My two collections on Amazon, Stir and The Short Cool Summer, have had some readers, but the writing of poetry requires practice. This new project is exactly that, practice, so I’m posting it to read on Tablo. It will be updated as I add works to it. Right now there are 6-7 pieces.
Jean Artur Rimbaud wrote strange prose-poems in the Belle Epoque. He was an exceedingly odd duck: not ostentatiously wierd like Van Gogh, but the sort of man who could drop everything and spend his final years as an arms-dealer in North Africa. He’s kind of like William Burroughs, except his stuff is short enough so that I can digest it in one go, rather than get tired of not understanding anything and chuck the book a the wall (how many times have I tried to read Nova Express? At least three. How many times have I got farther than 20 pages? I do not know).
I find his strangeness appealing perhaps because he is not dogmatic about it. Poetry works best when it is a process of discovery, of the writer overhearing himself. There’s a tradition as old as Pindar to the effect that poets are prophets; speaking truths they themselves dimly understand, throwing words together in a disciplined kind of way because it feels right. A purely right-brained approach.
Now, no artist actually works this way. The stuff gets edited. It is shaped. It is messed with. This is itself part of the process, so that you leave your own interpolations at the door and get to the Real Thing. How do you know you have the Real Thing? If you have to ask, you don’t have it.
So here’s War, part of the Illuminations collection:
When a child, certain skies sharpened my vision: all their characters were reflected in my face. The Phenomena were roused.–At Present, the eternal inflection of moments and the infinity of mathematics drives me through this world where I meet with every civil honor, respected by strange children and prodigious affections.–I dream of a War of right and of might, of unlooked-for logic.
It is as simple as a musical phrase.
Jean Artur Rimbaud, “war” The Illuminations, pg. 133
That’s it. The whole Madness. It is not analytical. It is not concerned with understanding, only with experiencing. It is an irruption of Id-sense, Id-longing. Might be the phenomenon Huxley was getting at in The Doors of Perception: certain folk have a spiritual sensitivity that can lead either to Enlightenment or Insanity. In times past the old boy might have become a monk or mystic and offered prayer-poems to whatever Deity would have him. Perhaps a martyr or a passionate heretic, if the cards played out right. Instead he became a pieta to the more erudite segment of nerds.
Still, there’s something to the economy of expression, something I’ve written on before and probably will again, as it’s never been something I could master. My sentences flow like rivers, like dams breaking. And so do some of his. But he doesn’t have eighty of them together. I am the more concerned, it seems, with not being misunderstood.
Initially I had planned to have a Content Blues podcast hosted here on the blog, but because I don’t have a WordPress Business Plan and don’t intend to shell out for one, that won’t be happening. Instead, I switched to Spreaker as a distribution service for both this and the Shallow & Pedantic Podcast. The point of Whatever: A Content Blues Podcast will be to collect all the shorter posts (Quick Reviews and such) into an audo format, and leave the rest of the blog to the longer, essayish posts.
A smorgasboard of an episode! We correct Twitter’s History Department, Praise “The Vast of Night”, discuss the pagan themes of “The Lighthouse”, read some epic poetry and a sonnet, consider modern cassette culture, and give a shout-out to indie electronica band Validine Chronus.
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.