Friday, January 20, 2006

fragmented reply

Katy, I am LOVING these emails! This is just wonderful, and for that I thank you! too. i love this exchange of poetics, intellect and care. and i love, too, that you don't agree with everything i have to say, that you challenge me. it's been some time since i've been provoked to think like this.

So, where should I begin? (Always reminds me of the first line of "Love Story"; I am one of those who love the poetry of song lyrics, as sappy as that may sound. But I know that you appreciate good song lyrics, too, as evidenced by the Leonard Cohen influence.)

Leonard makes me swoon. it wasn't that way at first though, as i'd read a fair bit of his lyrics as poems, not even realizing he was an established vocal artist, and the first time i heard suzane i was shocked at the man singing the song... who's this scary scratchy old... and on and on... and now i cry every time i listen to "the singer must die" or "dress rehearsal rag". though i handed over my copy of Beautiful Losers to a friend it still remains one of the most amazing novels i've ever experienced.

I guess I'll begin at the end:
i'm a bit overwhelmed actually, by your response to it, or should i say your lack of ability to respond, which is even more telling.
I am impressed (though not surprised, as I think good poetry takes a lot of intelligence) by how smart and perceptive you are. Not many people can notice or even articulate the above. Bravo! And of course I don't mind the "borrowed imagery"; I find it incredibly flattering. So, thank you! (Is this getting out of hand? LOL!)

I can't thank you enough for all this inspiration and conversation. seems like you have a similar complex. so thank away, dear ashraf, and i'll do the same; fore, it's not every day i get called smart and perceptive; and i thank you for that.

Now, back to the beginning. Yes, I think your explanation makes a lot of sense. As for the audience of poetry, do you think it can ever be but poets? That is a question I ask myself repeatedly. But even then, I sometimes think, when I'm at a reading and the cynic in me emerges, is anyone there to listen to anyone but themselves? Do we only speak to hear the sound of our own voices? (These questions are reminding me of "Sex in the City"...) I have to admit, aside from your blog, I don't read many poetry blogs; I'm not sure why. I read published poetry (and there is so much there to read), and I guess the question is larger than just blogs. I just wonder who the audience for poetry is. And is why I've recently been interested in poetry anthologies collected by NPR (the politics of poetry, well of everything, fascinates me)... But I digress.

do i think the audience of poetry can ever be none poets? actually, my professor whose name appears in my introduction, Ruth Jennison, is a phenomenal critic of the art she does not practice. she understands and digests poetry on such a profound level of understanding; yet, she doesn't write the stuff herself. she is, admittedly, a rare case, though academics like herself do exist. there are people who adore the art for the plain fact that they cannot achieve the delicate balance of language themselves. also, there are poets for the regular people. i can't remember his name for the life of me and the internet seems to be failing me at the moment (it's still early admittedly), but there is a fantastic man who writes poetry about snails and apes (not exclusively, mind you). i saw him read and thankfully it was one of the readings i dragged two or three friends along to hear too (free beer will win over many a college student's evening). he's hilarious. funny poets do well for the art form. i don't want to be one, though i have a giggle at myself from time to time.

as far as readings themselves are concerned, since we're on the topic, i think i'm in a minority. i don't like to read my poems to groups. i've only ever read poems in workshop environments or to ryan (though i was never able to over the phone, even to him). i get the jitters, and i hate microphones (and i'm not the biggest fan of phones either). however, i love love love to go to readings. unfortunately, cape cod is home to avid slammers--a form i am not so enamored with; so i haven't been to a reading in almost 9 months!! while i was at school i would attend a reading nearly every week. i still have this pipe dream of starting a circle of work shopping poets (within driving distance) just so that i can hear people read their poetry every once in a while. fortunately, though, for now, the internet provides me with an outlet for this craving. it's different though... to see and hear the poet... i am always fascinated by how much or how little the poet reads and doesn't read from his/her work. and voices... like what happened with leonard cohen, i can never predict the sound of a poet. i never know what they will sound like. i have no idea what you sound like.

i'm flattered that my blog is one of those few, really. i wish i could offer you the same exclusivity, but i'm a poetry junky. i read new poems every day, and i can't afford to buy every book i need to satisfy myself, so i have a little collection of blogs, i have regular excursions through google to find old poems i have yet to experience, and i have the critical poetry forum. the forum, though, is also a venue for my thirst for poetics. there i can try my hand at critique (something i feel, when i put my mind to it, i can be rather good at). i enjoy critique both in terms of my committing suggestion to others' work as well as accepting others' opinions on my own work. i like to share, and i like to make friends with other poets like yourself. though, you're special to me, because of these emails, because of your poetry, because of your responses to my poetry.

