Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Snow Day (Personally Observed)

What does it mean that I spent the focussed part of my snow day writing poems? Is it the equivalent of flopping down to make snow angels, of slowly building a snow fort, of creating once again my misshapen man of snow? (I strongly suspect that snow men only worked right when my mother took a hand.) Am I making my impression on you? marshalling my defenses? recreating the world out of the materials at hand--some snow, a carrot, two pieces of coal (and where would I get those nowadays)?

Maybe it's the pleasure of working on something that is only rarely possible. Snugged up in my office this morning when it was still minus 9, I wrote a poem called "On the Way to the Bookstore," but now called "Undergrowth." Really I had very many notes from last spring semester sprung from the fourteener line exercise I like to use in class. It is about a very specific place in Cleveland, in University Circle, so that when I had finished pinching it and cutting it, it occurred to me I should write about the Brick, which was the closest thing I had to a regularly attended college bar. It's no longer there, but I have many fond memories of that place and that time. Thus, "Bottom Shelf Special" was born, although at first I was only writing little notes on the bottom of my typed draft of "Undergrowth."

I love it when that's how it works--me tipping accidentally into the poem and having lost my balance whooshing away down the hill with it. But also I've been thinking about writing poems about very specific places in Cleveland (past or present).

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Model Poems

Am I unnatural? (Maybe this is a question that everybody asks themselves and some of us then become poets. But I mean something else.) I'm going to an informal gathering of poets this weekend, and we're supposed to bring model poems--meaning a poem that we would like to write, that we aspire to. On the face of it, I believe in model poems. I use them all the time in poetry workshops because I think they make our ideas about what a poem can be larger, more infinite in variety. But do I ever want to have written someone else's particular poem? Maybe this is a matter of semantics. I am perhaps sometimes jealous of the mastery? But are they ever saying what I would say? Isn't that impossible.

And what should I bring? I'm almost certain I'm going to bring Paisley Rekdal's poem Mae West: Advice. I like it for its bravura, in your face excessivism of sound; its rounding on the sonnet as male love poem; its unusual pleasurable language. I do love it, but I don't want to write it. I had some thoughts about Matthew Dickman's poems because I recently read Mayakovsky's Revolver. I like that his poems are long and filled with wonderful imagery like "All the cigarettes she would light/ and then smash out, her eyes/ the color of hairspray, cloudy and sticky/ and gone, but beautiful!" If I was forced to name my favorite poet, it would probably be Elizabeth Bishop in poems like "Crusoe in England," but that's a very long poem. Maybe "Filling Station?"

Don't get me started on which two poems of my own I should bring!