Thursday, January 05, 2006

this is really long...

the screen cleared,
except for the two words:
"lynn hejinian"
and i felt my heart boil.

frustrated and stupid
in my attempt to save
i destroyed.
all 2000 words,
there must have been,
are lost.



it's a bad poem, but it sums up what happened when i went to copy the long email i'd written to you, but instead of hitting ctrl C i hit ctrl V (the difference between copy and paste). and i knew the second i did it that there was absolutely no way to get it back.

my boss laughed her head off at me. it's the first time she's ever seen me get frustrated with anything, i'd say i was close to angry.

so now i'm writing in word pad, where "undo" exists. can you imagine if we had an undo button in real life? any mistake could be erased in an instant. that venomous swear you shouldn't have said to your lover, that second in the car that you weren't paying attention that ended up coasting you $600, or whatever it might have been...

but alas, yahoo mail has no "undo" feature, just like the real world.

so i huffed and puffed and i'm okay now

i hope you're ready for this. it'll probably be just as long as before. if you don't have time to read it, just let me know, and i'll give you the short version.

let me start how i started before... hai, chyuoto nihongo o hanashimasu. demo, watashi no nihongo wa iinai, benkyuoshimasen kara. [anyone who speaks japanese can go ahead and correct me, it's been a while]

i studied japanese for a year at school, and though it was one of the most challenging collection of courses i took throughout my 4 years of higher education, they were also the most fun. if you're interested in some beautiful literature, pick up a collection of Chikamatsu Monzaemon's Bunraku plays (puppet theatre).

i graduated in May this year, but i'm going back the in the fall (i haven't applied yet but i'm confident that the program i'm looking into will accept me). i took a year off to be with my husband (as we've only been married a year and a half now).

the program i'm interested in is a 2 year MA in Professional Writing which means anything you want it to. for me it means i can take poetry workshops, write another collection of poems and all the meanwhile study writing rhetoric and theory with a focus in teaching English to non native speakers (which is what i really want to do for the rest of my life... i think).

i'd love to do an MFA if there were a program near enough for me to commute from where i am now, but the one of two places i'd most like to go would be Seattle (all the long way across the country) or a three hour drive from my home on cape cod to Umass Amherst. i would love so much to live in Seattle. i think you commented on the green river coincidence of mine, so i would be in a place i feel spiritually entangled with, near that river. and i'd also eat a lot more sushi. to relocate at the moment is not in the plans however. we've just got a house, and i actually really like my job (even though it's nothing spectacular, the people i get to work with are fantastic). i think if not for Ryan i'd probably have stayed in Amherst and done the three year mfa program there, but a world without him... well, i won't get soppy on you.

about publication... my feelings are mixed and complicated. and to be honest, i'd never really pin-pointed my reasoning until you asked me, and i started writing that previous email.

being published has never been a goal, or even a dream of mine. my poems are more for me than for anyone else. i would have a happy life if my words never reached the eyes of others. what the poems do for me is to turn the mundane into extraordinary.



i cut my left thumb
on piece of plastic
while ripping capacitors
off of a home pc's old motherboard

i cut my right thumb
on a kitchen knife
while washing it with a blue sponge
with hot soapy water


this is the truth, you can believe me
besides, would a girl with two cut thumbs lie?




the ability to see poetry in the fact that i'd been wearing a band-aid on both thumbs is something i've always been proud of. whether i share this thought with one or one million others doesn't matter. i've captured this moment in such a way that immortalizes it and give is a glitter it didn't have before. now whenever i put a band aid on my thumb i think about this poem; this time in my life that meant nothing.

in other cases like The Pencil Graveyard in PoemTree. Ryan and i were walking and on the edge of the road i saw what looked like a massacre of poor defenseless pencils, the bright yellow kind. call it inspiration i guess. but that's why i started to write.

another reason i follow the path of poet is to give myself a venue for fantasy. some days i want to be a princess. other days i want to be that little girl i used to be, still others i want to be that deep set pair of glowing eyes staring at you from the back of a smoke filled room. and i can be all these in poems whenever i want.

i'd be happy enough if Ryan were the only one to ever hear a poem like Morning Child. And i'd be happy enough to keep poems like the one above strictly to myself. fortunately though, the internet makes it so easy to share work that i'd almost feel selfish not to put my work up on display in some shape or form.

as it is, i am ever so grateful for individuals like yourself who take time and care to read my poems, to understand them, and to appreciate them. you and the few people i have invested interest in on the critical poetry forum are more than enough praise and attention as any poet ought to have. i doubt publication would do much more for my work than what you alone have in such a brief time (you've got me thinking about my work's role in current poetics which i'll get to in a bit).

i think every poet longs for a time when poets were actually PAID to write. i'm not sure how familiar you are with The New Deal (from the little bit of Dear Theo i've read i get the impression you grew up in Lebanon, am i right?), but you can look it up. essentially the American government turned to socialism in disguise during the epoch of the great depression. thousands of projects were commissioned--bridges, canals, the Hoover damn, travel guides to all major cities and attractions, galleries, museums, fiction--in an attempt to boost the American spirit.

had i been around and writing some 70 or 80 years in the past during the new deal era, i probably would have made a fine contemporary to Mina Loy, George Oppen and Louis Zukofsky (modernism is amazing, i could write a list as long as Santa’s of the poets i admire from that era). can you imagine being part of a nation wide community of writers working together to create movements? can you imagine what it would have been like to know that the moment you got something credible in print ezra pound would sit down and write you a letter placing you within this great chasm of isms.

our generation needs an ezra pound (minus the anti-semitism and sexism). we need a place--a particular cafe. i feel that, at the moment, the poetic world is stale and confused. part of that lies in the fact that there is no community, so everyone's doing the same thing. we're all tripping over each other trying to pretend like something's happening, like we're moving forward, but we're not. no one poet is good enough to forward a movement. it takes an entity.

in the 1930's if you wrote a collection you would then be placed, either by your own accord--or by pound it would seem--into a category. or if you work demanded it, you would create a new category. and these groups would be sufficiently assaulted, praised, morphed and understood by all other poets. at that point, branches would be made by other poets and the tree of poetry would grow.

i think that happened because people weren't just writing poetry, they were writing about poetry. William Carlos Williams wasn't just writing nonsense in the attic of his doctor's office. he was telling stories, he was using techniques. i think back then everyone who wrote poetry knew the names of rhyme schemes and spaces and numbers of lines. i don't know a fraction of what there is to know. now with a steady influx of Japanese poetry names and rules with syllables, the entire poetic world is lost within itself.

if everyone took the time to write thoughtfully about their poetry then there wouldn't be this muddle. instead, i think, there would be an understanding and a function. why write about cherry blossoms if you're not going to write in waka? what's the point?

so i hope that, in the future, poetics return. i want to read more introductions to collections of poetry; so many of my collections of current poets are missing a reason. as much as i absolutely adore matthew rohrer's three collections, it drives me mad that he hasn't placed himself in a progressive stance (partly because he seems to understand robots the way i do).

if i were to publish, i feel my poetry would be lost in the muddle. what i would prefer to be part of is a movement. i don't think our friend billy the blogging poet has quite what it takes. i don't think a movement that would make a difference could happen on the internet. it would need to be real. we'd need to knock on every door and teach ever person what poetry really means. but what does it really mean? i've struggled for years to define poetry, and i can't. the best i've done is in PoemTree, i've defined what is not, and that's all we can do.

so, i would rather be a poet among poets than that lonely one sitting on all the coffee tables ... i would rather have my work critiqued by clever poets like yourself than to have my mom's friend come up to me and say "the one about the duck is my favorite, it's so cute" and know she doesn't get it. because, i guess, i like to think my poems mean something. to me they mean something. they all mean something. they all fit together. they form a prism, a tangible world of color and water and mechanoids with desires to be human. they all represent the movement of humanity towards some intangible disunity. my poems reflect my world.

to me that means something. to others it might not, in fact, to others i know it does not.

now, i won't lament on whether or not the email i lost was better than this one or not. i'll just have you know this is the longest email i've written in years, and i'm so extremely grateful that you wanted to hear my thoughts. you've really got me thinking about where my poems are headed, and i'm trying now to determine a focal point.

i can't thank you enough.

i just hope i haven't bored you to tears or offended any part of you, especially the poetic part.

i feel so passionately about poetry, and obviously about my own poetry. it's so rare to find anyone interested enough to share these kinds of thoughts with; even more rare, perhaps to find someone as gifted as yourself, who i know will follow and understand my thoughts.

the very best,

katy

1 comment:

Billy said...

Fascinating. I'll be back.