Thursday, August 30, 2007
BACK TO SCHOOL, BACK TO SCHOOL! Which means that my life consists of having pen and paper in my holster nearly 100% of my waking hours. So, some inspiration struck between classes yesterday). So, here are the unvarnished results. I know that I always preface these with DRAFT! DRAFT! NOT THE FINAL PRODUCT! But truly, the crafting of poems takes time, energy, countless revisiting...but the energy, what I want to record, is in this first AHA!
Adrienne Rich says it beautifully:
"poetry can occur as a fierce, precarious charge in the imagination,
or an almost physical wave of desire[...]as something written down,
that remains, so regardless of circumstance
you can turn back to that fierce charge, that desire."
I lift your rumpled, cast off
skin from the bamboo-inspired
rug, to put it on-- V-neck
with a hanging hem, hot-sauce stain
and fading smell of smoke and soap.
You're asleep already, so I feed
the cat and watch her lick
her pink-and-black nose, stroke paws,
and rub the tufts behind her ears.
We crack open a book of poems
I need to have read tomorrow,
and she curls, sighs
against the place where an ovary
hides inside my abdomen.
I can't fault you for sleeping.
It's not insensitive, or avoidant;
it's just the tremendous pause between breath,
the kind of quiet when you listen too close,
that maddens me, until I see
your rising chest, a beacon.
I think of him, knowing it tears
at you. Even in sleep, you turn
and grunt, stirring the pages
of a book, your bedfellow.
I see in white whiskers
sighing on your t-shirt sleeve,
white hair on the operating table.
Is it me, or this place
that has lost a bit of sanctity,
of joy? Crushed underfoot
in the teeming streets of faces
unfamiliar and younger than mine:
whatever it is that the sapling holds
in the moment of breaking forth,
can continue even on this uprooted tree.
The message has not found its way
to the top.
Wednesday, August 29, 2007
A FEW DAYS INTO CLASS, AND MY READINGS are already sending off streamers of ideas in every direction! This is what I love about school. A few interesting potential metaphors have popped up, which I will mention here. Also, expect some new original poem fragments, a reading or two, and a book review in the near future...
FIRST: The picture above is from the Père-Lachaise Cemetery, in Paris, which I have visited. I have even seen this tomb. But, what brought me to this image was a the love-story of Heloïse and Pierre Abélard, a Medieval philosopher, which my Classics professor glided over today. It has tragedy, scholarship, violence...the works. I am thinking of writing a voice-poem in the persona of Heloïse, or perhaps their son...stay tuned! The picture is of their tomb, or rather "memorial"...all comes full circle!
SECONDLY: I was reintroduced to the idea of a "palimpsest" manuscript...and am finding it more fascinating than ever. The OED has this to say:
1. Paper, parchment, or other writing material designed to be reusable after any writing on it has been erased. Obs.
2. a. A parchment or other writing surface on which the original text has been effaced or partially erased, and then overwritten by another; a manuscript in which later writing has been superimposed on earlier (effaced) writing. Cf. sense B. 1.
b. In extended use: a thing likened to such a writing surface, esp. in having been reused or altered while still retaining traces of its earlier form; a multi-layered record.
3. A monumental brass plate turned and re-engraved on the reverse side. Cf. A. 2. Obs.
4. Physical Geogr. and Geol. A structure characterized by superimposed features produced at two or more distinct periods.
check this phrase, from an introduction to Beowulf:
hapax legomena-- what linguists call words recorded only once in a language. Beowulf = wordsmith.
Okay! Enough for now!
Sunday, August 26, 2007
SO, SORRY, I KNOW...I haven't been here lately. Actually, in quite some time. I have photos to share, and poem(s)...I just got busy, and got down, and let worry knock me off my creative game. But, I'm back! My senior year of college starts TOMORROW...and I feel, well, incredibly out-of-place/ elated/ nervous/ giddy/ worried about it. It is much harder to adjust back to school, after a semester abroad, than I ever imagined (perhaps it is that my city of 12 million has shrunk back to a campus of 5,000?). Anyway, I will blog-o-generate a poem. Now. In real time. Just to bare my chest and tell my demons, ha! So here it goes: whatever I am thinking of now:
I bought a new notebook
of recycled paper
and left it
out, in the rain,
and thought about how the old
me would never do
that sort of thing.
