Friday, March 23, 2012

Thoughts on Form (in the Large) or There are Many Ways to Make Music

I have been running from form for years. And metrics. I think because it feels like a box, I say don't put me in it! Don't tell me I have to pose a problem and then solve it. Don't tell me there should be 10 syllables in each of my lines. I might be a milquetoast, but on the page I'm a rebel. Don't fence me in (a little twangy guitar music here not really frantic enough for my emotional response!). Of course, I know that I'm unconsciously working the system in my free verse way. Using the broken pieces of form and meter and rhythm to make my own patterns and echoes. I've understood this, intellectually, ever since I took "Forms of Poetry" from Leonard Trawick who opened my eyes to the meaning and uses of measure and tradition and made me write a sonnet and a sestina.

All this is a long introduction to my present quandary. I'm putting together a book of prose poems. They are poems without line breaks but with stanzas.The book is divided into 4 sections (unnamed) with an introductory poem standing before and outside of section 1. (I believe the last advice I got floating in the creative writing ether was that dividing a book into sections was bad. But come to think of it, I can just resist this encomium as well as many others.) Can I place a lineated poem as my introductory poem? It is standing outside of the book sections. I think it might work in its subjects and references. It is perhaps a little different in tone, left over from the book before where the speaker is in a very jumbled universe with a jangly voice--think too much caffeine with a slab of betrayal a la mode.

It all comes down to the question "does it work"? Can its well-thought-out line breaks hold the door open to poems with lines like a gust of air or a gush of water sluicing out over the page with some pebbles and broken flowers and scraps of paper tumbled in. It has a great title--"Ready as Mayo."

Thursday, March 8, 2012

The Unlocated City of AWP (10,000 strong)

Going to AWP is like suddenly having cable television. There is so much, too much, how can it be too much? It's addictive. How can you miss this panel? It's exhausting. Look there's a whole other wing of opportunity in the Southeast Hall. Combing through the book fair for the enterprises you know and the surprises of magazines and presses and programs you didn't. Recognizing someone's name because they're a WOMPO! Buying a book because it's called Charlotte Bronte, You've Ruined My Life. Visiting the book signings of people you know. People reminding you of how you know them in the restroom line. Finding the best swag--a tiny button of Emily Dickinson's face.

AWP was in Chicago this year which is probably why I went. Its events were divided between two hotels on S. Michigan Avenue, and I was nestled in between. From my twelfth floor room, I could look out on the suprising pale blue of Lake Michigan and the soothing symmetry of the lakefront park. To my right were the museums and the crouching frog of the planetarium with its one huge eye. To the left was Navy Pier where the ferris wheel lit up every night.

The first panel I went to was on rhyme--Apollonian, Dionysian--and someone imitated a sitar. The last event I went to was an accident because I could not find the ballroom of Gerald Stern. But the poets who read in celebration of their online magazine's anniversary were terrific. The reading ended with a guitar and a song. 

Best time--lunch with two friends who live far away, talking about the work.