Saturday, February 25, 2006

Working Method

k: i have a question. how long does it take you to compose a poem? do you just sit down and the words fall out of your fingers onto the keys? do you compose on computer? have you ever written your poems in a book or just on loose paper or even a type writer?

for me, well, i have used a type writer but i get far too distracted by the texture of the paper and ink to really give a damn about the words. i have this one awesomely wonderfuly epic new world prose poem that i wrote an extra long green sheet of paper on a type writer; everything else i've ever done on the type writer is rubish.

these days, since about around the time i got married, i've been composing primarily on computer. those hathaway poems about being cat... that was me waiting for our ride to pick us up and drop us at the bus station on our way to england. i had my ex-library book copy of whatever that collection is called and i was reading and i had my pen in my mouth, my coat on, ready to shoot out the door, but wanting to lie there half in the hallway, stretching to try to soak up every ray of sunlight that shown through the window of our living room in that moment. it was radiant, warm and ... oh how i wanted to be a cat right then. to stretch four limbs to their limits and purr. those poems, i composed on paper, in my note book (i still keep a notebook and try to hand write all my poems into it even when i compose on the computer).

since i was 14 i've written in composition note books (you know, those cheap ones with the black and white blotchy printed covers). it feels so good to catch them in the corner of my eye when i go by them all neatly tucked into a shelf, to see a tangible history of my poetry, the good and the awful. i wish i wrote more in them these days. at their epoch it took merely 5 months to fill one. now it takes more like a year.
ryan used to read through them. now he reads my blog, so there isn't as much need.

for me, for composition, i'm afraid that there's far more thought in the process of creation than is left to the reader's eye. you imagine a poem like that bloody nose one would flow out as if it were there along and i merely uncovered it? i wish such were true. but really, most of my trade is covering up the evidence of any seams.

at times, poems come to me. morning child came to me, at least at the begining. that felt so good to write.

this poem... i know i had the idea in my .... wait. do you want to hear this? should i really tell you how a poem like that is born? or do you want me to leave it?

i want to tell you, because i feel like i have to justify all the praise you've been lavishing on me recently. it's unusual for the poet in me to be given so much attention and affection. she's not used to it.

but i don't want to tell you unless you want to hear it. why ruin it for you?

do your poems come to you? they must. they do, don't they? i wish they'd come to you more often :) though you can't always force a poem, i know this all too well (yet i persist in my efforts to do so).

a: as much as I don't want to spoil the magic, yes, of course I do want to know. I have to say though that I was surprised to read that you're more of a typer, that you tend to write more on the computer. I guess it's because I knew how attentive you are to paper... But it was so cute to read about those notebooks (maybe it's because it fit my construct of you more). I tend to write on my plainest journal book, by pencil (never pen; I just love the softness of pencil, it's smudginess, its non-finality). I have all these fancy sketch books, but I almost always I write on one plain brown one that has "Journal" embossed on it. Well, in reality I guess I start writing in my head: usually either at the end of a day, when I am tired and more vulnerable and receptive, or while out with Wojtek, either in the silence, or he'd be yapping about work, and I'd drift off. Or driving to work in the morning (like "Seasons"). It usually just starts as a sentence or two. And then sometimes a couple more. And sometimes even more. And I start repeating them to myself in my head so I won't forget them. Sometimes I'd type them on my cell phone so I won't lose them (like the beginning of "Generations", that was behind the art museum, the one with the Rocky steps, while walking with Wojtek by the river). And then when I start writing them down, I'm more deliberate about the rest. Sometimes the first few lines change slightly. But I don't go back and forth that much. I do reread and change a words or two here and there. But no major reconstruction typically. Except perhaps a while later, as in several months (as in "Life on a Beautiful Day"): I'd be rereading some old stuff and cringing, and then I chop off... I don't know, maybe I just never learned the discipline. But that's also the way I work in architecture. I believe in a few iterations, but not too many. I do believe in being faithful to the beginning. If it veers too much, it becomes something else.

k: i loved reading how you come up with a poem. i loved reading about how you start writing in your head, especailly. i've done a lot of workshoping (at university and online) so i've been exposed to a lot of unpolished work, some of which reveals the process of that poet. reading what you wrote about how you come up with a poem was so different though. i don't know that i've ever had the opportunity to learn that about another poet. bizzarly i could have easily mistook the desciption of your process for someone's description of my process; although, i've never typed lines of poetry into my cell phone. i tend, instead, to scribble words on recipts or business cards or anything else that a pen will score.

