Monday, June 30, 2008

Boys on Bikes

In my sullen compact, I drive the few miles linking
the adult world of work and the adult world of home,
bouncing between the cushions of both -
feeling the walls behind thin insulation.
The breath of summer sweeps down from the clouds.
It's going to rain. Probably within the hour.
The windows in the bedroom are open.

Alongside me speeds in single file
three boys on bicycles, racing
alongside time. The clouds are nonexistent.
They are no victims if the rain drops
down. They don't mind. They fly

around the traffic of sturdy drivers
listening to NPR and the weather reports,
windows rolled up to hold in arctic air.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Building around the Foundation

In my continual search for my muse and that ever elusive fluidity of thought, my path brings me upon Websites that are great illustrations of why I'm on here in the first place. One site is from The Poetry Foundation. There is a lot of good information here and interviews, poems, comments, ideas from published writers, media personalities, critics and so on.


I like this site for it's legitimacy, among other things. As poetry is still not one of those things on the top of everyone's "must have" lists, the sites out there range from rudementary (albeit, valuable) manuals for school kids/lesson plans for teachers on poetry appreciation to second rate personal blogs about poetry and such, most of which can not be validated (and this blog may fall into that category, no?), and poetry scams. Truly, I do not trust poetry.com and their contests. Others may disagree; the organization will defend. Still, that's my position.


So, The Poetry Foundation brings to life the poetry movement that needs to happen on a larger scale. The pessimist that I am says that will not happen - not with our attention spans shorter than ever and usurped by the likes of Britney's big comeback and a media-conjured rumor of a pregnancy pact between high school girls. But it's a start.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The Death Of Ferdinand De Saussure

The Magnetic Fields is one of those random bands that doesn't quite fit into the main stream, but it's a crime that they have escaped the public ear. Stephin Merritt, the founder of the band and its lead singer/songwriter, fills each song with intelligent lyrics that are usually literal, whether humorous or depressing, and always interesting.

The band formed in NYC and have been making music since the early '90s, but really broke through with the fantastic triple album 69 Love Songs (this is how I was introduced to them). The first song I heard from that album was from Volume 3 and entitled "The Death of Ferdinand De Saussure."

Not your traditional pop-tune, Merritt references Ferdinand de Saussure, who was a Swiss linguist at the turn of the 19th century. The ever-truthful Wikipedia links de Saussure to the theory of semiotics - the study of signs and their significance. It is believed that , as a linguist, he applied this theory to language as quoted: "The connection between the signifier and the signified is arbitrary" and "In language there are only differences, and no positive terms." And to think of all the misinterpretation of language when we're in relationships - the differences between what is said, what is meant and what is understood.

How Merritt jumps from de Saussure to Holland-Dozier-Holland, the 1960s producers of Motown love songs, is an interesting twist, but it fits - all in the name of relationships and communication. To read or hear the lyrics, there is nothing seemingly worthy of note. The words are basic and seem like a school kid's writing assignment gone horribly wrong. However, the references in the song are off-center, innovative, relevant, and truly brilliant. Magnetic Fields really raises the bar. I'm sure I'll blog about them many times to come.








LYRICS:
I met Ferdinand de Saussure on a night like this
On love, he said, I'm not so sure I even know what it is
No understanding, no closure, it is a nemesis
You can't use a bulldozer to study orchids, he said so

We don't know anything
You don't know anything
I don't know anything
About love

And we are nothing
You are nothing
I am nothing
Without love

I'm just a great composer and not a violent man
But I lost my composure and I shot Ferdinand
Crying, it's well and kosher to say you don't understand
But this is for Holland Dozier Holland, his last words were

We don't know anything
You don't know anything
I don't know anything
About love

But we are nothing
You are nothing
I am nothing
Without love

His fading words were

We don't know anything
You don't know anything
I don't know anything
About love

But we are nothing
You are nothing
I am nothing
Without love

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Clever Is As Clever Does

I am on the constant hunt for contemporary poets and writers, whether online or in print, not only for my reading pleasure but also to help me learn and grow as a writer myself. Besides the decrepit nuns, high school English teachers and the occassional course in college, I have not had any formal training or practice in this craft - and although I have succumb to the realization that I will not be a featured writer in The New Yorker or like-publication, I still want to strive to write as well as I possibly can...and maybe someday, have someone else be inspired (or impressed) by my words.


