Archive for the ‘Group 1’ Category

A Poem I don’t like

Thursday, September 21st, 2006

Jim Morrison was often referred to as a poet and he was one. He would write poetry and the rest of the doors would compose a song around it, much in the same way that Elton John composed music around Bernie Taupin’s poetry in their early career.

But one of his poems that always bothered me was Horse Latitudes:

When the still sea conspires an armor
And her sullen and aborted
Currents breed tiny monsters
True sailing is dead
Awkward instant
And the first animal is jettisoned
Legs furiously pumping
Their stiff green gallop
And heads bob up
In mute nostril agony
Carefully refined
And sealed over

I simply just don’t like it. To listen to it is bad enough. Its basically Morrison screaming while some crappy music plays behind him. On the entire Strange Days album it is the only poem and the only track I will skip over. As opposed to his good stuff, like The Severed Garden, this one seems to lack any real imagination. The poise, delicate, pause ,consent just make the poem boring and as if Morrison was just trying to put interesting words in it. And what is “mute nostril agony” anyway?

Inspiration for Poems

Monday, September 18th, 2006

When I write poems sometimes memory is not enough for inspiration. When was introduced to a thread on a forum for Improv Groups and their goofy photos I came across this one of a bunch of women in hats. I liked it so much that I made it the desktop background on my computer. In the few days that my internet was recently down, I grew to miss the crazy smiles of these women and vowed that once I got the computer and internet back up I would write a poem about them and post it here. Naturally I know nothing about these women, but I thought of a group of friends who met occasionally, almost like a Sex and the City type ritual and thought I would give them a peom to describe their lives. I number all the women, but do not name them and who is what number is for the reader to figure out. I would love suggestions on this one.

Five Girlfriends by Richard Vasquez

1 smiles widely but the pain in her eyes shows that life

is sometimes too much to bear. She wants someone near her

to be a shoulder to cry on.

2 smiles also but hers is genuine. Her son

bought her flowers just because he was her boy

and there being no special occasion.

3 doesn’t smile because a muscle in her face

doesn’t work. Sometimes she just tries to move her lower

lip to show teeth, but today she is content with a scowl.

4 smiles because she is on Zanex. All she does

is smile these days because from seven A.M onwards

she throws one in every other hour.

5 is the most spectacular. She used to have a husband

who cheated on her and abused her. Her smile is the largest

because she is dating a man in his twenties who just happens to be rich.

Every Thursday they get together and discuss what went on in their weeks.

Every Friday they go to the bar and drink whiskey sours, but 3 drinks

cosmopolitans. 4 occasionally goes outside to smoke a joint or two

with the bikers, who simply refer to her as cutie pie except

for an exceptionally fat biker who calls her pumpkin tits.

On Sunday they all show up to the Episcopalian church

on Loan Street, except for 1 who no longer believes in God.

The only thing she believes in is her vegetable garden

which has been failing her lately. Also there is 5, who occasionally

misses church to go to temple with her twenty-year old.

2’s son always goes to church with the ladies and they tell

him that he needs to settle down and meet a nice girl. But

little do they know that he actually wants to be a girl. In fact

he is soon going to ask his mom for money for the surgery.

On Mondays they sit around and play bridge with

one of the ladies making lunch while the other four play. It’s usually

1 since her biggest satisfaction comes from pleasing other people.

Sometimes 1 goes outside and looks into the Calimesa sky, wondering

where her husband is at, how he could have left her,

what she did to make him leave, but its always 5 who comes outside

and tells her that she can’t blame herself and that some men

will be men,

and some men are rich and in their twenties.

One of my favorites

Sunday, September 17th, 2006

On Turning Ten

The whole idea of it makes me feel
like I’m coming down with something,
something worse than any stomach ache
or the headaches I get from reading in bad light-
a kind of measles of the spirit,
a mumps of the psyche,
a disfiguring chicken pox of the soul.

You tell me it is too early to be looking back,
but that is because you have forgotten
the perfect simplicity of being one
and the beautiful complexity introduced by two.
But I can lie on my bed and remember every digit.
At four I was an Arabian wizard.
I could make myself invisible
by drinking a glass of milk a certain way.
At seven I was a soldier, at nine a prince.