your construct of me is interesting. general perception as generated through this sort of email converstaion is interesting to me. having talked to ryan for 2 years before we actually met in person, i had this image of him in my mind that was built on a few pictures, even fewer phone calls, and lots and lots of typed emails and chat conversations. i was gobbsmacked to see him walk through the airport gate and realize that i was spot on in my perception of him. i was so lucky too. at the point we met i was so in love with my idea of who this ryan was that if he wasn't that ryan, i don't know what would have come of it all. lucky me though, he was everything and more (and still is).

i do write on paper. like i said, i like to hand write my poems even after they've been composed on a screen. i think i write more on computer now though because of the blog and because... nothing here is perminant. i can write and rewrite and erase and type over. i suppose you could do the same with pencil. the thing about typing and my poetry is that i don't get distracted by the shape of a letter, by the texture of the ink or the paper. when i write i tend to lose focus. i'll start looking more at the way the ring on my finger rubs up against the pen or get obsessed over why i do a straight tail on a y and a swirly one on a g. also, when i'm at work, i can stand here at the computer typing away and everyone thinks i'm working. i'll have to bring my latest book with me in march (it'll have a bit more ink on its pages by then i hope) for you to have a look through.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

arch's list

a: Katy, here are my four poems (actually two songs and two poems--sorry I couldn't cut them down to three). All are translated from a foreign language. The two songs from French, translated by me, so please forgive the crappy translation. Still, I do not hesitate to put them way up there. (I guess that goes to prove my concern for content over ... ?) They are both sung by my goddess, Dalida (though "Avec le temps" is originally by the great Leo Ferre). Neither is written by her; but I do believe in the power of choice. In any case, they are existentialism in a song. "Avec le temps" sums up the essential dilemma of life: time. And "Pour ne pas vivre seul" will be my wedding vow (talk about one depressing wedding!).

The two poems are by the great Pablo Neruda
. "Everybody" I found, hand written on grid paper, above the desk of a great friend of mine from grad school (whom I have very sadly lost touch with--my desk at the time boasted a handwritten copy of "Avec le temps". She also introduced me to one of my top 3 poets, Mark Strand.) And "There's No Forgetting" is the poem on which I based a work of the same title (and essentially my thesis).

As for the top 3 poets (I skipped Neruda as he got 2 poems):
1. Mahmoud Darwish
(the title of my thesis, "Memory for Forgetfulness" is that of a book by him.)
2. The Giantess, the Fierce: Sylvia Plath

3. As spoiled above, the Sublime Mark Strand

And I do have to mention 2 runner-ups: Naomi Shihab Nye
and the ferocious Marie Howe

Ok, now I can see your list!


k: on to your favorite poets...
We have done what we wanted.
We have discarded dreams, preferring the heavy industry
of each other, and we have welcomed grief
and called ruin the impossible habit to break.

And now we are here.
The dinner is ready and we cannot eat.
The meat sits in the white lake of its dish.
The wine waits.

Coming to this
has its rewards: nothing is promised, nothing is taken away.
We have no heart or saving grace,
no place to go, no reason to remain.

"Coming to This" by Mark Strand
i found a website that hosts about 15 of his poems ( ) so i read the first 5 or 6. he's great. thank you for introducing us :)

oh and mahmoud darwish appears in the same online database!

it's easy to see, too, where you get your poeitc influence, whether you recognize it or not. this, "passport" is a lovely lovely poem and it reminds me so much of you.

ah, and there there is a tragic beauty, mrs plath. have you read "the bell jar"? she is far too insignificant in the lives of adolecnts. her work and the work of j.d. salinger should be taugh hand in hand with extreme focus in every highschool. fortunatly i found them both on my own accord and adore both "the bell jar" and "the catcher in the rye".

i flipped through "ariel", sylvia's most renowned collection, while selecting the remaining 2 of my favorite poems. in the end i decided to embrace the white-male culture of literature in this country and its history instead (though robert frost and robinson jeffers are among the finest and most sensitve upper-class white males).

as for your 4 poems, i will read them from home. i want to give them the utmost attentiveness which i cannot promise you here at work. though i am especially impressed with your worldliness, ashraf. you've translated those two songs from french? that's fantastic. of course i'll excuse any blunders.

i opened up "avec le temps" just to see your translation, and i wouldn't worry if i were you. first of all the only thing i know how to say in french is "parcore" and the typical hello goodbye thank you my name is sort of dialogue. in middle school i supposedly studied some french. though, the only thing i remember was watching Provance the mini series. at least i learned that alls i need to find truffles is a pig on a leash.

i thought about giving you a list of my 3 favorite collections, but i wanted to restrict myself to the requested amount. i'll give it to you right now though:

