Feed on

http://le-tokyo.greatestjournal.com   http://www.shutterandpupil.com/189.htmlIn my “free time,” I do stuff like listen to podcasts from BBC radio (England changes you)…and I came across this bit on The Fibonacci Sequence, on the programme “In Our Time.”  What is interesting to me about this chat, specifically, is that it began to intersect some of my ideas about creating an “invented form” for Seminar: Poetics by Praxis, and my thoughts about form, more generally, and naturally embedded roots for poetic form, specifically.  Winter trees, in particular, make me think of strict forms existing in nature, which may be borrowed from, or mused upon for creating formal poetry…Levertov has this to say in her essay, “Some Notes on Organic Form:

For me, back of the idea of organic form is the concept that is a form in all things (and in our experience) which the poet discover and reveal. There are no doubt temperamental differences between poets who use prescribed forms and those who look for new ones—people who need a tight schedule to get anything done, and people who have to have a free hand—but the difference in their conception of “content” or “reality” is functionally more important. On the one hand is the idea that content, reality, experience, is essentially fluid and must be given form; on the other, this sense of seeking out inherent, though not immediately apparent, form. Gerard Manley Hopkins invented the word inscape to denote intrinsic form, the pattern of essential characteristics both in single objects and (what is more interesting) in objects in a state of relation to each other; and the word instress to denote the experiencing of the perception of inscape, the apperception of inscape. In thinking of the process of poetry as I know it, I extend the use of these words, which he seems to have used mainly in reference to sensory phenomena, to include intellectual and emotional experience as well; I would speak of the inscape of an experience (which might be composed of any and all of these elements, including the sensory) or of the inscape of a sequence or constellation of experiences.       Continue Reading »

revised sonnet

Miss Coca-Cola 1943

For my grandmother, Isabel Blackwell Roberts (b.1925-1977)

“Passion moves inward, striking and blighting the deepest cellular recesses.”
	- Susan Sontag, Disease and It’s Metaphors

Your young figure cinched in by a woolknit,
striped bathing-suit, your fingers enclose
the waist of a coke bottle, dark and fit
as a tiny dressmakers’ dummy, poised
for another colored fabric pin. I hold
you now, in frame: wet-bark dark curls, long-legged,
painted lips, sun-sketched collar bones: the mold
that cast my father: born squalling, your third.

I wonder if you blamed “the dishwater”
when he noticed your papery skin, hands
painted in bruises.  Later, the matter
of collecting black curls from the wash-stand:
dyed flax-threads, shredding, five years of keeping
poison a secret: the cancer’s unfolding.

Heroic Couplet revision

Naucrate at the Death-scene of Icarus

 "In Rama was there a voice heard, lamentation, and weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not." (Matthew 2:18)

Hand spun, now crumpled, wings hang like gentle
sails, harnessed with leather to his genteel

back. Hair, deep as night, lies in folds, laced through
with weeds, on the sky-runner’s quiet brow.

Red shadows, like winter trees, stretch across
in congealing, rusted rivers. Limbs, traced

in blood, pooling red seas that gather
beside him. I inherit Gaea’s¹ wrath

as mother to him, still and quieted.
Time pardons none, not even the dead,

a berry stain of bruise spreading, smearing
youth’s pinked, glowing cheek. None desiring

him now. None knowing the strength of his arms
to serve his own sublime, fool-hearty aims.

The women don’t come with wreaths, rose-wound.
Erota², playing her zither, cannot be found.

Where are the sandy-footed Mourners with
sable hair? Beauties promised by such strength?

Not here. Not here to comb his soft flesh for feathers,
nor to wipe salt dust from his skin. Not here.

I alone, his chattel mother, beside
his cobbled bed, kneeling, tears mixed in blood.

For cover, I raise his mound of lichened rocks,
but cannot move him. The boy’s body speaks

in arched and lengthened lines toward the sky.
Closed eyes, slackened fingers seeking beauty

even in death. He reaches for the sun,

the rapture of Muse-beauty killed my son.

¹ in Greek religion and mythology, the earth, daughter of Chaos, both mother and wife of Uranus (the sky) and Pontus (the sea).  She helped bring about Uranus' overthrow by the Titans, because he had imprisoned her sons.
² Muse of lyric poetry.

Chimney Swifts

It was this same time: an early winter.
Columns of black birds undulated
across the paling sky at evening,
soundless. I’m grown. Where I live now, the cold
will bring snow. But there, then, it meant only
less light, moderate cold, damp sadness, robbed
of lucidity, framed in magnolia,
yella pine, and papery blades of grass.

