poetry

101: Chapter 1

Eight months ago, I wrote down my clever ideas to read an instructional book on poetry, to complete the exercises, to write down my results, and to discuss my thoughts and the process at large. I said that I hoped the plan wouldn’t fall through after an hour, and I succeeded in that plan in that it took merely the time to click publish before that clever idea fell through.

Still, regardless of reasoning, I have found my way back to this project. Let’s see if I can’t write a couple of pieces before it all turns to custard once again…

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101: Prelude

I have a confession to make. In fact, I have a few confessions to make. See, I’ve been writing poetry for around ten years. Before that, I wrote lyrics. Before that, I tittered down things now and again, grand ideas in my mind for the next great story, and surprisingly legible scribbles of unsurprisingly childish notions. Regardless, I’ve been fascinated with writing for as long as I can remember. I still have hope that one day I might not be half bad.

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Perspective: ‘The Enduring Premonition’ by Owen Marshall

I often feel like there’s something just out of reach. I don’t know what it is, but I feel like it’s physically hidden behind some invisible corner. It’s the feeling of something on the tip of the tongue, but more vague and expansive than language can succinctly describe.

For years, I’ve referred to the feeling as “in the corner of my mind”, or some variation thereof. I tend to keep it linguistically out of reach, because I feel like whatever it happens to be is meant to stay out of reach. There’s something of the Holy Spirit in the ordeal.

I’m not going to pretend the feeling is close to unique, in reality or in poetry; but I recently found a beautiful turn-of-phrase by New Zealand writer, Owen Marshall, that encapsulates the same feeling of ambiguous distance while turning it somehow more real, more malleable. The describing phrase, from the poem The Enduring Premonition, reads thus:

A wingspan of futility

across our shallow tea-cup days

Granted, there’s something macabre about the line and title, something almost destitute, but I’m a sucker for such ideas. It puts a gothic feel on that invisible thing, a feeling of heaviness. But it also finds a resignation to inevitability, that it’s not something that needs to be outrun. I love a shallow tea-cup day, and if I can find those beneath the wingspan of futility, well, I think that’s something nice.

Purgatory/Paradise

I’ve given up the Fig Leaf,

I got a new haircut, trimmed my beard

I’ve given up the Chapel,

for the dream of hopeless possibility.

I’ve given up the idea

I was born ever-curious

that Fault was in an apple.

to Cupid’s vocation.

I’ll argue every day

I accepted, many years ago, my nature

that The Effort must improve,

and the futility of looking past my heart.

yet the thought of hopelessness

The hopeless romantic

near to tears did have me move.

herein resides.

 

PERSPECTIVE: ‘To a Snail’ by Marianne Moore

If “compression is the first grace of style,”
you have it. Contractility is a virtue
as modesty is a virtue.
It is not the acquisition of any one thing
that is able to adorn,
or the incidental quality that occurs
as a concomitant of something well said,
that we value in style,
but the principle that is hid:
in the absence of feet, “a method of conclusions”;
“a knowledge of principles,”
in the curious phenomenon of your occipital horn.

By Marianne Moore (more…)