So, to you writers out there, I would first like to offer my supportive praise for your work and a sincere "thank you" even though you have no idea who I am, because without your inspiration, I would have given up on this blog after about the first day.


Some of the better blogs I have come across (so far) include by not limited to the following - which I recommend:

Silliman's Blog
E.B. Bortz
Parachute
StonePoem
This is All Your Fault

There are plenty more - and I'll list those another day. In the meantime, do you know of any poets/bloggers that you really like and would recommend?

Monday, June 23, 2008

A Journey...

...not a destination,
still, we're searching for the exit signs
that inform us where to be...

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Blockhead

Arrgh! That darn writer's block. It has struck once again. All the ideas are swirling about, but it's like a big mess when I try to verbalize them - a big...gooey...mess. I've read a few things on writer's block, and basically the conclusion was made that it's not so much a function of not being able to write, but not wanting to write out of fear it will be terrible.

I wouldn't categorize my condition as not wanting to write - in fact, it's quite the opposite- but there is probably a slight taste of fear in my mouth with these words. I know I'm always comparing myself to other writers, new and old, and I feel like I can never quite break the barrier to say what I want to say, the way I want to say it, and have it still be meaningful to the reader. I guess maybe it's not so much a writer's block as it is a mental block.

Today, I'm giving my mind a break, for just a little bit anyway. So, in the meantime, enjoy some baby animals:

Island In The Sun - Weezer

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Fun at Work


Ok - it's Wednesday, hump day. I don't mind Wednesdays, except that they're not Fridays, and Friday's aren't Saturdays...but I'm not complaining. Really!

Wednesday is as good of an excuse as any to release a deep, relaxing sigh, to kick back and let down your hair. Ahhh! Ok, that's enough relaxing - there are meetings to be had and numbers to crunch and interviews to give. Work always awaits.


On that note, I stumbled across a site from Robert Petta, Office Poetry, which is basically an extension of his same-titled book of poems with correlating illustrations and live performances. His material takes the mundane, insane and overall fruitful experience of work and puts a humorous slant on it. Now, I wouldn't say his work ranks as high poetry, but it's funny and light, and we can all relate to one degree or another. The site itself doesn't have much of his work, but I recommend the poem of the day and free samples. For the rest - buy the book or go see it live.

I love the irreverence in humor because - as you can see from previous postings - I tend to stay on the darker/heavier side of things when I write. If you knew me in person, I'm as goofy as anything and love to joke around and laugh. So - I look to Robert Petta as one of my inspirations to lighten up a bit. I'm working on that for you, I promise! Until then - enjoy some of his Office Poetry.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

BJ Ward

A few years ago, I became a fan of BJ Ward, a college professor and writer from my local area who has published three books of poetry. What made me a fan was his work in Gravedigger's Birthday, which is reflective of his blue-collar upbringing in New Jersey. A person (especially in this area) can truly relate to his words for all their grit and sincere depiction of what his life is really like; there is no confectionery dusting to it.

I admire his work because in my own, I have trouble breaking through the barriers - saying in plain language what I need to say and describing the circumstances in jagged tones instead of glossing over. Not to say life's all doom and gloom; it's just not all pink and bubbly either.

If you're in the area, he'll be reading at The Pavillion at Nassau Square Park in West Winsor, NJ on Sunday, June 22, 2008 at 4:30 PM.

From Gravedigger's Birthday by BJ Ward:
The Star-Ledger

287 was the long road to the newspaper plant
my black-handed father would ride beneath
the weight of a night sky.
A father who works the night shift
knows that weight, how it accumulates from within
when his mistakes and debt
begin to press on his children and wife.
And so went his life-
If the stars spelled something real,
they might spell the equation
that my father never mastered--
the news just ran through his hands
and what slid there left the black residue
of the world's doings, pressed knowledge
that read like misaligned tea leaves in his hardening palms,
and in his life line and heart line and other lines
that would normally speak a fortune,
the night just accumulated itself-
a little sky he would spread over us
when the world redelivered him in the morning.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Desert Floor

