Monday, May 29, 2006

Spaces

There is something about living on the prairies that is partly contributing to the writing of my story, not that I have done any actual writing lately. There is a feel of space, a feel of the wind blowing through the severe sunshine that produces the muse of Trapper’s story. Yesterday we were driving around, and later walking through the prairie, and there it was. The hay bales, the beaten barns in the distance, the space between absolutely everything and nothing, really does contribute to this. If feels here like nowhere else I have ever lived. It is wide open and I love that feeling of potential, something the pioneers really worked to their advantage. But it has a lonely cast about it also. Nothing is near. Everything is distant, in the distance. Except the humidity that sticks fast.

What I also noted was the necessity to look close at what there is here. There will be only one flower growing in a field of grass for example. Just one. We were on the Platte River. Literally on it, as it is only a few feet wide now. The braided river as it is known because it is so dried. And there was one flower, a little reddish pink flower. Low to the ground, like it was hoarding supplies. It was. Rain is scarce. It makes do. Even in the middle of a river. The leaves were wiry and almost alpine in glow. Very beautiful. There were little tiny fish in the narrow straits of the braids. Their sparkles lit the water. Watching them dart out from the seaweed into the flow and then back again was hilarious. Spunky little creatures. We missed the cranes by a month or two. We will have to go back next spring to see them.

So much of this is the inspiration for the story, both in content and feel. I hope I can capture that. It has captured me.

Friday, May 26, 2006

What's next?

Sometimes when I read poetry, I just see the work of the poetry, rather than poetry. I ask myself then, “Is this still poetry?” Sometimes the poetry has been worked out of it completely. And then even as prose, as it seemingly appears to be, it isn’t enchanting either.

I need to find myself a good definition of what exactly is poetry (for me). Whatever it ends up being, it should be transparent. If the work exclaims itself ever so loudly, then it isn’t. The more poetry I read, the less the definition is finite. I am losing the boundaries of what it was for me, and I am hoping that this blasts away my preconceptions to allow for surprise.

What will be next?

Monday, May 15, 2006

Wallace Stevens

It is almost overdue, but on the way to the library to return The Palm At The End of the Mind, I decided I would renew it. I had to keep reading. Plus, I found someone's train ticket in the book. Torn into bookmarks, each piece a placeholder for a span of travel and reading between here and Denver. That will be a poem in the next few days I think. I have liked The Snow Man (that I think of as Mind of Winter) for some time, but now there are several others. Now Of Heaven Considered as a Tomb has a place, and I need to think about On the Road Home for so much longer.

I have really come to like Stevens.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Annotations Caught

April 7: Caught

When I was a child, my father would take my brother, sister and I to the Detroit River to fish. We sat at a parking lot that was adjacent to the river. We enjoyed this time very much. We would wander about; fish sometimes, play, roll down the hills and frolic. There were a few other people that would be fishing. We didn’t talk to them very much. Most people fish for the quiet we learned, not for the actual catching of the fish. Plus, this was in the early to mid 1970’s, so eating the fish from the Great Lakes and Detroit River was not necessarily a good idea.

There was one man with whom my dad would have random conversations - the man depicted in this poem. He never said very much, but when he did, it was both amusing and profound. He was very tall, very gaunt and probably poor. He may have been fishing for food, I am not really sure.

What I first noticed about him were his shoes. He wore Converse high top running shoes. He cut away the top part over the toes. I don’t think he could afford shoes that actually fit, so he would cut away the front to allow his toes to have room. I remember thinking how sad that was, that he couldn’t afford proper shoes.

He would talk sometimes about living in Detroit, then Windsor, the immigration north of his family from the south to Detroit. He talked about his grandparents (I think he said, maybe great grandparents) being slaves. To a white Canadian girl, this was frightening and exotic and saddening. Seeing someone who knew that life really touched me. Sometimes history isn’t that far away. I learned that from him. This wasn’t long after Detroit burned during the riots, so it really struck me. A collision of history past and history in the making, but it was more than a historical exercise, he was a very nice man. I am sure that he would have preferred not to be bothered by this white girl that was always asking him questions. He and his friend (a woman who showed up less frequently than he, but was always very kind) would very lovingly answer my naïve questions.

Over the years I have thought about him. He has stuck with me. He was this ordinary man whose family lived through extraordinary times. Yet he still just fished at the river. He was so peaceful when he could have been so angry. His life obviously wasn’t very gentle with him, poverty and all, but here he was chatting with this young girl. He didn’t need to, and yet he did. He very gently changed the thinking of a naïve girl, who only knew safety. He opened my world a little. Anyway, this poem stems from all of this. I can only hope the rest of his life was as peaceful as the kindness he showed to me.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

April 5 and 6 annotations

Continuing annotations. Where did I leave off?

April 5: How to “make a Poem” (7 year old’s advice). My son is sweet. He told me one day about the stuff his teacher suggested about writing. I knew immediately that would be the next day’s poem. And what is so funny to me is that it was all excellent advice. What you learn in first grade is useful. He also was the first one, last year, to point out me as a poet. He was trying to remember the word poet. And he said, “You know, what you write on the computer.” When I said poetry, he got excited and agreed that was what he was thinking about, me as poet. Mouths of babes. I will take that stance. So it made for what I think is a cute poem. And all of the quotes in that poem are his. I still don’t know what he meant by “tap into your poem” but I love the nuance and depth that conveys. And the “permission” was just so interesting. I think he meant critique, allowing others to read, but I really think a writer/poet does give a certain amount of permission by the making public of it.