But now I am mostly at the window
watching the late afternoon light.
Back then it never fell so solemnly
against the side of my tree house,
and my bicycle never leaned against the garage
as it does today,
all the dark blue speed drained out of it.

This is the beginning of sadness, I say to myself,
as I walk through the universe in my sneakers.
It is time to say good-bye to my imaginary friends,
time to turn to the first big number.

It seems only yesterday I used to believe
there was nothing under my skin but light.
If you cut me I would shine.
But now when I fall upon the sidewalks of life,
I skin my knees. I bleed.

—– Billy Collins

I’m fascinated by this poem. It somehow combines a truly childlike persona with the grimness of adult life. Above all, I love the imagery – “If you cut me, I would shine” and especially the bike with the “dark blue speed drained out of it.” It’s more painful than most nostalgic poems, perhaps because it is spoken by someone who is still so young.

Triggering Town, Page 15

Sunday, September 17th, 2006

“If you are a private poet, then your vocabulary is limited by your obsessions. It doesn’t bother me that the word “stone” appears more than thirty times in my third book, or that “wind” and “gray” appear over and over in my poems to the disdain of some reviewers. If I didn’t use them that often I’d be lying about my feelings, and I consider that unforgivable. In fact, most poets write the same poem over and over.” – Triggering Town, p. 15

I like this quote because I feel it applies to my writing style. It seems that every poem I write is about the same girl, requires that I either do or don’t use the word “shit” somewhere in the body of it (I usually choose to), that I actually usually write poems in the same place (in whatever vehicle I am driving at the time, but not while actually driving). I even used to write mostly in black composition books and still have a stack of them at my parents’ house. But if I were to read over them I would find a common feeling and often, similar words in each. Although I really don’t use the same words that much, I can definitely find a feeling of loss. I think this has a lot to do with being nostalgic. Its hard for me to write a poem about something I have just been introduced to but if I am writing about something that happened in the past anything can trigger it: a scent, a sound, a view of a landscape. But it ends up being the same poem that I have written over and over again. It’s the way my brain works.

Thursday, September 14th, 2006

Dead Critics Society by Michael Dockins (from Verse Daily)

Zooks! What have I done with my anthologies? I’ll need a
year of sleep after writing my millionth review (with aplomb).
XX bottles of moonshine litter my bedside table like arsenic.
Why no lilting iambics in contemporary poetry? Only dead,
vermin-ridden prose riddled with autobiographical treacle.
Under my bed, the skeleton of Browning. I use his broken-off
tibias as walking sticks. For hundreds of scenic miles I drag
sensitivity, & marvel. Content must be pounded into a rich
risotto of form—evident rhyme scheme & equal stanzas. I
quote Keats: “Gasp! I’m dying!” Were he as prosperous as J.
P. Morgan, he may not have suffered so. These days, a black-
out of good taste, a dimming of metrical etiquette, a dismal
nerve of postmodern surrealism, whatever that means. I’m
mad! I raise one of Browning’s femurs in revolt! I’ve a notion,
ladies & gentlemen, that our language has crumbled into
kindling—a few tiny sparks, maybe, but no thick log to keep
joy in prosody truly alive. Meantime, I’m just about up to “Q”
in my encyclopedia of literature: Quixote, etc., but still I gather
hives hunting hopelessly for my beloved poetry anthologies.
God knows Browning would have understood—what a saint.
Five finger bones claw the floor under my bed, searching. You
entertain such a relic, you pay the price—each knuckle a shiv
digging for inspiration in the floorboards, scraping shallow
crosses into my skin as I slumber. I should lock him in a box!
But then nothing would remind me of my own bones—O my
awaiting death—the only theme suitable for a poetry buzz.

Any poem that begins with “Zooks!” is one worth reading. Dawkins captures the pressure poets feel to write something that will be seen as worthy of poetry as the predecessors, his “awaiting death” being the only thing that is worth writing about, since he is the critic. What is so fun about this poem is that it is about poetry itself. It makes me laugh to see the way this poet views the life of a poetry critic. Using XX instead of 20 works is showing the pretentions of some critics as the narrator of this poem would feel the need to use whatever poetic devices possible to create a poem or critique one, namely Browning’s tibias. Exclamations are used a lot in the poem, but probably mostly to point out the critic’s love for them as a poetic device.

