Hello Reader. I sat down to write this post yesterday but Plans Changed.
Since the last roundup there has been: three flights; one family wedding; one million hugs from one million aunts, uncles, cousins, mothers, fathers, brothers, nieces, nephews, brides, etc.; one sweet baby held in my arms; one foreign object in one child’s eye; one foreign object removal procedure; three half-days of school; three appointments at the allergy clinic; one bout with stomach flu (not me, thank goodness); five sore throats; copious amounts of tea; many dinners cooked and a few abandoned; one poem draft begun and left in flagrante delicto due to, well, life.
Through it all I have been reading (some) and writing (barely) in whatever cracks and crevices of time open up to me. Here’s what’s on my mind these days:
on getting lost Oh, that’s right — I’ve also been watching the videos from this MOOC and scribbling notes like crazy. Then napping. Most of the content has been really good and has given me lots to think about and a few new tricks to try. There have been many little gems tossed about by Very Famous Poets, but here is one from a Slightly Less Famous Poet, Mary Hickman, who was talking about prose poems. She said:
“Prose loses itself to find itself. Poetry loses itself to stay lost.”
I love this idea, and it reminds me that the point of reading poetry is not to “get” it, but to experience the poem and whatever it opens up for the reader.
essentials If you, like me, were not an English major and there are Holes in your poetry education, and if you, like me, feel overwhelmed when faced with 912 pages of Whitman’s collected poems (or 847 pages of some other poet’s collected poems), may I recommend Ecco’s series called Essential Poets. It’s odd — on all the vast Interwebs I cannot find a link to the series as a whole, and even to find individual titles is not always a snap. But bascially, the titles go like this: “Essential (Last Name of Very Famous (Usually Dead) Poet).” Inside these volumes are selections of the most essential works of each poet.
I will not at this time attempt to define “essential” comprehensively. I think of it as: here are the poems all the other, better-educated poets know about from this poet, and that you should, too.
Anyway, I’ve been re-reading Whitman and some words from Galway Kinnell’s introduction to his selections for Essential Whitman sparked my interest this week. Kinnell, explaining his selections in the face of Whitman’s habit of revising ad infinitum, writes:
“All writers know this law: revision succeeds in inverse ratio to the amount of time passed since the work was written.”
I did not know this law, said the poet who just had a poem published that she worked on for nine years before sending out.
“Revision is most likely to improve a poem when it directly follows composition, because it is, in fact, a slower, more reflective phase of the creative act.”
Yes! I have certainly experienced at least the latter half of this statement.
“The only exception to the law is that ill-written and extraneous material may be excised with good effect at any time.”
I’m all for getting rid of anything ill-written and/or extraneous.
In general, I’m not a fan of all-or-nothing statements, “every poet knows” pronouncements, and/or “only exceptions.” But I do think it’s very interesting, novel, and true to my experience that revision can be another phase of the creative act.
lastly, a poem I’ve been reading Ruth Ellen Kocher’s domina Un/blued and it is fascinating. There are not a lot (only one that I could find) of poems from domina Un/blued find-able online. I’ve also been thinking a lot about solitude, and in my searchings found a Kocher poem on that subject that I think is very fine. Here it is:
Cartographilia by Ruth Ellen Kocher
The door doesn’t understand solitude anymore than you
having always sought or been sought
I mean to say I know less and less
And know you know less and less also
The shore edge foam and caw of water
Instead of knowing You sleep somewhere else
You feel the air preparing to speak
I do not know what the air says to you
The closet with your shoes is quiet like the door
(first published here)
I feel deliciously lost for the purpose of staying lost at the end of this poem. I would like to stay there.
Alas, duty calls: laundry, groceries, cleaning the house. Thanks for reading and happy Memorial Day weekend to you.