I first want to talk about what Audre Lorde might think of an image and want to relate it back to Ezra Pound’s idea of an image as an emotional complex. In the essay, “Poetry Is Not a Luxury*,” Lorde follows this thread by stating that “it is through poetry that we give name to those ideas which are – until the poem – nameless and formless, about to be birthed, but already felt.” This thought is predicated on the fact that women poets need poetry as a means to survive, “it is vital to our existence,” she states.
So I recently read F(X), a poem by Annalise Lozier, published in The Kenyon Review, which works to create images so fluidly that I was moved. Lines like “I have a sore spot / on each side of my head where our eyes used to be / when we were fish,” had me melting on the page. Along creating these vivid images, the poem also works with white space in ways that I think our current workshop works to emulate.
It’s also a beautiful read. Grab onto your seat for the last lines:
” I know terminal velocity when I feel it,
the color of salmon eggs— Do you?”
So since my most recent blog post about narrative poetry, I thought about the different kinds of narratives that we each day. Now I know that many of us read and indulge stories all around us, but I want to call attention to some recent stories that have been percolating our nation’s media. There’s so much going on around us. We’re all sensitive to it. It’s affecting us in ways we can’t even identify right now.
A thank you to Kallie for introducing me to the light, pillowy poetry that Mary Oliver makes room for in our chaotic world. I read it about three times a day, at least. It gives me a minute to breath and realize that although my world is tainted, I am still living. I am still here.
Here’s a reminder to take a deep breath and sink:
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about your despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting —
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.
Recently, I’ve been questioning my role as a writer. The work that I thrive doing, what I define as prose, usually consists of me telling a story or deliberating on an argument. I wondered how the form that I love so much could translate into poetry, or rather, writing that pays much more attention to sound and shape on the page. Since narratives are my thing, I looked up what a narrative poem was.
According to Power Poetry, narrative poems simply tell stories. Most of the ones we know today, like Homer’s The Illiad and Dante’s Inferno, are super long! At times these texts seem dense. But it is through their poetics that they have retained standing in our society today. Perhaps for one of the poems I write in my final portfolio, I will practice this technique. I know that our class focuses on what makes up an image in a poem. But I argue that images can be created in the context of a narrative poem. Maybe it’s in the moment that shocks you the most? Maybe the image is resonant of the character that the poem wants to focus on the most.
After listening to A Tribe Called Quest’s most recent album, We The People, I began thinking of my role as a poet in today’s world. It’s not the first time I thought about the position we all have as artists — where do we fit? — but I have placed myself within the binaries of what I’m allowed.
I feel that my little planet is pronounced by the hood I grew up in and the things I witnessed as a kid. What has intimidated me is how I shape this voice as a poet/writer. But I realized that this voice began taking its form when I was growing up. My brother would come up with bars to spit on a beat. I followed rap battles vicariously through him, my favorite being when Nas murdered Jay-Z in “Ether.” It was a Brooklyn-Queens thang.
As a shy, book-worm, growing up I stayed away from practicing this. But I thrived through these lyrics, Pac reminded me to “Keep Your Head Up” and Biggie taught me that “Sky’s the Limit.” Everyday, I was a witness to how the system failed my community. The melodies I found in their lyrics kept me going because they looked at the world I was seeing everyday and told me that I could push pass that bullshit. Much of what I’ve struggled with this semester is creating my own sound, something that I still don’t think I’ve managed to create.
In a talk last night with Carolina, I began to conceive the idea that this “sound”/voice is created over time. She told me that since I’ve written narratives, I need to write these kinds of poems (I’ll write a blog post on narrative poetry in a bit.) I’ve just started writing poetry. It’s difficult for me to identify as a poet for this reason, but it’s exactly what I am and what I have been for most of my life.
LL Cool J says that we are “metaphorical freaks” in a song and says that he’s creates a movie. I began questioning what this meant in terms of accessibility. How could I make sense of the world I was brought up in and transfer this so that people from my community could understand me? Maybe what we call Geneseo poetry has stunted me from getting there, but what I’ve learned is that I need to keep going. I need to go back home, back to my roots. Back to authenticity. Geneseo is like a reprieve. It took me away from this for a while, for many reasons. But the music that booms through my earphones reminds me who I am and what I grew up with.
Lend me your thoughts, PAAAA-LEASEEE.