The one thing Dockins did that particularly struck me as being amazing was his seperation of J and P in J. P. Morgan. It was a clever device to show how poets want to be different and show some sort of meaning behind their poetry and it works to make the narrator look completely out of wack with what good poetry is supposed to be. Then the “I have a notion, ladies & gentlemen” shows us that the critic feels he is speaking to a large audience or should be.

Mostly it is the comedy that makes me enjoy this poem, but it works so well that I had to post it.

John Kimbrell’s “The Gulf”

Thursday, September 14th, 2006

On the fourth birthday of your afterlife

I rent a house that might as well be in

the ocean. Two circumspect pelicans

drift across my watery yard. And if

I get a yen for fish, I can cast my line

right off the front deck. And look! There’s a skiff

piloted by Senior Hemmingway himself.

But that’s not true. This is not an island

of ghosts. I don’t even think there’s

a graveyard near. There’s a little road,

and a tackle shop, and a general store,

and then the gulf, which I can almost see from here…

Which is to say I miss those grand

versions of any circumstance that you

found too minor, too cheerless or bland

to report sans fiction, choice residue

of a blatant lie, your one-woman band

marching in some exaggerated aspect of negligible truth.

Therefore, the sand is not off-brown, it’s white

as Siberian snow. The stretch between it

and this house is not a fetid swamp but

a “mosquito preserve.” And this is no

ersatz island lullaby composed of woe,

but a testament to you whereby

a few clouds drift accross a cloudless sky.

Kimbrell dedicates this piece to his mother, and I think knowing that adds an interesting element to this poem. I was initially drawn in by the first line “On the fourth birthday of your afterlife.” Right away the poem starts on a contradiction. We usually think of birthdays as joyous occaisions, and yet Kimbrell situates a birthday on the same line as the afterlife, something that’s usually approached with solemnity, if not outright grief. This theme of contradiction settles in for the remainder of the poem as the speaker struggles to balance the celebration of his mother’s tendancy to exagerate and his own ties to the truth. The language in this particular piece isn’t mindblowing by any measure, but the extent to which the speaker reveals his relationship with his mother is what made me consider this piece.

Triggering Town: The Admiral

Tuesday, September 12th, 2006

I know this wasn’t part of the assigned reading just yet (to be honest I haven’t finished the assigned reading), but while flipping through the book the last chapter caught my eye and I ended up reading the section about the Admiral. What really grabbed my attention wasn’t Hugo’s poem, but rather the story of the driver who took the Admiral, his wife, and his meager posessions to Monroe Valley on page 108. This scene stuck with me for hours after I read it. You’ve got a man trapped in a lie, but so proud and unwilling to admit it that he has this driver run back and forth accross a county in the middle of the night. I guess everyone has been around someone like that at some point. Everyone knows the embarassment you feel for the person as they fumble to find something to vindicate themselves. You want to blame the driver when he finally gives up and kicks the Admiral and his wife out on the side of the road in the dark, but the worst part is I know I would probably do the same.

Big Doors

Monday, September 11th, 2006

I have seen with my own eyes doors so massive
that two men would have been required
to push open just one of them.
Bronze, grating over stone sills, or made of wood
from trees now nearly extinct.

Many things never to be seen again!
The fury of cavalry attacking at full gallop.
Little clouds of steam rising
from horse droppings
on most of the world’s streets once.

Rooms amber with lamplight
perched above those streets.
Pilgrimage routes smoky with torchlight
from barony to principality through forests
that stood as a dark uncut authority.

A story that begins “Once upon a time.”
Messengers, brigands, heralds
in a world unmapped from village to village.
Legends and dark misinformation,
graveyards crowded with ghosts.

And when the rider from that story at last arrives,
gates open at midnight to receive him.
Two men, two men we will never know,
lean into the effort of
pushing open each big door.

Richard Tillinghast

The first line, that insistance that he saw it with his own eyes, protests too much, to me, and as we go on, it seems less likely. And yet I know what he means… I’ve seen these things too. The beautiful, dramatic past, that might never have existed. I’ve seen it. I’ve lived in it. Many of us have.

Beautiful poem. No one thinks of the door openers.