Jacklight by Louise Erdrich

Satellite by Matthew Rohrer

Wessex Poems by Thomas Hardy

i don't own a copy of wessex poems because i am in love with the copy at the Umass Amherst Library and will have no other. i am still planning my amazing hiest of this particular text. never have i ever loved a book for being a book so much; the pages are thick and glossy, the words are printed in such a way that leeks power; you can tell by the print that a person must have pressed his fists into every letter to create it. sigh. i miss it, my wessex poems. i must have renewed it 5 or 6 times before finally bringing it back (i had to give it back to graduate, can you believe that!?)

i'm looking forward to really reading those four poems. thank you for sharing :) and i look forward to what you might think of my lists.


these four poems, your four favorite... i can see why you would have had trouble deciding between them. they are all perfect examples of what i find so endearing and precious in your poetry.

closed concepts within moments of the poem
more love
more despair
humanity responding to nature
and quiet

out of the four i find "There's No Forgetting" the most compelling. though... again, like your art, i find it difficult to pin point the exact reason why. it's a visceral response, it's something deeper than sound and rhythm, something rooted deep within what it means to be human and what it means to know love.

you proved your religion to me, your poetry to me.

i loved reading these poems.

a: Katy, thank you, thank you, thank you (me and my triplets!). That is probably one of the most generous things anyone has done for me. Very interesting list. Some things took me by surprise: for example, I didn't think of myself as so much love and despair (more despair, perhaps); but I guess I am a die hard romantic at heart. caution, repetition, and closed concepts within moments of the poem are very true, though I probably didn't recognize them as such (caution, yes; repitition, uh-huh; closed concepts, now that you mention it...). And humanity, I'd like to think yes. But nature and quiet? Very interesting. What do you mean by nature? It's funny, I never thought of myself as that. And quiet? I thought I was loud. Very interesting...

And that is one of the most beautiful lines: "you proved your religion to me"...

I will hold you until you miss
Yourself like I do you
And then rest your case in mine
And your head in my lap
That I can braid your thoughts again.
this section of Alkaline embodies what i mean when i list quiet as an element that reoccurs in your poetry. i wish i could read it out loud to you so you could understand how i interpret the line breaks, but i'll do my best here to point the moments of quiet out here for you.

i will hold you until you miss [this is a complete and beautiful line, until i read ....]
yourself like i do you [this addition not only changes everything that's going on in the first line here, it also creates an awesome tension between the two lines, and almost, then, the two characters, the me and the you. reading the second line is like .... the but statement. "i love you, but i'm still leaving"

you do it again...

and your head in my lap [this could end here, this is where the mind of the reader breaks, and there is silence, in the voice, in the breath, in the mind]
that i can braid your thoughts again [until suddenly the reader is reminded who's in charge, you are, ashraf, the poet. you make your stance well in your work. you give yourself this awesome power, this controller characteristic that is purely male, yet deliberate, does that make sense?]

as for nature... more so, humanity responding to nature... also from alkaline is this section:
I will hold the moon
Fixed in the sky
For you to see my shadow.
it's obvious right? a human has this magic, this strength to hold the moon above his head to make his shadow that much more imposing, impressive.

i'm thinking i should have added "control" to the list, though control isn't something i feel when i read your poetry. it's something more subtle, perhaps control isn't even the right word.

a: your e-mail, well, it made me squirm. And no, absolutely not in any negative way (so this wasn't payback!). But rather because I don't think I have had such acute and perceptive attention lavished on my writing since... well, no, not even since Ahmad used to leave his commentary. And perhaps the most uncanny bit about it was that I was starting to believe that these stops and pauses... that they go mostly unnoticed. And to have someone describe them like they actually communicated... Well, that's just overwhelming!

k: i'm glad that what i pointed out in Alkaline shows you that those moments in your poetry don't go unnoticed (at least not by me). if ever you want me to show you that someone gets it, i'll be glad to, but i won't do that sort of commentary unless i feel it will encourage or help you.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

katy's list

3 favorite poets

Matthew Rohrer [i didn't even need to think about this one, the man is my guiding light when it comes to poetic style and i've read all three of his collections numerous times over]

Frank O'Hara [you could have predicted this one, i'm sure]

Mina Loy [didn't i already call her the Queen of poetry? well, she is. even if the only poem she'd ever written was Songs to Joannes, i would still choose her as one of my favorite poets for her person and her prowess]

3 favorite poems

this list was a lot harder than i thought. like i said before, i have omitted song lyrics and the three poets in my list above and Leonard Cohen (his work qualifies as song as far as this list is concerned). i am, therefore, left with one definite pick and an uncountable many others vying for the remaining 2 places on the list. so here it goes:

Poem for Beverly by d.a. levy [i first read this poem in The Outlaw Bible of American Poetry, but this internet copy is a scan of the original print, which makes me love this poem even more. there was no doubt in my mind the moment i read "3 favorite poems" that this would be one of them. even though i don't read it very often, i am always reminded of it, i hope you can see why.]