You architecture-poetry analogy was an interesting one, though I don't think I agree with it. I think one primary difference between architecture and poetry, one that many architects tend to forget, is that architecture is ultimately a practical field. What I mean by that is that there is a client, there a program you're trying to accommodate, there are site restrictions, and financial constraints, and codes and zoning, and, and... I think a lot of architects would like to think of themselves as "artists" (if only to justify the big black ego--black only because it's the cliché dress code). Though I can certainly understand the idea of tools in poetry, I'm not really sure yet how it works, and I'd like to think that it's different from those in architecture. Like I know of the exercises techniques where you try to write in somebody else's "style" (a word I am very cautious about from architecture), but I am dubious of them, perhaps because I don't really understand how they work.

so from now on i'll stay away from architecture. i don't know architecture, though i made a railroad track on autocad once on one of ryan's drawings (he's not an architect, his father is, and he's had to pay off debt working in his father's office where i spent over a month joining ryan's side with a book in hand), it's a sore spot for him too.

as far as "style", it's a curious word. no. it's a curious concept. it's difficult to create a style in poetry because so many of these "styles" already have names or are horribly trite. not to mention that a particular "style" can also feel like a trap. writing in second person, for me, is sometimes a trap. i get too into it, then i start to lose the story, lose the characters, lose the concepts. though i'm still trying to master it (i will not give up on second person). i don't know that i have a "style", though there have been a few people who told me that, in PoemTree, they get a real sense of my style. for me, all those poems are so very different in tone, energy, character and color that for there to be an immerging style is incomprehensible to me. perhaps it's just easier to see other people style. i see somewhat of a style in your work, though i prefer to call them characteristics, because not every poem boasts the same elements.

copying someone else's style is hard. it is only in the most extreme poets that i find this technique for learning valuable. in the case of Tower and Gentleman and Robinson Jeffers' original poem, i was studying that poem, not that poet. i wanted to understand the poem better because i was so moved by it, i wanted to explore its inner workings, i want to cut it up and dissect it, get closer to it (it hasn't lost any of its initial stun for me either, i am so fortunate for that), so i did. lo, a lovely poem was born of it. though this is a success among dozens of failures. you'll never see that william carlos williams copy, or that jack spicer copy. there are other means of exercise though. experiments are always fun. but you have to approach an experiment with a completely different attitude. this poem you are about to create is forced, it will not be wonderful (not at first) and it will not sound like you. however, experiments can be so much fun, and i find them particularly helpful during dry spells.

The other thing that I was, hmm, suspicious about is the primacy of sound (it's like the formalist argument in architecture). I am, or I'd like to think of myself, as a very content-driven person. I don't disregard the form or the sound completely, but I think of it as secondary. I think what is primary to me is the image and associations in poetry, and ultimately the idea, if there is one. Like "the pull down at the corner of a bed spread" is far from being just sounds to me; it is an image of care, and therefore of love. Of meticulousness, perhaps of control, or just a reminiscence of a time in our lives when someone took care of us. And I feel that it means at least some of that for you, too. No?

not at first, no. but now, and as the poem developed it did begin to mean some of those emotions you described above. it's difficult for me to explain any procedure for creating a poem. sometimes something develops from experiment, other times i come up with a single word or phrase, or perhaps image, like with that poem dedicated in part to you (i haven't found the right name to call it yet, any ideas?). writing a poem is often times a spiritual experience, and it isn't until the initial flow wears off that i can look at the poem and the language objectively. other times i force a poem by sitting and writing page after page of rubbish until something clicks and the labor evolves into a product. yes, i force myself to sit and write, i have to, i am always pushing my poetry to the next phase.

i think i've said everything needing to be said here. i don't want to make these too long. excuse any holes, i'm writing from work so i'm continuously interrupted.

keep writing!



ps [a s h . r a f] i love the way you present your name in type... wouldn't work for me though... ka.ty just looks silly

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