Overtly kitschy backseat-shower rain down upon the madman like glitter
of the gold rush poured from dirty bottles but how it shines
in the pass-thru shotgun wedding by the pelvis shaking sideways sideburns ignite
the desert floor like the cigarette hole punched through to the center
of the worn leather couch in the penthouse basement rise from this oasis
dustpan hands drip of dried earth clouds mirage of the last drop of water
for many miles around this valley of the dolls that peak at midnight exploding red
hot and blue stars like fireballs or damp sparklers on Mars
and the strutting sleekness of the ostrich as pale as Satan’s pretty smile and the talons he projects to grasp the pencil necks of snakes
and turn them into belts or boots to stomp upon the low-life jabberwocky sidekick
mavericks with engraved holsters tied to the side drop down deep into the pocket the plinking sound of change slot machine stroke for luck a kiss to every cowboy
wrangler and carpenter with hammers overriding the flap of angry vultures
swooping overhead the dead that walk around town side to side left to right
in the heat of the atrium light that seems as artificial as the background set
movies show like Flamingo open wide in bloom for the shielded sight of the hit-man
with his mistress and I misread the instructions come back at four or maybe later for the henchmen when the laughter isn’t laughter but a switchblade click knocking over
flutes of champagne and stiletto heels and the girls that want to waitress
instead of wait this time around for a chance to go somewhere
along a stretch of open highway straight as a page ripped from stained novellas
in brown paper sacks brushed by plush entrance ways
to all the flashing noise all around here is enough to entice
the epileptic disco like a strobe song twist the dance floor and plastic carousels round and round the crooning magpies for the wide eyes around slant angles
in shadowed corners dug deep and far enough away
from the whitewashed breed of proper subtleties
instead of flipping on electric night like daytime when day crawls
like impassable snakes along dried riverbeds in this desert forked between mountains
forsaken beauty that serves as distant canvass or fenced gateway
to overtly kitschy madman clich├ęs like the pass-thru glitter Vegas baby song
that shakes cracks of dry earth
from this desert floor

Friday, June 13, 2008

Fatherside

When I was born, they said I looked like you,
and my features remained reflective
of the Ukrainian stoicity,
eyes of a subtle shade of blue
like a rough sea upon the storm.
Even then it was understood
a boy would have been preferred
rather than the cooing pink thing -
the scissors to the cord
of your legacy.
Identity in limbo, I transformed
(or tried with all my girlish might)
to be as rugged as any son.
All that was gained were scrapes
and bruises that remain.
So, a score and 10 breaths later,
we're both still searching
for what was never meant to be,
never fully able to embrace
what is apparent in our blue eyes.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Where for Art Thou, Readers?


Can poetry matter? That was the question asked by author Dana Gioia back in 1991, but is still relevant almost 20 years later. No doubt it has been asked many times before his essay, and many times since. (Click here to read essay)

Now, if you'll allow me the cliche - I love poetry: reading, writing, listening, and analysing it. For me, poetry has been a faithful friend that I can return to time and again, no matter what shape I'm in. Poems, to me, are not arbitrary words stuck together because they sound pretty or intelligent. They are messages. They are windows onto the world, and doorways into the author's heart and mind. Poetry challenges me to think differently, to see the world from other perspectives, and to communicate myself in ways that I cannot verbally find words (or sometimes, the courage) for. It gives me a sense of peace. It is my therapist. It is my mentor.



But like many other writers, I am all too aware that our culture breeds many poets but little need or appreciation for poetry. People may like to write it on their own behalf, but what about reading it? What place does poetry have in our world? There are many in my own circle who equate poetry with either the dry boring behemoth read in school or the depressed young girl writing about unrequited love, and that sort of thing. Even having my blog focused on poetry, I know I am taking a risk of turning people off.

What isn't realized is that poetry is all around us - even in the most basic formats: song lyrics, familiar quotes, some advertisements. It expands beyond that 10 lb anthology on your dusty bookshelf. Look and see what you stumble across.

