After an unforeseen hiatus, Thumbs Down, Thumbs Up returns! We discuss the darkness in the American Political Climate as seen in the reactions to the March for Life incident, And we wax… poetic about the Poetry Foundation’s app. No sponsor ship from the Poetry Foundation or anything, we just really like the app.
People who like this sort of thing will find this the sort of thing that they like.
A Man With No Business, Killing Time
When my car is in the shop They tell me “an hour and A half.”
So I have fish tacos and Salad and a pint that Lingers around the temples Tightening the skin in that Pleasant way it does.
And I wander about the mall With nothing to buy but A record if I felt like dropping Forty dollars on the latest from Queens of the Stone Age.
But Instead I slip through The attractions and lures of Commerce promising me Ease and joy and self-expression At a discounted rate This week only.
I wander back, as slow as I came, The heat somewhat stronger on my face Hoping to walk through Firestone’s doors with the words “I was just about to call you,” Greeting me
But instead I wait though A commercial break for American Pickers or a show like that To be told it isn’t done yet It isn’t started yet They’re very busy and very behind. I knew this as I walked in Because my car hadn’t moved Or spawned new tires.
And they tell me “another forty-five Minutes.”
So I cross the crosswalkless Boulevard in the other direction Along a tree-lined sidewalk Counting my steps on the FitBit Congratulating myself for activity Navigating the wide sweep of the Parking lot between the old H.H. Gregg and Barnes & Noble.
There are no books I intend To buy, but I might surprise myself, With Upanishads or Buddhist Scriptures Or a lesser C.S. Lewis tome But instead I wrinkle my nose at The gaudy covers of modern Poetry books, with their Instagram verses and their Banal politics and their Dull ironies on the urge To fornicate.
I read a few stanzas by Frost and say In my bookstore whisper “That’s beautiful.” I do not buy it.
I slip away into the attached Starbucks and order a Doppio Espresso in a paper cup And then my thumbs fall To recording The preceding As I drink and muse And consider waking back.
No matter what your approach, engaging in revision will help you see your work more clearly and help you discover more of what you meant and sometimes what you didn’t even know you meant. The word itself says so: re-vision. To see again, to see better. Getting back into work that felt complete may seem daunting—why mess it up again?—but always leads to deepening the poem itself and your own skill in the craft of writing. You will see your work newly each time you come back to it with the willingness to explore further possibilities. It can even be a lot of fun.
Over the course of that rainy muddy monsoon that was the summer of 2018, I wrote some poems, cheap, messy, quick, and therefore true. I consider it an expression of this idea I call Suburban Zen, which I have not fully defined. It’s closer to Zen that way.
I’m definitely an agnostic on National Novel-Writing Month. I’m not down on it, and if someone wants to take the moment as a inspiration to create, I’m the last guy to wrinkle my nose at such. Write, you guys. Write like the wind.
But I also don’t participate. I’ve got a few reasons for this:
I Can’t Write a Novel in a Month. Based on past experience, it just doesn’t work for me. I’ve got a job and a house and a family. I consider having finished The Sword as fast as I did an achievement, and I had to abandon that several times, because reasons. Trying to squeeze one out in 30 days just isn’t realistic for me.
I Don’t Like Being Told When to Create. Call it a mental habit or even a mental block, but trends annoy me. Jumping on a bandwagon because everyone else is doing it makes some part of me not want to. I want to create according to my own time and schedule. I want to set my own goals, and then meet them. Again, if you find NaNoWriMo useful, good for you. I personally don’t.
That being said, I have some plans for this November. First of all, I’m planning on rolling out some new covers on my back catalog, including giving Solar System Blues a hardcover edition. Second, I have some new poems I want to offer up in a ebook-exclusive collection, as it’s likely to be shorter than Stir. All of them were written this past year. Planned title: The Short Cool Summer.
I am sometimes frustrated by poems that do not say what they mean.
so much depends
a red wheel
glazed with rain
beside the white
As an exercise in imagery, it works very nicely. You can see it in your mind. And as an exercise in rhythm, it’s nearly hypnotic.
the gibbering hogwash
does it mean?
By which I mean, I need the first line explained to me. What depends upon a red wheel barrow glazed with rain water beside the white chickens? What, and why is there so much of it? I get the whole “no ideas but in things” dictum, but we have the things. They are clearly spelled out. What are the ideas in them? That so much depends on them? But that doesn’t tell me anything.
Perhaps Williams is implying that the imagination comes alive in the world of things–of objects. Perhaps he is saying that the poem, to become radiant, needs images, and images always involve things.
This is plausible. But only plausible. It is speculation. It is “Perhaps”. And that drives me back to non-communication. If you’re not telling me what you mean, implicitly or explicitly, while telling me that it means something very much indeed, then my instinct is to roll my eyes and proclaim you a purveyor of obtusity or offal.
And maybe the point is that the Great Something in Things cannot be communicated. That’s fine. But I hate guessing at it.