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Tuesday, July 31, 2007

I'm trying to read your poetry but I'm helpless like a rich man's child...

It was a relatively quick phenomena, I never really cared much for poetry. I figured poems to be people sitting around in a garden pondering the beauty of a flower. They always seemed so abstract & pointless to me & I figured nothing worth knowing could be divulged in such a short amount of time, & if it could, I certainly didn't have the patience to sit there & figure it out.

One of the most finger on a chalkboard exercises would be when a teacher would ask the class what they thought a poem is about. What every great poet or songwriter knows is that once their words are out there, the poem is only half finished. The other half comes from the readers interpretation, thoughts, or feelings about the work. The reader could be dead wrong about the meaning from the writer's perspective, but the writer in most cases will never have the opportunity to set the record straight. Another one of my pet peeves is when a poet or songwriter tells these grandiose stories about what inspired their poems. Most of the time, if a poem is worth anything, the story never lives up to the poem, & the poet has given away the secret about how the rabbit got into the hat. The magic is lost.

The poem is an extremely tricky thing. I've tried it, & I don't have it. With a song, you can count on the melody & the rhythm to carry or in most cases overshadow the lyrics. With prose, you have lots of room to get your points across & you can count on certain verses or lines to carry others. A poem has to be tight & there's no room for error.

The first poet I really read was Philip Larkin, & he dispelled the idea that I had in my head that poets were air-headed dreamers & sissies. He was pissed off & bitter, but his words could be beautiful in the face of it. Most of the poets I liked had this frame of mind, but later I'd expand. My favorite poets still are the outlaws, the people who have an urgency in their writing, with the thought that "if you don't get what I have to say in these three stanzas you'll never get it, so I better make it count, rules & conventions be damned".

My sister bought me a gift certificate to Borders for my birthday, so the first thing I thought of was the Oxford Book of American Poetry that I've had my eye on since it came out last year. I'll let you know how it goes.

Here's a new one...

Barton Springs,

by Tony Hoagland

Oh life, how I loved your cold spring mornings
of putting my stuff in the green gym-bag
and crossing wet grass to the southeast gate
to push my crumpled dollar through the slot.

When I get my allotted case of cancer,
let me swim ten more times at Barton Springs,
in the outdoor pool at 6AM, in the cold water
with the geezers & the jocks.

With my head bald from radiation
and my chemotherapeutic weight loss
I will be sleek as a cheetah
-and I will not complain about life's

pedestrian hypocrisies,
I will not consider death a contractual violation.
Let my cancer be the slow-growing kind
so I will have all the time I need

to backstroke over the rocks & little fishes,
looking upwards through my bronze-tinted goggles
into the vaults & rafters of the oaks,
as the crows exchange their morning gossip

in the pale mutations of early light.
It was worth death to see you through these optic nerves,
to feel breeze through the fur on my arms
to be chilled & stirred in your mortal martini.

In documents elsewhere I have already recorded
my complaints in some painstaking detail.
Now, because all things are joyful near water,
there just might be time to catch up on praise.

Five Favorite Songs of the Day

Accidentally Like a Martyr-Bob Dylan (song by Warren Zevon), Kent 2002
Messiah Ward-Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, Abattoir Blues
You Will Miss Me When I Burn-Bonnie "Prince" Billy, Greatest Palace Music
I Was a Lover-TV on the Radio, Return to Cookie Mountain
Tiny Cities Made of Ashes-Sun Kill Moon

Happy Tuesday, friends...



Joyce said...

You are a proficient writer and it makes the art of commenting on your blog a humbling experience. In a concise way I want to say, that I can't really sing but I do, and I can't really write poems, yet I do that too. Thanks for sharing that wonderful poem. Enjoy your new book.

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Grand Haven, Michigan
the sun shines on a dog's ass every now & then...