Some time ago, a friend mentioned driving north on I-5 with California plates and being pulled over by the local highway patrol around Olympia. “In Washington,” the patrolman said, “we like to think of the speed limit as more than a mere suggestion.” Apparently, the self-satisfaction rewarded from this afflatus meant that all the more that was needed to restore calm to that section of his freeway was a warning. Was this a cop whose partner was a muse?
The first critical review of my poem “16 Tiny Camels Found in Wood Box in Garage Stale,” up Monday at VERStype, began, “Beyond me my friend! I love the first line but lost on the rest.” “Ah! fellow musician,” I replied, “we often get lost on the rests.” I had, no doubt somewhat obnoxiously, tagged a few friends on Facebook to bring their attention to the newly published poem. Why? We are surrounded by poetry. No wonder erasure has become popular. If poetry habitually obliterates meaning, this is because poetry speaks allusively. We might define poetry as what can only suggest. But must we erase ourselves out of every poem? New hazards require new signs, new designs.
To allude is to hint. To hint is to keep something hidden, perhaps from fear, or to play, or to tease, or because to point directly is either impossible or too dangerous (like looking directly at an eclipsed sun), or erases too much from the peripheral shadows. Maybe poetry is a peripheral device, necessary to navigate around meaning. A road sign does not have time to solve every ambiguity. Stop means stop. But after stopping, we can go. Maybe the ubiquitous Stop sign should read: PAUSE. But the idea (stop) is not up for discussion, for our consideration. But what does a bevy of signs mean? We are surrounded by instructions. It’s easy to get confused. Road signs are like poems; they speak allusively. But poetry may not be instructional.
But there are all manner of poems, and the function of poetry may vary with each poem. And language is an ogre whose sleep poetry tries not to disrupt, usually to little avail. There are a few one way streets in our neighborhood. Occasionally, a miscreant driver goes the wrong way, honking and freaking out at all the drivers going the correct way. That’s what the poetic experience is sometimes like – that sudden moment when you realize you’re the swine driving the wrong way down a one way street, the epiphany sending you up and over the curb, everyone honking and shouting suggestions. Every sign contains a moral. Poetry is amoral. The perfect poem traffics not in values but in virtues.
VERStype is a new venue devoted to a particular kind of poetry. How we say something is as important as what we say, and how we say something includes both shape and syntax, tone and style, font and CamelCase. Jazz drums used to be called the skins, and to skin is to zest, peel, flay. How do you do that in a poem? Moving toward a lyric that mobilizes concrete techniques to carry melody and choreography with images of surreal dream dance. “JAZZSKIN” was published a long time ago in the El Camino College arts magazine, Silent Quicksand. No quicker way to obscurity, my friend Tim quipped at the time.
Thanks for stopping by and following my blog. I appreciate it! Arigatou gozaimasu!
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The signs in my life have been mysteriously defaced recently .
There you go, waxing poetics again. Were sigils involved? Try rubbing with white vinegar, baking soda, and salt.
Sometimes, a lot of times, really, when a poem is difficult for me, all I try to do is find one line that speaks to me in some way. some poems are meant to be understood a certain way, but still, because it’s a poem, even that way isn’t necessarily the right way; because the poem is only finished by the reader. that’s what she said
A reader finds her own way.
As a novice cellist I always got lost in the ‘rests’. Maybe why the Bach Suites were the perennial choice since there were so few of them! This poetic dinosaur prefers a tune just to keep playing, and notes are necessary to a tune, even if their purpose is to frame silence!
Yes, “to a tune,” and words necessary to a poem. Then again, as Cage suggested in his 4’33” [of silence], what we call music usually simply drowns out all the other noise. What happens when we stop the music and listen to the noise? We can read with headphones, or earmuffs, the words still rattling around in their cages. “Bessie, Bach, Bop,” Langston said, perfectly framed!
As I play ping-pong poetics with you, I am listening to my top 25 most played tunes. Joni singing “Clouds” plays quite soon.
How about that for a world at ease?
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Signs, Signs Everywhere a Sign!
A familiar and much enjoyed earlier “Poem” accompanied by a catchy melody.
It is one of life’s great pleasures to become cognisant of travelling in the equal and opposite way of the crowd.
I guess poetry in it’s rawness, is a statement which has little room for compliance. Like a heat seeking missile, poetry will take no care as to the occupancy or decor of a target, it simply seeks completion and renders it achieved once emotions and debris is scattered about.
Surprisingly no snow this Christmas in Oz.
Hey, B. Thanks for checking in and for the poetic response!
Alas Joe, your posts are like the opening flowers of spring to the poetically inclined. B
The flowers are all frozen here now, but https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pbn6a0AFfnM