I spent all night
writng my name on twenty-some-odd inside flaps,
and trying to recall the name
of the High Street that she was probably on
in the 1970's, leggy blonde,
in a new pair of Feragammo boots(!)
What a tiny tragedy
are the blurring blue lines,
and the untraceable thing
that goes with Oxford Circus,
like we were going to The Social
for a drink.
I never once shopped on High Street.
Saturday, August 18, 2007
Thursday, August 16, 2007
Monday, August 13, 2007
I tore three pages
from the middle of March’s
He was there: grey newsboy cap, down over
a fat, pink worm of a pouting
Born in 1920,
the dowser—water witch—
carried the sir name Scarlett
He holds the hard kernel stick
loosely between his talk of God
Before “Arthur Wrightus” he could
say how far down
the water is.
Now, he can only say where
to dig the well,
with a dogwood, hickory, maple,
peach or wild cherry switch,
a black leather hand and pink palm.
I can hear him when he says
he’s tar heel people.
The Corner of Cherry Street and Main in Marion
He says they are purple martins
dipping in and out of gourds
on the lawn edge, where we
found a rat snake at the cellar-mouth,
rotting pecans in greenest grass,
the wind chimes, and two
strawberry shortcake tricycles in the shed.
There is the flat-topped tin
carport, the out-of-place gym bar,
the out-of-use clothesline,
the well-kept hedge backing up
to a grass alley, two dirt
tracks beaten in by years
of yellow cars.
There are my grandmother’s pickling
jars, and the bird bath near the gourds,
and the foam always at the edge,
and the sweet gum balls
we pretended were spiny cherries
or small planets, suspended
around the stump that is always home plate.
There are the blue glass bottles
aligned at the kitchen window,
and the woman who adopted this house
and all of us, stands elbow-deep
in soap and water, by the thin-crusted
pie on the cooling rack.
Bathroom in the Isle of
where Moma stands,
naked back and ashen hair,
to Aunt Izzy.
And speaks of her children’s births
as personality indicators:
and how, instead, she screamed:
swinging, red, and angry.
Talk of who has died,
while she’s slipping green straps up,
one petite hand to shoulder
at a time.
And from the doorway,
the mirror revealed to me only
the blue spackled sky.
Sunday, August 12, 2007
I am beginning a blog segment entitled "A poem a day" (I know, original...). I am going to post my reading of a poem I enjoy here everyday for your enjoyment!
Wednesday, August 08, 2007
IT IS NOT THAT THE LIKES OF DIANE ARBUS NEEDS MY ENDORSEMENT to cement her place among the most respected and innovative "fine art" photographers in American history... It's just that I am curious about her. This is the best website presentation of some of her photos that I have found, and also the one where the above photo was found: http://www.duvekot.ca/eliane/archives/diane_arbus.jpg.
Arbus' photos enter in Sontag's book, which I blogged about previously, in the chapter discussing the uniquely American vantage on the art of photography. Sontag previously declared photography a uniquely "democratic" artform, which seems to predispose it to the American sensibility, which she sums up as "the American partiality to myths of redemption and damnation, [which] remains one of the most energizing, most seductive aspects of our national culture." ("On Photography" pg.48)
Arbus as Photographer Americana presents the idea that America is a sort of orgy of freaks, and the photographer is a new anthropologist. If you bring that concept of America into play with certain inherited national values, such as Puritanical ideals and the mythology of The Self-made Man, America does seem obsessed with oddities, with "redemption" and "damnation." What to make of all of this, is beyond me. What I enjoy about the exercise, is the chance to read a analysis of some piece of my own artistic inheritance. I feel unable to do what Sontag is doing, that is to shed my cultural identity and step outside of it, in order to have a better look.