I don't write to become famous or recognized. I don't write because I think my poetry is so astounding that I think everyone should see it. I write because I love it. I write because I want to help people to understand there is so much more to poetry than imagined, and is still very much relevant in our lives. This question of "Can Poetry Matter" is one that I will continue to explore, but I would love to hear from you and what your thoughts are.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Excessive Heat

We lay prostrate to the growing heat
that swells up,
suffocating
with all its weight pressing down,
and pushing in -
my lungs are inflamed;
there must be some Relief...
Relief from mercury and Mars,
from the rain men
who control the weather
like gods perched on high;
Relief from the stench
of stagnant air
and lazy immobility.
There is no shelter anymore;
we are exposed
to the elements that surround -
from this ungodly swelter,
there MUST be some Relief.
Perhaps come November
when the wind shifts stream.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Tangerine and Blue

Finger prick crevice sound, wired belly drowning out
And how the bass moans deep into summer’s early sleep.
Something shifts in mood, colors take on different hues
From the cemetery cue to tangerine and blue.
Finger glide on ivory tusk then trigger ebony -
Right hand lift from left hand side, carry over once then slide.
Cerebral dance from shutter bloom, flicker fast yet smooth
From the lullaby snooze to tangerine and blue.
Stick beat the pulse alive out of synch but drawing lines
From blackhole slumber room to sunlight afternoon
Finger click to jump feet tap, smile forces out a laugh
Darkness strips its layered muse to tangerine and blue.

Monday, June 9, 2008

The Bishop

Last summer I bought a book a little bookstore in Northampton, MA entitled Edgar Allan Poe & The Juke-Box: Uncollected Poems, Drafts, and Fragments by Elizabeth Bishop and Alice Quinn. It includes 108 poems and 11 prose pieces, were not previously published, including 16 drafts of one of her most famous (and one of my personal favorite) poems "One Art."

The book in itself is incredible - to have access to unpublished pieces by one of the most prolific writers of a generation is always exciting. But I think one of the things I admire most is seeing the drafts and handwritten notes of "One Art" and the amount of labor spent over its creation. Most times, I'll write something, thinking it sounds great; when I reread it - not so much. Any writer can appreciate the process of creating and revising...and revising until it's just right.

I'm not going to make this posting a biography of Elizabeth Bishop's life, although, as one of my favorite poets, I'm sure I'll write about her from time to time. She died when I was a baby; yet, her impact has resounded throughout generations. I love her imagery, the way she can be intimate and have you see through her eyes without getting overtly personal, and of course her natural flow of words without sounding stuffy.

So, for your reading pleasure - "One Art" by Elizabeth Bishop:

The art of losing isn't hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster.
Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.
Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.
I lost my mother's watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.
I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn't a disaster.
---Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan't have lied. It's evident
the art of losing's not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Running in a Race That's Long Ended

To have crammed my development
within four years of juvenile transition,
to have expected full plumage in adolescence,
and eloquence of my description
would have been a sorry misjudgement
of what I truly was, just about invisible,
and now mostly disappeared from memory
to those who sat in front, those traceable
still, and excelling the way I should be
(a competitive streak that is unbearable).

Back during those years, I tried to run beside
those in the lead; never much attention was paid
to the way I just couldn't connect pavement and stride,
and perhaps lack of ambition or direction plagued
what could have been triumphant instead of implied.
Confidence was never quite the ally, so still
I am running alone in a race that has long ended -
don't inquire about the stakes...just a whole to fill...
achievement to be counted, although now, I'm winded,
lagging as the precedent of enviable will.

Types of Poetry

I'm always caught up with the notion that poems have to rhyme. Well, no - that's not entirely true. I write quite a bit that doesn't rhyme and could be considered free verse. But I do have a nagging voice in the back of my mind saying that poems need to be structured, have a form and a rhyming scheme. That gets to be so boring, doesn't it?

There are many styles of writing. I found this site that lists and briefly describes different Types of Poetry and they say it's only a very few examples. I haven't taken any sort of writing course since college (in my not-so-distant past) but the impression was left that there were just a handful of poetry formats. Not so, my friends - not so.



Just yet another reason why poetry rocks my sox.




Thursday, June 5, 2008

Keep the Car Running

I first heard this song in the beginning of the year - even though it was released on the album Neon Bible by Montreal's Arcade Fire in the beginning of 2007. On the surface, it's a fast, upbeat, very "pop" kind of alternative song (I still love to listen to it when I'm driving), but when you listen to the words, you know there's something going on that's a little deeper.

