Monday, May 15, 2006

Experiencing Reading/Writing The Long Poem

Thanks to Erin Moure, who last year suggested that I write "friends" for my poems, and who lead me toward reading long poems, I'm presently reading Sharon Thesen's 2001 The New Long Poem Anthology which includes such wonders as Anne Carson's "The Glass Essay" and Jeff Derksen's "Interface." These two long poems are the beginning of a change in my poetic sensibility. What were once skimpy little lyrics (apologies, older poems...) are evolving into pages of startling material. Writing in this form is teaching me about the end. Thesen points out " is easy to see how both the resistance to end and the desire to continue [...] are the essential experiences of life itself." The end can be anywhere, but if I keep pushing it off (in poetry we can choose to push off the end) I'm contstantly surprised.

Derksen's "ruptures" (Butling & Rudy, Poets Talk) are stunning and hilarious. He proclaims to be "not interested in narratives" which leads me to draw a parallel between his "Interface" and the ghazal form (John Thompson-style) with its own leaps from one metaphor to another and its disregard for story. We really are trained toward narrative, however. Even with total disregard for "story" a seemingly or supposed random selection of words or metaphors will enter my mind only to be arranged together like a recipe. Are we capable of not putting details together in a narrative?

Thursday, May 11, 2006

I've been reading Elizabeth Brewster lately. I find myself going back to her poems frequently, often feeling at home in them. I've got a copy of vol. 2 of her collected poems and I highly recommend it.

For the purposes of our wonderful circle, however, I thought maybe the following would be appreciated/useful/thought-provoking/etc.

On Reading Another Poet by Elizabeth Brewster

I think we are being given the same messages
that oracles are speaking in our dreams
warning admonition code
syllables of unknown meaning.

We are not in competition.
If I say the same thing
it is not because I copy
but because the voice says so.

Maybe there will be hundreds of us
like choric echoes.
It will not matter
that the words repeat themselves

so long as what is said
rises like the tide in all our separate waves
and beats upon and shapes the dreaming shore.

The 'dreaming shore'! What a great image (if a bit abstract, hmm?). Rather than capitulating to the restrictions of language, this poem encourages us to explore 'our separate waves.' What it has to say about voice and echoes of words is interesting. Especially meaningful for me is the line "We are not in competition." What do you think?