Sunday, March 10, 2013

I Explain

I Explain

I explain to the chemistry teacher
why chem without coincident lab is rote
verse soon forgotten

Rolling Stones perform in concert
not Jagger but an old man in plaid buttondown
ions measured, combined to burn

medicated Elsie dies
her friend walks around with a man poet
shrugs as if nothing lost

the poetry teacher insists
on qualifications — six books at least
I argue my way in

one poem per month, due today
I trailer my 3rd book — poems of four types
story, analysis, metaphor, apostrophe

poems are physical
black fabrics & floor space
monologue while wedging nuts in crevices

the story of a small child abducted
brothers with guns & pickups
I call the Feds

one distant dilapidated farm
a second more recent, more upscale
I fail to make them tea

he’s thrashing somewhere
I struggle to repair failed roof beams
a threat I hear but never face

small child or small animal
black & white cat
sullen but saved

once me [pic by Jay Hosler]

What writers have influenced my writing?

Elizabeth Bishop
Frances Hodgson Burnett
Emily Dickinson
Fanny & Susan Howe
Keri Hulme
Marianne Moore
Sylvia Plath
Marilynne Robinson

Samuel Beckett
James Joyce
Edward Lear
Naeem Murr
Michael Ondaatje
Ezra Pound
Wallace Stevens
William Carlos Williams


anger, brilliance, confidence, concision, courage, daring, disorder, duende, exaggeration, fear, genre scrambling, honesty, humor, imagination, leaping, love, music, nature, other-worldliness, pain, passion, preservation of child mind, rhyme, rhythm, sexuality, sound, surprise, technique, transformation, translation, vernacular

Leslie Marmon Silko [pic by Don Usner]

Deconstructing Leslie Marmon Silko texts:

Text: "they went to burn the spines from the cholla and prickly pear. They stood back by the wagon and watched the cows walk up to the cactus cautiously, sneezing at the smoldering ashes. The cows were patient while the green pulp cooled, and then they brought out their wide spotted tongues and ate those strange remains because the hills were barren those years and only the cactus could grow."

Response: This text stopped me because it was both familiar & unfamiliar. In Argentina we grew prickly pear. The spines are one-to-two inches long, & it’s very painful to be pricked because they carry a toxin that stings under your skin for a long time. I never imagined you could burn the cactus down to a "green pulp" cows could eat. I tried to imagine the cows waiting patiently & knowing when the pulp would be cool enough. I also admired the imagery & the language — the cows' cautious approach to the cactus, their sneezing, "the smoldering ashes," "the green pulp," "their wide spotted tongues," "those strange remains."

Text: "Josiah said that only humans had to endure anything, because only humans resisted what they saw outside themselves. Animals did not resist."

Response: I reacted to the philosophy — the world view — it seems complicated, not obvious to me. I researched definitions; I searched a long time for a suitable example. The definition of endure that seems to fit best here is suffering even though the sufferer could make the suffering stop. My example is that animals always engage with what is outside themselves, e.g., another dog (approaching, sniffing, tasting, fighting, having sex), the landscape, the weather; whereas people think about what they want to do, they might resist natural impulses because they consider what the results might be — e.g., rejection, attack. So instead of sniffing & tasting they resist, & as a result they endure, sometimes for a long time, emotions like desire, anger, loneliness, regret, sorrow.

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