Lured into a Line

I have been bitten by Marissa’s meme (even if I have just now had time to copy):

Give me the title of a poem I’ve never written, and feedback telling me what you liked best about it, and I will tell you any of: the first line, the last line, the thing that made me want to write it, the biggest problem I had while writing it, why it almost never got offered to magazines, the scene that hit the cutting room floor but that I wish I’d been able to salvage, or something else that I want readers to know.

Also, like Marissa, I ask that you don’t comment with stuff you wouldn’t want me to run with. Because I will run.

Ready? Set?

Help Wanted

I have always admired how Peg is so open to poetry; it seems to trip her, hide under rocks for her, shout.

I can’t seem to get poetry into my life in the way that she does but I would like to try. I don’t necessarily even think that I mean reading poetry, because I do that, it’s more a necessity for other people’s words. (Writing words is my necessity.)

How do I do that? I would like advice, please, suggestions, improvements, deportment, poems to read, maybe, I don’t know. Some help. I would like the input of poetry to be as vital to me as the output is. How do I do that?

Twitter Zines

You know what I love about publishing online? It’s so fast. I found out about the existence of twitter zines (that is, zines that use twitter as their distributor, thereby limiting content to 140 characters) on Friday last week, wrote and submitted a bunch of stuff on Saturday, and have already been published in escarp and have two more twitter fiction pieces due out in August in picfic. How effing cool is that?

I’ve also decided to start a twitter zine. Because, you know, what the hell. It’s called 7×20 and is open to submissions now… if you can shoehorn a story or poem into 140 characters. (Bio information will be posted nearly simultaneously in a separate tweet, so it must also be limited to 140 characters.) For now, there’s no payment, but I do take reprints. I’d be interested in seeing haiku and tanka and very short prose poems as well as microfiction.

big rubber clown gloves

Leaping into Language Poetry

I’ve been AWOL, but I haven’t forgotten about Vary the Line.  I’m still recovering from poetry burnout.  A friend told me today that her poems are just starting to re-emerge, a year and a half after she graduated from her MFA.  I think mine might be hibernating.  I’m hoping they’ll wake up with the bears.

In the meantime, I’m going to try reading language poetry.  This is my husband Mike’s field of academic and creative expertise, but I’m pretty unfamiliar with it.  I know at least one of my fellow blog authors here doesn’t care for the stuff, and I think that’s a common sentiment.  I’m not sure how I feel.  It sounds interesting when Mike talks about it and it is interesting when he writes it.  Beyond that, my knowledge is pretty much limited to bpNichol’s concrete poetry, a dash of Christian Bok’s Eunoia, some a.rawlings, and bill bisset–in particular, his poem th tomato conspiracy aint worth a whol pome.  You can read it here.  That poem was in my high school poetry reader, and I loved it then.  I still do, even if it’s completely silly.

Now that I think about it, I’m not sure th tomato conspiracy is language poetry at all.  It’s definitely a purposeful manipulation of language in a non-standard way, but are mis-spellings anything more than that?  Hmm.

I thought I’d start my forays with bpNichol’s The Martyrology, Book One.  I’ve read the first 50 pages and I’m not sure this is language poetry, either.  It’s experimental, but so far I haven’t encountered much linguistic craziness.  I just assumed that since bill bisset writes language poetry, Mike studies language poetry, and Mike likes and studies The Martyrology, then The Martyrology must be language poetry.  But according to Mike, the language stuff doesn’t kick in until at least book 3.  Yikes.  That’s a lot of bpNichol to wade through. I might just jump straight to Sylvia Legris, or even Christian Bok.

The point of all of this is to say that I’m going to chronicle my language poetry experiment here.  I’m not sure what form that chronicling will take, or how detailed I’ll get, but hopefully it’ll be an interesting experience.

Any language-poetry suggestions for me?

some for the measure of a poet’s song…

If I have a favorite poem out of my many favorites, it is the sonnet by Countee Cullen that begins “Some for a little while do love…” I first memorized it in high school, and while I cannot for the life of me ever remember whether its title is actually “Song” or “Sonnet,” it is the poem that best encapsulates my heart’s philosophy. I’ve programmed it into more than one church service, and I want it at my funeral.

Which brings up a question for all y’all: are there particular poems you’d like people to think of in association with you when the time comes? Or that have struck you as especially appropriate at other people’s memorial services? For instance, two of the readings that immediately come to my mind are Cavafy’s “Ithaca”, which Maurice Templesman read at Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis’s funeral, and one of the characters in Four Weddings and a Funeral reciting Auden’s “Stop all the clocks …”.

My head is full of rhymes and rhythms this week, in part because I’m working on some sonnets and villanelles, and also because I’m at Christmas school. Although I specifically picked a non-speaking part in the mummers’ play, I fear I have nonetheless given myself away as a rhyming fool, since I couldn’t refrain from making suggestions during this afternoon’s review of (first draft) opening lines, resulting in exchanges along the lines of

ALEX (emoting as St. George):
It is I, the great St. George,
and yada, yada — nothing rhymes with George —

PEG (perkily):
Forge, gorge…

ALEX (roaring):
Shut up!

LEADER (grinning):
Hah! You should do it just like that in the actual play!


HOBBY-HORSE: …something about saying “neigh” and profit and greed…

PEG: “Taxpayer” rhymes with “naysayer”…

[Ed. note: A mummers’ play is sort of a melange of Christmas caroling, busking, SNL-style parody, and Monty Python-esque hijinks. In couplets. The one for Christmas School raises funds for attendee scholarships, and this year’s characters include the Big Three automotive companies, Sarah Palin and John McCain (each played by a kid of the opposite gender), and doctors representing competing healthcare systems…)]

No Bloom

I’m working on a poem about Grace Hopper. By working I mean: reading and thinking. (There’s a wonderful biography on her by Kathleen Broome Williams.) No pen to page yet, no ideas about form.

A few nights ago I found out that Eavan Boland has written a poem about Hopper, published in her Against Love Poetry. I immediately requested it from the library and although my branch didn’t have it, a nearby one did. So tonight, the extraordinarily kind librarian went through the large stacks of unprocessed, requested books to find it for me so that I didn’t have to wait nearly a week to read it.

There are some beautiful lines. There are some places where the rhythm dies, in my opinion, and prose takes over, and I enjoy it less. But it ends on a beautiful line.

I read the poem, enthralled. I read it a second time, my mind asking, which of these lines might make a good repeton?

And I wondered again, how can a good poem make Harold Bloom feel anxious? The wonderful poems that have already been written do not stop me from writing, do not inhibit me.

Does anyone else wonder that? Are there things you don’t read because you’re worried how they will go into your Word Bucket?

One could argue, given the quotation I’m about to include, that maybe even Boland wondered this but read further, into the second quotation. Bloom does not fit here.

Let there be language—
      even if we use it differently:
            I never made it timeless as you have.
                  I never made it numerate as you did.

I am writing at a screen as blue
      as any hill, as any lake, composing this
            to show you how the world begins again:
                  One word at a time.
                        One woman to another.

Cures for Poetry Burnout?

Wow, it’s been a while.  My Internet was down for a while there, but I’m back now.

And I have a problem.

Since finishing my MFA, I’ve been suffering from poetry burnout.  I don’t want to write it, and I don’t want to read it.  I’m not so worried about the writing end of things, since inspiration comes and goes and all, and I’m puttering away on revisions and submissions and non-fiction in the meantime, but the lack of urge to read is getting to me.  I’m eating up novels and non-fiction, but poetry, not so much.

Has this ever happened to anyone else?  Anyone have any great suggestions of poets or books to jump-start my stalled brain?