Revelation by Robert Frost

We make ourselves a place apart
Behind light words that tease and flout,
But oh, the agitated heart
Till someone find us really out.

'Tis pity if the case require
(Or so we say) that in the end
We speak the literal to inspire
The understanding of a friend.

But so with all, from babes that play
At hide-and-seek to God afar,
So all who hide too well away
Must speak and tell us where they are.

[this poem appears on the internet a kabillion times, but i felt it safer to type it from my text exactly (most copies online omit the indented line, which is part of the poem's charm). i copied it from the New England Anthology of Robert Frost's Poems. the reason i chose this poem is because it was one of the very first i read and enjoyed, and i have loved it ever since. at one point i did have it memorized, too, but not so much any more.]

Rock and Hawk by Robinson Jeffers

Here is a symbol in which
Many high tragic thoughts
Watch their own eyes.

This gray rock, standing tall
On the headland, where the seawind
Lets no tree grow,

Earthquake-proved, and signatured
By ages of storms: on its peak
A falcon has perched.

I think, here is your emblem
TO hand in the future sky,
Not the cross, not the hive,

But this; bright power, dark peace;
Fierce consciousness joined with final

Life with calm death; the falcon's
Realist eyes and act
Married to the massive

Mysticism of stone,
Which failure cannot cast down
Nor success make proud.

[one of the most inspirational poets for me is jeffers, and this poem is brilliant, why else would i have coppied it?]

a: I think I will reserve comment until I know them better. I think I was asking the question in the first place so I can learn more (and boy do I have tons to learn still!). But I was surprised Zukofsky wasn't there (I guess it was only three after all, and it is so difficult to chose...). As for the poems, and I am saying this not casually, but I do prefer your writing. Like I told you, I was surprised to see Frost there. I have to admit, from the very little I know about poetry, I know Frost primarily from the now cliched "Road not Taken" (I am ashamed to say). I, of course, had my crush on him as a teenager when I discovered that in some sitcom, nonetheless, thinking that I found something nobody else knows of. Unfortunately, I didn't venture much beyond that. So, it was nice to read something else by him, something that seems to aspire to be just as prophetic in tone. But I guess it isn't that that puts me off as much as the rhyme and meter... I am afraid I am negatively biased against them. I find them to be constraining and unnecessary. I believe in rhythm and sound, but not in this rigid sense. I find it handicapping, and I am mot impressed. I can't help always wondering, "What would he have said had he not had that constraint?" For both of those reasons (the prophetic all-knowing tone, and rhyme and meter) he reminds me a bit too much of Shakespeare, whom I abhor. (My unkind take on Mr. Shakes is that he is Hallmark greetings for the pretentious, and hence the most over-rated writer in history.) Now, I realize I am being harsh here, but I don't think you'd want anything less than brutally honest (I have a feeling you'd be able to see right through it anyway), or do you? I don't know why I react so strongly against the "cannon". Maybe it's because I am an "other" in so many different ways, that I attempt constantly to debunk the established and champion the underdog.

As for Mr. Jeffers, as well written as it was, I just couldn't find the human in the poem! That why I like your riff of it better; it is more human. As for "Beverly", that is one poem that even I can't dislike. It is so delicate, so fragile, so understated... that I was wishing that it was a bit less so. I hope I am not offending you, but I do mean it when I say, I think you're better. Now, then again, who am I? What qualifications do I have to say any of this? Well, with whatever credo I have, I am saying it. Now, I realize that I probably haven't only offended you, but that I am making you squirm as well (which is not my objective), so I'll stop...

k:thank you for emailing me, again and again and agian, thank you.

i was not offended by anything you said, don't worry. i am especially aware of mr frost's reputation as a poet and as a man hugely disliked, even loathed, by highschool students around the world. i hated him too. for a bit. but then i found that poem, and despite the form (i too tend to veer away from metric rhythms and rhyming) i love that poem. i also justify my adoration of that poem by aknowledging the fact that i found and fell for it some 7 or 8 years ago, and it lingers like my old teddy bear, a piece of my childhood that i cannot and will not let slip away.

i can't justify the jeffers poem. (if i'd remembered about my dear anna akhmatova, then he wouldn't have made the list, to be honest.) i continue to sit and read and reread jeffers' collected poems. perhaps something about the book itself? but to me it's like watching a fairytale world unfold before my eyes. i was especailly drawn in by Rock and Hawk, and the more and more i read it, the more and more i study it, the more and more it grew on me.

i'm so pleased that you liked a poem for beverly. i remember reading that and instantly wanting to be beverly and to be levy all at once, to be that moment. i love it. having found that pdf of the original print, i love it even more. i would probably foolishly pay far too much money to possess one of those 300 copies. i doubt anyone's selling at the moment though.