I know now that you had spent that whole day
packing, pacing, retreating upstairs to
your round brass ashtray: like a whispering
bowl, a quarry of crumbling granite, and
filters turned the color of weak sun-tea.

I can see the jet-black, perennial
birds, not perched like others, but clinging on
tightly to red brick, any horizontal
surface, like a magic trick, or a child
in a new place, pleading to be picked up.
Continue Reading »

Serpas, Martha.

The Dirty Side of the Storm.

Norton. 2006..c..96p.

ISBN 0-393-06266-X


“The Salvage”

Martha Serpas’ second work, The Dirty Side of the Storm, takes careful pleasure in the teasing out of mysteries and binaries; good and evil, life and death, destruction and construction, give way to the swirling, deeply gray, humane truth. Serpas, a devout Catholic, does not preach, but questions, finding these divisions to be imperceptible, incomprehensible, and untrue to suffering humanity. Her poetics achieve this original and honest grappling in the face of the clear legacies and boxed-up poetic movements to which her poetry may be superficially ascribed. Martha Serpas may be decried as a mystical poet, a nature poet, a Southern poet, a female poet, a religious poet, and (by default) a current events poet. Yet, none of these distinctions take into account the mastery of Serpas’ own desire to reach toward the incomprehensible, the shadowy in-betweens with which she is most intimate. The deeper she reaches into herself, and the topography of her life and location, the more we see into the muddied waters of our own life. What sustains us is also deadly, and the Divine is not a winged rescuer, but a figure as complex and paradoxical as His creation.

As a poet, Serpas stands powerfully upon her own gift of sound-work, pulsing and cyclical use of forms, and the originality and intimacy of her metaphoric landscape. Her base of a Catholic God and the Louisiana Bayou are not limitations on the scope of her work; rather, like any good poet, she uses what is at hand as a concrete base for transcendence. Her poetic landscape is focused by a steady hand, and self-consciously participates in traditional metaphors (chiefly, that of water), and formal traditions: couplets, tercets, quatrains, as well as episodic free-verse. Tracing the arch of the book as a whole, it is clear that the individual lyrics contain piece-meal narrative structure. But they are not so bound and ordered as to be a sequence. Rather, they constitute a shapely volume; many of the poems were published in literary journals individually.
Continue Reading »

 Response to Outside Poetry Reading:  Fred Chappell reads his work at Thursday Poems, Nov.15, 2007

The work of Fred Chappell was relatively new to me on hearing him read November fifteenth. However, I was prepared for the breadth and depth of his work-the incredible range of subject matter and form to free-verse, to other genres as well. His reading was unorthodox and incredibly endearing. Rather than hinder, his soft mountain accent lilted his poems, giving them a new cantor, stressing words I hadn’t stressed in my own private readings of them, and shedding new meaning.

He did something else which I cherish in a live poetry reading, he “jabbered” (his own word) between poems, providing insight into their creation. His own career spans so many decades and so many volumes (including a series of four novels, paralleled by four volumes of poetry, belonging to the four elements…an epic, intricate meta-work that intrigues me), that he felt called to delve into the inspiration for his variety of poems. The seemingly simple, and incredibly approachable, man revealed his detailed knowledge of botany, for his “garden poems,” the richness of his own memories, and his ability to translate German and French lyrics for the purposes of his “nesting” poems. Within all of these specific introductions to poems, Chappell began to reveal something beautiful to all present-the methodology of a poet is one of astute attention, intention, meticulousness, and a concern with the intricate, and knowledge of all kinds. I appreciated his philosophy of poetics as much as his poems.
Continue Reading »

A portion of the long poem, The Throne of Labdacus.
by Gjertrud SchnackenbergWhat is: a leaking through of events
From beyond the bourn of right and wrong;

What is: a sequence of accidents
Without a cause,

Or from which the cause
Is long-lost, like a ruthless jewel

Missing from an archaic setting’s
Empty, bent, but still aggressive prongs.

Topics for Discussion:
– meta-formal qualities: “a ruthless jewel”(li.6) is the title of Section Eight of this long poem
– couplets, unrhymed, roughly iambic with heavy substitution: the first and last couplet have 9 syllables (one short of pentameter), all of the rest of the lines fall even shorter than this (down to dimeter, line 4) the poem is questioning “what is” incompleteness? Hence, the couplets themselves are incomplete
– This poem is also in dialogue with the last poem: the couplets prior to this section have exact masculine rhymes and convey how the story of Oedipus was circulated through Thebes “in a whispering poetry” (p.6,li.27), ending with the un-rhymed pair, “simply a making known-/ Making known what is.” (p.7,li.41-42).
– Therefore, Schnackenberg sets up this short “lyric” within the long poem, as a questioning and probing of exactly that which poetry is NOT: “a sequence of accidents/ Without a cause”
– The poem leaves the reader with an incredibly strong image of form itself, however, and Schnackenberg is consistent with providing these images throughout her work: the setting of the ring, devoid of a jewel, implies a frame narrative without the intention, the completion, the beauty that would make it a poem


