Still Life: Dinner Decisions.
(If anyone ever wants to talk hot sauce, let’s do. I rank hot sauce up there with iced beer, reading a river eddy/swirl, making out at 3 am [probably in a car, parked illegally on a blue-lit acetylene street], the pleading shape of a perfectly thrown disc golf disc. Etc.)
(Does anyone know the best hot sauce festivals? Aren’t they usually in Texas? I am a-feared of Texas, but could visit briefly, skip in like a dragonfly, nibble and pause to warm the wings, then lift away.
I’d like to visit a hot festival festival. Before I die, preferably.
I am teaching a multi-genre graduate class. So now we’re nearing the dark side, the cold moon of shivers and empty beaches, the electrochemical switches, the fever, the bleeding wings–poetry.
So, immediately: what is its worth?
(Is this actual question a symptom of something? Maybe. And I hold a bit of it myself, in my ventricles, so a very fair inquiry. But is it a sign, something involving consuming, throwing away [repeat until death] everything, skating above anything actual, anything real, this bright, bright layer, a way to just push aside every/any thing of substance?
A code, a mantra, dare I say? A code. A programmation?)
I just made up a word. So what, jabberwocky?
We do things without any questioning, but poetry won’t allow that. No sir.
Poetry makes us sit a moment. Watch. Chill. Observe.
Makes me wonder what the worth of a sunrise is, or the gurgle of river over quicksilver stone? The moss on the backside, slippery, shimmering like an voice, quivering, opening shadow.
Worth of nacho.
Worth of playful and musical language.
Of its place as flourishing WAY before prose, before creative nonfiction, as the basis of every allusion: Shakespeare, bible, Greek mythology, Homer–poetry.
Of the day you first wrecked a car, that slow-motion, teenage blur. Remember who was in the passenger seat? I bet you do.
Of T.S. Eliot: Poetry is not the assertion that something is true, but the making of that truth more fully real to us.
Of day I threw egg. Or my shoelaces caught in bike pedals, the tumble.
Almost everyone I encounter is amused that I write or read poetry, and I am frequently challenged to defend the purpose and function of poetry and literature in a disposable society so dedicated to consumerism and earning potential. Even my best friend since I was six years old frequently asks me what good is learning Shakespeare or Keats. “After all,” so he says, “look at me, I’m doing just fine and I’ve never read either.” This issue features a poem by Star Trek’s Leonard Nimoy. While I selected the poem because of its quality, I wonder how many readers will be surprised that Spock writes poetry? And if they are surprised, why? What should a poet look like? It amazes me too how every other person I meet is either part Cherokee Indian or a closet poet. Hell, even my banker told me just yesterday, in a hushed and secretive voice, that she has a folder full of poems she’s written. And yet mainstream America seems to ridicule poets in movies and television. This just doesn’t make sense. If people would come out of the closet about their love for poetry, we’d likely learn that it’s one of the most common activities in America right up there beside owning a dog or cat.
Worth of shelling beans while talking to my grandmother about tornadoes (I’ve yet to get paid for this true pleasure–weird.)
Of watching a mocking bird pluck a grasshopper from the air.
Of angles, light on skin, panties, triangles, white cotton…
Poetry is physical. It enlists the participation of the senses, beginning with the sense of hearing, of vibration, and its pace derives from and attends the body’s motions. I believe that poetry, which in the end may come to include the other uses I have named, begins as language does with the urge to give voice to the unsayable in our lives and in life itself.
Of cross-eyed hipster.
Of suitcases leaping the tornado (and bedpost)
Of who do you text back, call back, ignore?
Of Yusef Komunyakaa, total badass:
Lately, I feel like I have been cornered by Robert Hayden’s infamous Devil’s Advocate, the Inquisitor, a shadow figure in the poet’s psyche who keeps one edgy and true to each word in his or her personal canon. Maybe this is the same force that prompts us to pick up the pen in the first place: A discourse which leads to discovery. Here, at this moment in our history, as we prepare for millennium parties around the world-big on commerce and short on celebration-perhaps what Plato feared has happened in modern America: The poet has become the philosopher, the composer and caretaker of the most fundamental and urgent questions voiced to the agency of human existence. And, in this sense, it seems that the poet is responsible for questioning and gauging every facet of our system.
Of Baileys and coffee with mom, who never drank. Before cancer. Now she drinks. I drink with her. And we talk, real things.
Now Blake thought that this creative power should be kept alive in all people. And so do I. Why? Because it is life itself. It is the spirit. In fact it is the only important thing about us. The rest of us is legs and stomach, materialistic cravings and fears.
How could we keep it alive? By using it, by letting it out. By giving some time to it. But if we are women we think it more important to wipe noses and carry doilies than to write or to play the piano. And men spend their lives adding and subtracting and dictating letters when they secretly long to write sonnets and play the violin and burst into tears at the sunset. They do not know as Blake did, that this is a fearful sin against themselves. They would be much greater now, more full of light and power, if they had really written the sonnets and played the fiddle and wept over the sunset, as they wanted to”
Whatever…Whatever all of it. This question. This question.
Here’s a story: Saint Francis enjoying the night air one evening in the village of Assisi. When the moon came up, it was huge and luminous, bathing the entire earth in its radiance. Noticing that no one else was outside to enjoy this miracle, Francis ran to the bell tower and began ringing it enthusiastically. When the people rushed from their houses in alarm and saw Francis at the top of the tower, they called up to ask of him an explanation. Francis simply replied, “Lift up your eyes, my friends, look at the moon.”
Done, as for poetry (for now, me).
The new Keyhole Magazine is HAND WRITTEN. I believe this qualifies as bad-ass.
Blake Butler is there. I was wondering when Blake was going to publish something.
I feel like this today: