Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Fortress of the Self

In a Stephen King movie--the one with the dream catcher?-- there are several scenes that imagine the character's brain or consciousness as a library of shelves and file cabinets and stairs.

And so many things are stored upstairs, every head like a hoarder's paradise with data stacked like twine-tied newsprint. This enormous data of everything experienced, read, thought, studied, forgotten is behind every poem a person writes, infusing it with considerable unspoken meaning.

As new writers, we sometimes find it difficult to clue the other in. Isn't it obvious? Why can't the other get it? We've just lobbed a poem from the fortress of the self, sent a flame-tipped arrow from the turret, spilled the boiling oil of our life on the below, written on the great stone walls in blood.

But that's not the same thing as being inside privy to the plant life, home movies, and notes from third grade.

Maybe a fortress is too medieval although it does have the sense of the protected, beleaguered self--battlements, torture chamber, great hall, portcullis. And aren't we our own city-state?

How to compose a poem that doesn't just reflect the reader like the glassy surface of the moat. How to compose a poem with tonal music, with images like cunning levers, with words that turn the handle of meaning to at least crack open the door?

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