“Pope greatly expanded the earlier version, adding the delightful ‘machinery’ (i.e., the supernatural agents in epic action) of the Sylphs, Belinda’s toilet, the card game, and the visit to the Cave of Spleen…”- from the Norton introduction to The Rape of the Lock

“Some to the Sun their Insect-Wings unfold,
Waft on the Breeze, or sink in Clouds of Gold.
Transparent Forms, too fine for mortal Sight,
Their fluid Bodies half dissolv’d in Light.
Loose to the Wind their airy Garments flew,
Thin glitt’ring Textures of the filmy Dew;
Dipt in the richest Tincture of the Skies,
Where Light disports in ever-mingling Dies,
While ev’ry Beam new transient Colours flings,
Colours that change whene’er they wave their Wings.
Amid the Circle, on the gilded Mast,
Superior by the Head, was Ariel plac’d;
His Purple Pinions opening to the Sun,
He rais’d his Azure Wand, and thus begun.

Ye Sylphs and Sylphids, to your Chief give Ear,
Fays, Fairies, Genii, Elves, and Daemons hear!
Ye know the Spheres and various Tasks assign’d,
By Laws Eternal, to th’ Aerial Kind.
Some in the Fields of purest AEther play,
And bask and whiten in the Blaze of Day.
Some guide the Course of wandring Orbs on high,
Or roll the Planets thro’ the boundless Sky.
Some less refin’d, beneath the Moon’s pale Light
Hover, and catch the shooting stars by Night;
Or suck the Mists in grosser Air below,
Or dip their Pinions in the painted Bow,
Or brew fierce Tempests on the wintry Main,
Or o’er the Glebe distill the kindly Rain.
Others on Earth o’er human Race preside,
Watch all their Ways, and all their Actions guide:
Of these the Chief the Care of Nations own,
And guard with Arms Divine the British Throne.”
(The Rape of the Lock, canto 2, li.59-90)

The Rape of the Lock is really resonating with me. I know that some in the class feel that Pope’s mock-epic is a bit silly, and not weighty enough for our syllabus (certainly not in close succession to Paradise Lost), but I disagree. Firstly, the description above of the Sylphs’ pastimes are some of the most ornate, elaborately beautiful lines of 18th century verse I have ever read. They paint for me such a vivid, gorgeous, opulent dream-vision of the ethereal and otherworldly, that I cannot discount them as simply flowery or entertaining.
In thinking about the Sylphs, I find that they are a key vantage point to be included in Pope’s poem. They are changelings in regards to gender, invisible, and yet they pertain to the physical world: in the case of Belinda’s toilet, they make her up to be her most beautiful, but also strive to lead her morally to resist temptation and avoid catastrophe. Supernatural beings that feed into Belinda’s tragic flaw: that of her beauty, and even more so her vanity regarding it; and yet may claim to be “helpers” of the mortal beings they serve…how can that be?
Even more interesting, after the “fall” of Belinda, the cutting of her hair by the Baron in canto 3, her protective Sylph, Ariel, becomes helpless and impotent…so that Sylphs are not all-powerful: “Amazed, confused, he found his power expired,/ Resigned to fate, and with a sigh retired.”(canto 3, li.145-46).

The Cage of Chastity.

It’s not exactly breaking news that women’s undergarments in the 17th, 18th, 19th centuries (particularly those of “a lady”) were designed to be uncomfortable exaggerations of the female form. The hoop-skirt (and corset) was a literal cage, which trapped the woman, but also offered her protection from unwanted sexual intercourse. It is difficult to rape a woman when you have to untie all of her petticoats and remove her hoop-skirt first. I like to think about textiles as text, clothing as symbolic, metaphoric, and indicative of an emotional, psychological (as well as economic, social, historical etc) indicator. All of this random musing was brought on by these few lines from Alexander Pope’s The Rape of the Lock:

“To fifty chosen Sylphs, of special note,
We trust the important charge, the petticoat;
Oft have we known that sevenfold fence to fail,
Though stiff with hoops, and armed with ribs of whale.
Form a strong line about the silver bound,
And guard the wide circumference around.”

(now fetish-ized, romanticized, preserved as pleasing, sexy, beautiful, desirable…)

Older Posts »