Everyone interprets the lyrics in a different way, but the most compelling is that it's said to be about the Rapture (see: Book of Revelations in the Bible) and the Christian perspective on that belief. Basically - if you're baptised, you'll be welcomed into Heaven when Jesus comes back to Earth at the end of the world to gather all the true believers. Nonbelievers and those not baptised don't get invited to the party. There are many blogs and sites out there that discuss possible interpretations. I may not particularly share the religious belief that is so cleverly manifested in these song lyrics (and I don't know whether the band members do, either), but it's an interesting concept to put into a pop, non-Christian song. Perhaps it's just a mockery of belief?

Listen: "Keep The Car Running"



Lyrics:
Every night my dream’s the same.
Same old city with a different name.
Men are coming to take me away.
I don’t know why but I know I can’t stay.

There’s a weight that’s pressing down.
Late at night you can hear the sound.
Even the noise you make when you sleep.
Can’t swim across a river so deep.

They know my name 'cause I told it to them,
But they don’t know where
And they don’t know
When It’s coming, when It’s coming.

There’s a fear I keep so deep,
Knew its name since before I could speak:
Aaaah aaaaaah aaaaah aaaaaah

They know my name 'cause I told it to them,
But they don’t know where
And they don’t know
When It’s coming,
Oh! when It’s coming
Keep the car running

If some night I don’t come home,
Please don’t think I’ve left you alone.
The same place animals go when they die,
You can’t climb across a mountain so high.
The same city where I go when I sleep,
You can’t swim across a river so deep.
They know my name 'cause I told it to them,
But they don’t know where
And they don’t know
When It’s coming,
Oh! when is it coming?
Keep the car running
Keep the car running
Keep the car running

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Becoming Currer Bell

By the grace of God I thank my stars that I'm alive and we still are
advancing now although still slow come equity to those who co-inhabit
this space with men who know we serve as we did then;
no need to hide identities when writing farce or tragedies.
The skeptics say we cannot hold ourselves up to the manly mold -
just stories of romance and dreams of girls who play in make-believe,
just poetry that won't add up or earn such praise or test enough
of will and strength, no image clear when dreams just have no use here.

But no, now times are different, right? Women are heard and in well-sight

of earning posts as high as light and are judged on merit as all men might.

A culture sewn together well by threads of cloth slit to sell.

And films where men in nudity are shown as much as girls may be.
Magazines that push the skin to rub enough, absorb within;
the human form was made to sell; that's all I need - no talent fell
before your eyes, no need to blind you

with the wool that I may toss in verses lost by my chest size.

Luckily, it could be worse as we have seen in journals' terse
accounts of women in the Middle East where women are thought less than the beast
that runs amuck in city streets, in blood of men through desert heat.

We have the liberty to speak and fight and vote and drink and sleep.
We are allowed to work alone outside the house and choose our own way to live
if choose we must, but ask not what this means for us.
If you don't know or understand you'll never know; so must I stand
and beg you for equality in stature, sexuality, and strength
you've never given out of fear you'll lose your own?
In all the years since Currer Bell, I hope we must have grown.

If the only way to sell my art is to sell myself as a sugar tart
and flaunt my ass the way they do to show that trash is worth a ransom, too,
than maybe I should find a church to re-baptize myself for another birth
so that I can avoid all the trappings still net and inequalities that have not balanced yet.
Perhaps I’ll become the next Currer Bell and then, by merit, my art will sell.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Saroyan

I just came across an article, written back in April in the NY Times Book review section about the release of the Complete Minimal Poems by Aram Saroyan. The article sounds as though Aram is someone I should be aware of - a poet of poets that expanded the meaning of what poetry can be. I suppose he is, but in my bourgeois knowledge of the world - I have never heard of him. Forgive.

What strikes me is the simplicity of his work. I'm not giving an opinion on whether I like it or not, because that is irrelevant. His work seems so base and uncomplicated; yet, I suppose to alot of people, there is great meaning and the words seem tangible: Sample of his work

I have been writing since I was 12. Sure - it hasn't been all good stuff. In fact, the majority of it is terrible - and I won't even address how bad it was in the early days. But perhaps in my Catholic school training of formalities, I feel the need for proper, meaty poems, when in fact, they can be a single word. Lighght is not poetry to me, but perhaps I should open my mind to it. So...

SuNnnshiine. There, I wrote a poem for you :)