April 6: Still. The lines you say nothing / is wrong has been floating around for months. I love the line break because it gives one impression and then the break flips it and tells you so much more. I have tried to put it in a few other poemy bits, but nothing worked. It works well enough here, but I am still not sure. In front of the building in which I work, there are many juniper bushes with the best blue/grey/white blushed berries, like midnight. They are so beautiful and the bush branches hold the berries just so. Magpie: this is a reference to what Elizabeth Bishop said about her debt to Marianne Moore, “Perhaps we are all magpies.” Magpies steal nests, toss eggs of other birds. Heh, so do writers. A friend pointed out the snake imagery, she asked who it was. I hadn’t even realized that when I wrote it. I was just thinking about the speaking/not speaking the poem relates. Then it turned as I wrote it, and became about something, someone else completely. Fictional (actually) toward the end. My imaginings about any manipulative person and how they would be. The manipulative people who only views themselves because they are unable to see beyond that. Grumble grey popped one day, and I knew I had to use it. Sonics and tone. It worked perfectly here I thought.

I will stop here because the next one will get an entry of its own I think.

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

While I still remember

Annotations of my April poems. What I still remember, while it is fresh and warm.

April 1: Price of a Muse. Shakespeare’s folio was up for action. I was concerned that it would just go to high bidder rather than someone who would respect it for what it was, for what it is, and all it means to the world. What they have come to mean to me. I tried to use the words he chose in this, to describe what was happening to the folio. Winds of heaven is his, I can’t remember which play. The folio is so frail, like the tentative muse. The one he constructed in his sonnets beguiles me, so part of the reference is to that. So much is unknown about Shakespeare and this folio was a peek. Not even a firm grasp of a peek. Like a poem. So much is unknown. The use of Will has always cracked me up. I contend that if you taught teenagers about Shakespeare via the use of his “Will”, every entendre implied, they would love Shakespeare all the more.

April 2: Place. I was dusting my shelves a week or so, more or less, I don’t remember now exactly, before Napowrimo, contemplating Napowrimo. As I was adjusting the books, edging them as it is called in the trade, I noticed that Lolita had fallen up against Little Birds. Little Birds I bought in college, all of the women I knew bought Anais Nin. LOL. There were many little girl issues in the 1930-50’s for writers it seems. Not sure why that would be, the war maybe, power issues, I haven’t the faintest, an a resurgence of interest in Nin the 80’s. Anyway, I was surprised by their similarity and proximity in tone. One edged gently against the other. They seemed to be friending one another. Then I saw Proust between Plath and Rushdie. Then I started wondering about how they would have thought about each other. Their style, their content. Rand fallen on Roth. She wouldn’t have like that at all. I laughed. James Joyce has the largest stack. Ya think? LOL So they were in front on the top shelf with the A’s. Next to those are the how to write books. I have several, as I hold no assumptions about any of this. I will take any and all advice. Some of these books have been useful, some less so. Then when I dusted my way down that shelf, all in order alphabetically by author (Virgo and former librarian here) I saw Evanovich pressed up to Fforde. Now I was on a roll and ran to get a piece of paper to scrawl these findings. I sat on the carpet next to my Swiffer and wrote it, almost completely as is. I had to play with the sentences some, because I wrote them very hodgepodgy.

April 3: Pissed. Yes, this story is true. Exactly as happened. This cute dog I have watched grow from a puppy. Every morning the owner would be outside watching her dog do its morning business. Winter, rain, snow, and ickiest weather she would be out there watching her dog. Not how I would want to start my day. Getting the coffee made is tough enough. There are no fences dividing the yards so until the dog learned the boundary lines, she would be out there. I was standing at my kitchen sink rinsing my coffee pot, about to fill it with water, and I watched, once again, this dog piss the day into being. Just as he did this, the sun broke between the houses and shone. Sometimes the day just hands you the image to use. Reading through this entry I completely forgot I lost the first version of this poem. Wow.

April 4: Hustle. I had no idea what to write that day. None. I sat at my computer for quite a while, trying to think of something. So I just started writing images. That is why the form of the poem is the way it is, with ellipsis points. I wanted to show no beginning or end. Yes I know I was cheating, but since they were dancing, it worked I thought. The music has no beginning or end. Disco did though, thank goodness. Ugly clothes, but I do remember the ones I referenced. Just remember the sails reference came from a Kooser poem I read. When he was in the hospital (I think, I has been a month) he described his nurses' caps as sails.

hair / layered like a cake left out / in the rain

I nearly caused my car to run off the road with this realization. I was trying to think of an image for the layered hair of the time. Then MacArthur Park came on the radio while I was driving. Sometimes ah ha moments can be dangerous. Luckily no writers were hurt in the writing of this poem. I will stop here for now. I am certain I will think of more to add. My memory works like that.

Thanks for reading, and I miss April too.