedly also creates a kind of vaguely-frustrated-artist melancholy in the long term); most of the time, now that I only sleep four hours a night and am having trouble functioning, I choose the former my sanity's sake.

This all started my senior year in high school, during Project Month. Commonwealth doesn't offer a sping break off so much as it requires a spring break on; underclassmen spend a week volunteering for a local hospital or learning a new language or taking a school-sponsored trip abroad to Ireland and return to school the next week rejuvenated for the remainder of the year, while Seniors took an entire month off, doing a much more substantive project of their own choosing. My Junior year I went to Ireland with a group of six other students, a trip most memorable for the night Dan and I accidentally snuck back into the wrong room after an illicit night signing Twist And Shout with a host of drunken Australians at Durty Nelly's pub down the road and woke up our chaperone's wife. I'd like to say we woke her up by landing on her bed, but the truth is, we were laughing so hard as we frantically snuck back out the window, she would have had to be dead or as dead drunk as her husband in the next bed over to have managed to sleep through it.

My senior year I had a great idea -- to stay solo in the woods for a week -- but the school vetoed it, concerned for my safety, and I proposed a safer solo: a trip to Florida to visit my grandparents, bum around the beaches, and write a sonnet every day. I had been reading Kerouac and Wolfe, and I was sure that the sonnet series I produced would be a travelogue of sorts as I discovered my roots and rediscovered the retiree way of life as a pace to emulate. [I just realized, incidentally, that I have no idea where all these poems are. I know I wrote 'em...huh. Anyway.]

What I didn't count on the was the dreams.

I sat on the porch in my grandmothers house proudly comparing the windfallen cacti on the smoothpebbled porch to the Scarecrow of Oz pointing both directions at once at the crossroads of my life, and after a few days, the sonnet form was a natural thing, like breathing. But there was no off switch, no apnea. A few days into the project I found myself dreaming in iambic pentameter.

I've begun to blog that way, by the way; not in iambic pentameter or in dreams, but in the way whole phrases readi-made for the blog pop into my head as a response to the profundities of the banal. In other words, I seem to have habituated myself to this medium; I find the phrases which appear in my head more conducive to the blog than the poem. But although I continue to maintain that blogging is literature, it seems lower stakes, somehow, than poetry. The form is looser, less defined; the breadth of possibilities for "proper" blogging has yet to coalesce into distinct genres, although certainly there are many overlapping focii emerging in the bloggiverse as we, so to speak, speak. And I miss poetry, and I miss my dreams.

Because the entry is so long today, the poem of the week should be comparatively short. Because it features sonnets, the poem should be a sonnet. Because we're talking about writing poetry, let's have a poem about writing poetry. So:


Downhill Sonnet

To beat the light down the mountain
rush into the first grey of evening
as if through a tinted windshield.

Write poems downhill in your head,
or, if you must, in jittery script
over the top of the steering wheel.

Think of her calves under the table
through the glass slit of the door,
the ankle's curve into alabaster foot.

Lean into the blurring landscape
like a weight tied under the stomach
pulling down, squeezing inwards:

A constriction you associate with tears,
or the moment before tears; and with leaving.


As always, check out Watermelon Pickle Poems for more boyhowdy originals. WPP is hosted at Marlboro College, my other alma mater, and although periodic upgrades of their server structure eventually resulted in a loss of FTP access, the site nevertheless represent almost the entirety of my current body of finished work. Except those few poems I’ve written in the last year. And those sonnets I wrote way back in March of 1991 for a school project, the end product of a once-fevered mind in perfect iambic pentameter, now lost to the ages, or in that cardboard box in the storage room, I forget which.

posted by boyhowdy | 12:05 AM |

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