my offer to type you some rohrer poems still stands, if you want to get to know him better.

i love zukofsky, i really do. i also love marriane moore, george oppen, albert mobilio, john ashbury, berrnadette mayer, louise erdrich... the list goes on and on. but i couldn't choose them all could i? so i chose the ones who's poems i like most right now. i will always go on about zukofsky. he's an admirable and lovely man who deserves so much more attention in higher education for his poetry and for his poetics (luckily Ruth Jennison is already pulling the campaign together at Umass, i love ruth, it's a shame she doesn't write poetry).

i'm flattered that you think i'm better than some of my favorite poets, at least favorite poems (as i wouldn't classify frost as a favorite poet so much). though, while i'm flattered, it's so hard for me to accept it. i just can't...

in three's (Ready, steady... go!)

a: Katy, thanks for sharing such an intimate experience with me. (And I'm glad she didn't get you...). I don't know what to tell you except, I don't think my reaction would have be so magnanimous; I probably would simply never have set foot in her again. But that's just me, petty me, full of anger and hatred and lust and... lots of other stuff. Wojtek, my racist homophobic boyfriend, blames it on my Arab nature. I just call him a racist. Ah well...

Well, after this exchange, as when I am confronted by something I cannot confront head-on, I try to address it tangentially. I want to try to hone on what poetry is to you and me. And no, I am not asking of you the impossible task of "defining" it, but rather the slightly less difficult, and more trite perhaps, one of lists. Who are your three favorite poets, and what are your three favorite poems (not necessarily by those poets; they could be song lyrics, if you wish). I know it's difficult, but I think it's fun, and it'll help set some ground. (Try to stick to the 3's, unless you absolutely feel you can't, then you may stretch it slightly...).

So, in order not to muddy your answer, I will follow my answer in a separate e-mail once you've had the chance to think about it. And let's promise not to read each other's picks until we've written and sent our own.

Ok. Ready, steady... go!

k: i'm sorry i laughed, but you just called your gay boyfriend homophobic.

lists are fun. all of a sudden, though, i feel lost without my stacks of books! this might take me a little time to do not only because it's a challenging task to minimalize it to 3, but also because ryan and i have been busy bees, going here there and everywhere lately (i am suspicious that the xbox 360 has signed up for a cape-wide tour, ryan's its roady--setting it up at every other house so it can perform--and neither of them have told me what's really going on).

as it were, we're going out again tonight, this time it's to see the anticipate hostel--don't know if you've heard of him, but i think it's eli roth's life ambition to make people vomit at the cinema. he's the director of cabin fever and hostel, and he's unabashidly driven to make others cringe with disgust.

anyway, the list... i will get it down to 3 poets and 3 poems, quite possibly 3 poems by poets other than the 3 on my list of 3 poets (lots of 3's, i had to add just one more)

thanks for the reply to that poem that i sent you (and posted)... you make me feel really great about my poems sometimes, other times you overwhelm me. sometimes it's both. thank you.

i'm going to start pondering now... only 3 hun? i can do it. i know i can. and i'm looking forward to how these short lists are going to lend us towards some ... i can't call it conclusion... some hypothisis? maybe?

and i look forward to seeing your list (that will be my motivation to get mine done as soon as possible).

a: I hope Mr. Roth hasn't succeeded in his ambition and that you're not soiling your clothes in the movie theater as I type... That wouldn't be very lady-like, now would it?

So, it sounds like you have a Grand Tour coming up... Funny I never really got into the Xbox thing (maybe because I was never into boxes; but joysticks, that's a whole other matter!)... I mean, I was into Nintendo when GameBoy first came out (pun or no pun?), but... Ah well...

As for Wojtek, it is the running joke, but I think, as with every joke, "There is no smoke without a fire"... Do you know that T-shirt, "I am not gay, but my boyfriend is." I think it was made more him. Don't get me wrong, he's out and all, but he doesn't exactly seem to enjoy the company of gay people (his sister included); which is why now most of our friends seem to be straight couples. We don't live in the gayborhood, and we don't go out to gay clubs (mostly because we think we have grown fat by gay standards) and, surprise, we don't go to the gym... So, aside from the fact that we're both guys and both of our dreamjobs would be at Ikea (and our place looks like an Ikea showroom, minus the pricetags, plus the cat) there isn't much that's gay about us! (Ok, we both love the Banana--Republic, that is--a bit too much, and they'd better love us back for a the money that we--mostly Wojtek--spend there!)

