Saturday, October 21, 2006

Now that's what I call Poetry!

k: first and foremost ((((ashraf))))
of course you didn't come across too strong, nor too anything. that's the first email you've sent me that had entirely to do with poetry in ages. i'm dancing right now.

i am starting to feel the season settle in on me. it's not that i dislike summer so much as i prefer all the other seasons so much more. especially the fall. the leaves are turning beautiful colors... the orange reminds me of that sweater you wore the sunday ryan and i went home, that first time we met.

poetry becomes more potent this time of year too... more... betterer. yep. more betterer.

down to pleasure and pains then... is it horrible that i'm glad you don't like lyn? i don't mean to dislike her so much... but... uhg.

as for hardy... the more i read, and i think i said this, the more i enjoy the little boy writes bad poetry nature of his work, particularly in this chapbook. i am easily susceptible, too, to boys who fawn over girls.

in regards to the language, to the punctuation, to the art. i'm with you, but i'm also opposed...

okay today in my "language and its use" class we talked in response to a chapter in a book about language and ebonics, about slang and dialects essentially. the chapter was called "leave your language alone" and he argues that certain prescriptive grammar rules are nonsensical, outdated and we should use the turns of phrase that come more naturally. example, he argues that we should drop "whom" and the notion of "split infinitives".
my question is basically "where does it end?" and this is a standpoint that i don't take alone. my twin, Kate, and i are both grammarians and sticklers. i even brought up the notion of labour=value (yay marxism) and waving around my new (*glee*) copy of Leonard Cohen's Book of Longing i asked, if we don't learn the rules before we start bending them... if we only write how we speak, then what gives this value? we would lose the art of writing. how depressing.

so on the one hand, yeah. people take language, especially written, for granted. poets do. we, and i mean that in a broad general scope, abuse our language. the "th" habit is in a way an abomination.

but i draw a very fine line.

and this is where the "confused" part comes in.
there is a place for experimenting with language and the way the words look on the page, the aesthetic.
but if it goes too far, as in lyn's case, it becomes unreadable.

so yeah, i'm all for a little tossing, but don't throw the rule book out the window. as much as i like gertrude stein, the woman should not have been allowed to write prose.

i know i could go into this further. but i want to take some time to share some undeniably good poetry with you...

kate and i went on a date today. we got panini's and went to barnes & noble. i ran into leonard cohen's newest collection of poems and ended up buying it and a collection of poems by billy corgan of smashing pumpkins and zwan fame (i haven't read any of it yet, except for the one poem that convinced me to give him a chance).

and so i spent an hour or so before my class reading some of his poems and wrote the poem that i just posted on my blog...
though, it's not anything particularly special... i like the way leonard gets me thinking about poetry. he's the closest i come to appreciating song-writing.

so a poem by leonard, my beloved 70 year old canadian gold...

i want to share a longer one with you... because so far i enjoyed it the most... so here it goes


better than darkness
is fake darkness
which swindles you
into necking with
someone's antique

better than banks
are false banks
where you change
all your
rough money
into legal tender

better than coffee
is blue coffee
which you drink
in your last bath
or something waiting
for your
to be dismantled

better than poetry
is my poetry
to everything
that is beautiful and
dignified, but is
neither of these itself

better than wild
is secretly wild
when I am in
the darkness of
a parking space
with a new snake

better than art
is repulsive art
which demonstrates
than scriptures
the tiny measure
of your improvement

better than
is darkless
which is inkier, vaster
more profound
eerily refrigerated
filled with caves
and blinding tunnels
in which
beckoning dead relatives
and other religions

better than love
is wuve
which is more refined
tiny serene people
with huge genitalia
but lighter than
comfortably installed
on an eyelash of mist
and living
ever after
cooking, gardening
and raising kids

than my mother
is your mother
who is still alive
while mine
not alive
but what am I saying!
forgive me mother

better than me
are you
kinder than me
are you
sweeter smarter faster
you you
prettier than me
stronger than me
lonelier than me

want to get
to know you
better and better.

-Mt Baldy,
i enjoy it for the ending, but also, for all the moments that collate into some sort of love throughout.
of course, too, with a collection... after a while the persona and the charater builds and capsizes and takes over until you're swimming in the spirit of that poet. it's a beautiful experience... it's been too long since i let myself fall into a poet's lap like that, and i love it.

ah the fall, and love and leonard.

and poetry. i'm just reveling right now.

thank you for this.

a: So, we just finished one of our monthly office lunches. I ingest way worse things here, at this office, than anything that Wojtek would ever let me get away with at home. The lunches they order are just horrendously bad for you, and for some reason they always tend to include pork, which I am not a big fan of (remnants of my upbringing). And to top it off, was this presentation about a church project at our other office that (d)evolved into a talk about what church each person goes to. So now, not only do I have a nasty heartburn brewing in my pits, but I also feel--not for the first time--like an alien. I tell you this so you can appreciate what a blessing I found your e-mail to be after all that. With its opening talk of the comforts of the fall, to the poetics discussion (that I also missed dearly), to the gorgeous Leonard poem... thank you!

I certainly understand what you mean by that part you called "confusing" (and which I don't find confusing at all). I am certainly not for a stickler attitude when it comes to grammar; by Arlene's standards, I take quite a bit of liberty with that. So yes, I am for some reform, or rule bending; and the question that you raise, "So where do we draw the line?" is a very good one. But the fact that it is a difficult question to articulate an answer for does not mean that we should forget about drawing the line, or not even consider moving it in the first place. And I think a similar situation exists in many other matters where "drawing the line" is difficult to articulate. Ethical matters are one great example, and that's why we have the law, and that's why the law is so complicated, and why there are people whose job it is to interpret that language drawing the line and who get paid obscenely for it. Yes, the law doesn't always overlap with ethics (the "line"), and that is why it is constantly revised. But the whole fuss doesn't mean that we don't need the law.

Similarly, I just think it is a better use of time and effort--to borrow your excellent reference to the Marxian idea of effort equals value--to have that go into the content of the poetry rather than its form. I am certainly not the first to articulate that argument, and I am sure there must be a name for this position somewhere where it is better articulated. In any case, I think the wonderful poem you sent me makes all these points more eloquently. (By the way, did I ever tell you I recently bought the soundtrack to that Cohen movie we saw from iTunes; it is much better to listen to than watch!) I think this poem has a much better example of a mature eroticism that I much prefer to Hardy's, and I love how for Cohen there is no affect to the dividing of the stanzas, how the stanzas follow the idea, they stop where you expect them to stop, without artifice, because they don't need it. They are perfectly capable to stand well on their own, in their simplicity, in the brazen symmetry of the ideas (because it does not fear coming so close to the cliche), and in their immediacy and accessibility. (I loved that part "better than my mother / is your mother / who is still alive / while mine is not alive / but what am I saying! / forgive me mother"!) By the way, what did you think of that Carolyne Forche poem I sent you?

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