A couple weeks ago, I asked Lytton about how to concisely produce sound in poetry and his advice garnered an intimate approximation to the words that you choose and how they relate to one another in a line. He referred me to Gary Lutz’s “The Sentence is a Lonely Place,” where this relationship between words in a sentence, a line in poetry, is examined. To use Lutz’ own words, “the words have to lean on each other, rub elbows, rub off on each other, feel each other up.” In the process, a sort of sensual relationship between the words is formed and they fit into each other, almost as if they originally belonged together. Lutz argued that a writer must work and rework a sentence so that the outcome produces “a series of departures from what you may have intended to express; a language may start taking on, as they say, a life of its own, a life that contests or trumps the life you had sponsored to live on the page.” And in saying this, Lutz breathes life into a sentence/line/whatever partnering of words you compose like a trumpeter exerts his last aching breath to produce its echoing resonance.
In reading this paper, I began to visualize myself as the writer that I have always been – knit-picky about the words that flow out onto the pages in my stories, and now in my poems. My initial hesitation was considering myself a musician. I had always been terrible at choosing words that went together like a melody. Spoken word did not flow from the tip of my tongue like it would a rapper. In fact, I remember freestyling with my brother as a kid and completely sucking. But Lutz changes what I believed at my core and challenges what it means to be a conventional writer when he resuscitates the heart of a melodist and equates it with the heart of a writer: “In the mouth and in the mind it is three-dimensional, and there are parts that shoot out from it or sink into its syntactic surround.” Here is where I found my sound.
Hopefully, those reading will look up the essay I’ve read and learn a thing or two about the art of making sound beautiful.
The reading for today’s class, Rachel Richardson’s “Learning Image and Description,” sparked a newfound interest in sound for me. I have always noticed that in order to make a poem resonate well with its audience, the sound and momentum of the words must be in sync with its message. This is something that I’ve always been in awe of when hearing poetry. At slam poetry shows, I would be so in tune with the poet’s emotions because of the way that the poem sounded (although of course much of this also lends itself to the fact that the poet is performing.) But even in a poem that is meant to be read, rather than performed (the latter is subjective), like Maya Angelou’s “Caged Bird,” we can hear sounds as a bird takes flight. The depth of what it means to be caged bird is pronounced because of the way that the flutter and breeze in its flight create a melody.
I’ve been looking into how to improve this in my own poetry. I ask myself questions, “Must I be a musician to write poetry?” Rhythm isn’t something that I’ve ever been good at. Two left feet have haunted me my entire life. Only recently, enlightened by the culture of places I’ve been to, have I been able to properly whine, capturing the tick-tock of the reggae. Before I only imitated. How can I produce the same success in my writing?
Perhaps with some writers it is just natural. A sort of vomiting of utterances and emotions that fall upon the page in the form of a tune. Do you guys have any thoughts and advice? Richardson mentions that the images in poems work because of their music: “Do they make music together? A percussive rhythm, an alliterative lull, an onomatopoetic evocation?” But how can I better form these images through music?
After reading Ezra Pound’s essay, ‘”A Retrospect” and “A Few Don’ts,”‘ on poetic theory, I’m compelled and frightened by whatever poetry has to offer me, specifically in terms of getting to the point. As a writer who basks in prose, I find the idea of shedding description to create an image intimidating. But although this may be the case, while reading Pound’s ideas and critiques on what poetry should do, I started to realized how much I am willing to improve in my own writing and that what I’m going to learn is going to help with my lyric essays. Because why would you flower something that doesn’t watering? Ideas can stand for themselves and people can interpret them in any way, regardless of the jargon we want to add. A picture is worth a thousand words and so does a word, or phrase if you look at it closely enough.
But although I was touched by the remark brevity, what moved me the most was Pound’s emphasis on rhythm and sound. Even the way Pound articulated himself drew me into the ideas he was elucidating: “Let the beginning of the next line catch the rise of the rhythm wave.” After reading that line, I took note of how a poem has the potential to transport you to a whole new field of emotions. Pound offered tips on how to make music of your thoughts, “A rhyme must have in it some slight element of surprise if it is to give pleasure,” and I started thinking of the particularities in how emotions and thoughts sounded like. How could you put that on paper?
Needless to say, ‘”A Retrospect” and “A Few Don’ts”‘ has sparked my interest in the transformations to come.