So, as to the lists, you can take all the time you want (though this year would be nice). And you may cheat a bit with the 3's if you must (I still can't narrow down my four poems). And the way I see it, I think it would be an interesting new starting point rather than a conclusion. I think it would be revealing in terms of ideals and influences, and a springboard for further discussion (god, how dry!). See, when way I look at that is in terms of eptaphs. Again, perhaps my Arabic background puts quite an emphasis on the word. As in art, Muslim graves tends to be free of figurative depictions. The ornamentation tends to be mainly geometrical (from simple to complex) but most prominent is the text, which usually constitutes most of the ornamentation (and in some cases the achitecture). As you can imagine, that puts a lot of weight on the word. Now, traditionally (i.e. almost always) this text is from the Qur'an. However, my brother and I have decided that that is not what we're doing. So, one morbid game is to think of what our epitaphs are going to be (the other morbid one, is to think of the song playlists we want at our funerals in lieu of the traditional Qur'anic recitation--hence, it might not surprise you that 2 of my 4 poems right now are songs). So, there...

And I hope you didn't mind my cutting-and-pasting in my post; I did try to include quotations and give reference... Let's just call it a "consistent message". LOL!

Alright, dinner!

Good night, Katy (or morning, or whenever you read this).

k: i will deliver my list this evening. i did some deliberating last night, but after the film and then dinner with my parents... well, i just didn't have the energy to make any sort of decisions, so ryan and i watched cartoons instead.

i have my three poets i think. and in order to narrow my list of poems, i think i will omit the poems by those three poets. that might make things easier at least. and i'm not even going near songs, becuase i'd never decide. (leonard cohen is borderline here, but i think i'll omit him too, for the sake of my sanity.)

mr roth was unsuccessful at getting anyone in the theartre to expose their innards, fortunatly. there are other films worse, for sure. there are films i've made ryan turn off because of the gore and violence (though this could be in part due to the fact that i'm afraid of james woods...). it was a good film though; a great idea done justice.

the xbox is ryan's thing, though i do have a nintendo ds which i adore for more than just the fact that it's pink. all the games and computers and movies... most of the music too, is all ryan. oh the cooking too. i'm the one responsible for the stacks of unread new yorkers and the even taller stacks of anthologies and sci-fi novels laying about the house... and the mr potato head family is mine too. it's a give give relationship, as you can see.

if ikea sold cats then maybe ryan would go there. his mum and dad want to redo our/their (they own the house, but we live in it) kitchen a la ikea, but ryan won't go to the new store in boston to look at units and things with me, and i won't go by myself becuase i have a terrible sense of direction and i'd get lost in a store that big.

you have a wonderful sense of humor, ashraf. you remind me of david sedaris (he wrote "me talk pretty some day" and "naked"). if you've never read any of his stuff then i'd highly reccomend that you do. he's almost as funny as you calling wojtek homophobic.

your game with your brother is a tad morbid, but then again... Ernest Becker would argue that part of what you and your brother do is immortalizing yourself, which isn't very morbid at all. see:
Becker (the only purely philosophical text (arguably anthropological) i've ever understood and appricated to an extent at which i can apply it to just about anything, or everything).

as for the post, of course i don't mind you copying it! it's fun and clever. and thank you.

enough of me then, how are you doing today? have you narrowed down to 3 poems yet? or are you going to give me all 4 of them?

good luck with them either way. i'm looking forward to finding out who the poets are and reading your 3 or 4 favorite poems. you're going to include the poems, or at least links to them in the email you send to me right? so i can read them if i haven't already, because i was going to send you links to them (i think i can find them all online).

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

bees and things

from k to a via forward message:

--- I went to your's and arch.'s new blog site and I've read your theory of poetics on TCP already and yesterday I found essay and read it and now I've decided to send you the link as you might find it quite enjoyable -- I did. It's not a defining of poetics or writing really but a grand metaphorical beauty on compostion itself. So... It's called "A Bee Is A Predicate With Wings" by John Olson.


[thank you brian, for letting us put this up and for guiding us towards this article.]

a: Katy, have you read this yet? I didn't find it enjoyable at all! On the contrary, I found it quite annoying! Maybe I'm not in the "right" mindset, but from when I am it is just... rambling, pointless, exasperating! It tries to say everything and ends up saying nothing, absolutely nothing! See, I just don't like the expansive; I don't believe in the epic. I feel overwhelmed. And I refuse to glorify those things I believe in (life, the human) because I am equally aware of their shortcomings as of their greatness. I might have been impressed by such ideas when I was a teenager, but even that I doubt. It's just that this fascination with the scales of life and the universe strikes me as childish (and I don't mean that in the nice way). Yeah, so what? It just never inspired awe in me; that's probably why I never believed in a god. That's why I never liked the open sea; it scares me. I like lakes, contained bodies of water. Maybe that is precisely my problem, maybe I am just too jaded, I have lost that childish sense of wonder. Maybe that's why I don't get Wojtek's incessant photos of dead plants, and twigs, and vegetation, and blossoms. Or my ex's photos of ancient stones. I always preferred photos of people. Still, I would never deliriously praise humanity as such. But that essay wasn't even praise; it was just pure drivel! (Was he high then?) I mean, yeah, lots of good metaphors, bravo! So what? That is not what poetry is to me. And that is perhaps why I find so much poetry pure drivel, because people to give themselves the license to drool just because they're writing poetry. Poetry for me is hinting at the essence of life in a sentence, revealing some truth about it in the turn of a phrase. It is about life the banale, life the small, fragile thing, life the senseless, the ruthless, the merciless and the inspiring... Who are these people who wander about the everything? Where do they find the time? Life for me is this little box I am stuck in, this corner I am crawled into. This heavy burden of freedom, as Sartre said. I don't know, I don't get it... Maybe that's why I am unable to write these days. I just like it has all been said, that I have nothing to say anymore. Maybe not in poetry... Maybe no one has time to read... I don't know, Katy. I hope I'm not coming across as completely psychotic...

k: you are not psychotic. i don't know that i could tell you exactly what you are, but psychotic you are not.

i started reading this article the night before last around 10:30 and stopped about 3 paragraphs in shaking my head thinking, i must be soooo tired. this morning, i am a bit stunned by the fact that those words are actually the right ones.

i think i get what the article is trying to say... similar, i think, to stein's composition as explination (which is one of the most confusing and dense essays i've ever read) and my idea about time in poetry as being spontaneous, or rather, simultanious. this article, though, seems to me to be overwhelmed with cliche and drama. i don't like to be outright awful, but this essay is awful.

the focus seems to be on poetic language in an academic stance, and it doesn't work here. the author is trying to display the dynamics between prose and poetry by poorly merging the two genres in an essay?? even more, the author tries to tie everything up in a big bow by claiming that life is narrative (which i believe it is not, life is far too complicated to be put into words and
pictures, poets try and have been for ages without success).


in poetry, i completely agree with you. the moment, the instant and the essence are what make poetry work. i can't read, write or appriciate poetry that tries to capture something as mammouth as war, high school, or poetry itself. what i prefer are poems about wallpaper, about one lonely night in one person's life, about a spider eating a fly or a sweet piece of fruit. these are life, and they are as close to life as poetry may ever get.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Bukowski, Charles
(when Art and the Personal collide)

a: ...I am always fascinated when art and the personal collide. (For example, I went to a reading by Michael Cunningham, one of my favorite authors, a few months ago. And I thought he was so sexy that I wrote him this long insane letter after the reading and signing that I never sent him. But ever since, I haven't been able to read his new book...).
Another poem I wanted to mention to you is one that kind of spurred the one I wrote yesterday. It is by Charles Bukowski and it's called The Poetry Reading (if you're not familiar with it, you can find it online if you google it). Now I am not a big fan of Bukowski; I read it yesterday, and now I actually almost despise him. A lot of what he's saying is probably true, but like I always tell Wojtek, it is not enough for things to be true for it to be okay to say them. I just thought the whole tone of the poem was quite condescending and conceited. He seems to be making the assumption that one has to be "good" in order to make it, and that the reverse is equally true, that if you don't make it, you're not good; and that is an assumption I don't believe in. (But then again, that might be the assumption that someone who's made it would make, and someone like me would dispute.) As you can probably tell, in poetry I am interested in the "art" of it as much as in the "politics" (What does it take to "make"it? Who wields power? etc.) I know we kind of hit on that at the beginning of our correspondence, but I'd like to hear your reaction to that poem whenever you get the chance.

k: i just read the poem you suggested as well as two others and the first 4 or 5 paragraphs to an essay detailing the more dramaic moments of his life.
beat poetry... never really takes me anywhere. though i am a tad obsessed with sound in poetry, i find it difficult to appriciate the spoken word forms of poetry; slamming or beat, even most song lyrics, when written, are hugly lacking in appeal. they should be heard not read. perhaps bukowski was a fine reader.
i also get put off by anyone who glorifies alcoholism. and who's the fool responsible for giving him the title of "the great poet"? i'd much prefer if John Ashbury or Louis Zukofsky were awarded such a crown. and Mina Loy can be the queen.
so i guess that's how i feel about him and his poem... take from it what you will.


some interesting bukowski links:
c.b. can draw
c.b. ate my balls
a red page of poems
he has a memorial center?
bukowski zine
a legedary site (apparently)

Friday, February 03, 2006

Essence? (responding to the projective essay)

a: Katy, we'll be going to New York for a couple of days, and I won't have Internet access. I just wanted to quickly (as unfair as it is) write you about my reaction to your essay/article. First off, it revealed to me our very different background to poetry. I frankly never thought that poetry could be this "technical" or "intellectual". And when I say I never thought it could be this intellectual, I don't mean that it is a stupid endeavor. On the contrary, I think I already expressed to you my opinion that a good poet has to be a very smart one. What I mean, however, is that I have always held (and perhaps still do) the probably antiquated notion that poetry is more of an immediate (mostly emotional?) reaction, that it is not so belabored. I realize how farsically close that notion is to that of muses, but perhaps I hold to it still because, as you know, poetry for me was/is an escape from the belabored highly technical and intellectualized domain of my profession, architecture. I have always relished that in it: that it is "honest", "immediate", almost "spontaneous". And that is why perhaps I felt a strong feeling of resentment towards the ideas presented in your essay (that and the fact that I highly resent anything I can't wrap my head around!). I just fear that when one thinks so hard of poetry, one chances losing its essence in the argument. And while architecture can stand losing its essence (because it is afterall such a banal and pragmatic one, that of shelter), I fear that poetry is mostly in its essence, that summing up of life in the twist of a phrase. I hope I haven't offended you; I certainly don't intend to do so. But that is perhaps why I insist on the content of poetry. That is not to discount the form, but that is to relegate it to secondary. I would love to hear your reaction to this, and to whatever thoughts you have about the blog. And I actually think this disparity in our background is actually good for the discourse, as it tends to ground each of us, reminds us of the "other" vast world of poetry we each bring to the table.

k: i agree with you on several points. the most important one though, is the differing backgrounds between you and me. though... i think everyone starts writing poetry for the same reason, in the beginning. the reason i wrote my first poem was because i was inspired. actually, this may sound a bit silly, but i was inspired by luaren hill's performance on the grammy's, i don't remember the year, but i remember the performance. and after dwelling on it, i ended at these words "sun or star, near or far" and a poem was born. okay, cliché. but for a 14 year old, i'd say my first poem was a success.
for me though, poetry goes way beyond that moment, that initial, spontaneous, glorious moment of revelation. poetry is an instant, and a good poem retains that instant with clarity, with confidence, with emotion, with life, with essence, with energy.
which brings us to this essence you uncovered in your reply...
reread just this paragraph:
it would appear olson does address the role of the reader, but only as receiver. he goes beyond what my poetics addressed (more like he glosses over the issue of the poem itself and focuses on the energy (or light source)). the only thing he says about the poem itself is that it "must, at all points, be a high energy-construct and, at all points, an energy-discharge". this is pretty straight forward. olson the approaches this need as a problem for the poet. he asks how is the poet to accomplish this, particularly in FIELD COMPOSITION as opposed to the ruled and regulated closed form poetry? i read this as, how does the poet hold onto the reader, how does the poet keep the reader from getting lost?
olson says that poetry "must, at all points, be a high energy-construct...". poetry is energy-construct. what does that mean? poetry is energy in a constructed form. poetry is energy. through and through. olson adds that poetry must also exert energy for the reader's sake, otherwise we would all write poetry and never read it.
so, on some level, olson and i are in agreement with you.

another point of agreement is on the importance of content, though i'm contradicting myself here a bit, aren't it? yes, i might sacrifice grammar and even an idea to the sound of a line... the pull down at the corner of a bedspread could as easily read, she pulled down the corner of a bedspread, but it just doesn't sound the part. i'm sure there are far better examples out of even just that poem, but i'm not bothered, because i think you get what i mean. and this is a very important point for all poets, whether we/they recognize it or not. poetry is what it is because it does not hesitate to sacrifice the norm, the banal, the plain and ugly of every day, for the sake of a lovely sound.

however, there is this vast difference between the way i treat poetry once beyond the point of, or should i say the moment of, creation and the way you treat poetry... which is this fear or losing something, losing that moment. like i said before, a good poem in my opinion is one that retains that moment no matter how much scrutiny, diagnosis or dissection.
for you, and you've hinted towards this before if not explicitly saying so, poetry is more of a religious or spiritual text. for you poetry is not something one need question.
for me, poetry is a puzzle. i want to solve the puzzle, and to take it apart piece by piece to understand and learn how it was put together. though i believe this is only so because i disassociate the act of writing and the act of reading poetry from one another. i never question a poem as it is being composed, most especially when the poem comes from a point of inspiration, a muse.
i don't fear the lose of anything when i break a poem into it's tiniest pieces because i have confidence in the poems that i pull apart. in fact, for me, i often find more to appreciate in the poem once i've uncovered it's inner workings. i guess i feel about poems the way some people might feel about cars or computers... once you know how they run it just makes more sense, and it gets more exciting, you can do more then. to this, though, i'll be honest, i have a hard time picking apart my own poems because i know where the bits are from and how they were put together and i can't pretend not to.