In Arbus' own words, she admitted to having a fascination with "freaks":
"Freaks was a thing I photographed a lot. It was one of the first things I photographed and it had a terrific kind of excitement for me. I just used to adore them. I still do adore some of them. I don't quite mean they're my best friends but they made me feel a mixture of shame and awe. There's a quality of legend about freaks. Like a person in a fairy tale who stops you and demands that you answer a riddle. Most people go through life dreading they'll have a traumatic experience. Freaks were born with their trauma. They've already passed their test in life. They're aristocrats."
I had an interesting conversation with one of my professors a couple of weeks ago, a piece of which is also called to mind here. He and I were discussing my semester in London, and began to compare experiences as Americans in England. Both of us came up with the impression of being the "Restless Yank" according to our British counterparts. There is something in the American culture that must constantly stir the pot, push the envelope, question...
Secondly, Sontag mentions about Arbus one fact which makes her, in our collective consciousness, a tortured Romantic of sorts: she killed herself. Sontag writes, "...as with Sylvia Plath, the attention her work has attracted since her death is of another order--a kind of apotheosis. The fact of her suicide seems to guarantee that her work is sincere, not voyeuristic, that it is compassionate, not cold. Her suicide also seems to make the photographs more devastating, as if it proved that the photographs to have been dangerous to her."(39). Following this "lead" I found mention of a work called "The Journalist and The Murderer" by Janet Malcom:
which I will have to track down and peruse. What creates this "destructive" relationship between artist and subject/art? I know that it is mimetic, in my own experience, of a certain kind of obsessive love, which is the unique product of certain persons entering into a relationship with each other. I am just fascinated by the process, and by our imaginings about it...
Monday, August 06, 2007
I'VE BEEN READING A LOT OF INTERESTING things lately which are really stirring the pot between my ears. Most recently, it has been (yet another!) Susan Sontag essay that is striking me profoundly. On Photography is the 1977 collection of essays which Sontag herself says "started with one essay--about some of the problems, aesthetic and moral, posed by the omnipresence of photographed images; but the more I thought about what photographs are, the more complex and suggestive they became." I, too, feel that photographs are complex and suggestive. I feel this way about 'art' at large, in all of its forms, but--because of my nature--i am most perplexed and vested in the aesthetic and moral dilemmas posed by those artforms which i participate most fully in. Photography would, obviously, be one of them. So, I am just beginning the book, but already the first essay has my head spinning with the implications of Sontag's thought trails...especially if brought up to date. She wrote the book thirty years ago. Take this passage, for example:
"Photographs, which fiddle with the scale of the world, themselves get reduced, blown up, cropped, retouched, doctored, tricked out. They age, plagued by the usual ills of paper objects; they disappear; they become valuable, and get bought and sold; they are reproduced. Photographs, which package the world, seem to invite packaging. They are stuck in albums, framed and set on tables, tacked on walls, projected as slides. Newspapers and magazines feature them; cops alphabetize them; museums exhibit them; publishers compile them."
Now, begin thinking of the implications of this paragraph alone, if we apply Sontag's complex understanding of the way in which photos "package" the world and "invite packaging," in turn, to the most up-to-date technology in such packaging:
Two major realizations hit me while reading and thinking about this bit of philosophy:
1. I realized suddenly, instantaneously, that I scarcely even regard photos as physical objects. I, like most of the modern world, deal in digital space. "Space" being a complicated word to use here because there is not much physical space required, as the iphone testifies. For me, photos do not age and brown and crease; they can still be lost. But, I can have them endlessly at my fingertips, and their modified versions too are endless. I already use two types of software to modify photos, by virtue of the fact that I have access to both a Mac and PC all the time. And this software is FREE. I become my own editor, The autonomy, and what Sontag later describes as the "democratic" property of photography is heightened immensely by this technology.
2. The photos may be reproduced anywhere. This is something that struck me as profound months ago, when I was in Paris, at the Musee d'Orsay, watching an exhibit of Samuel Becket's works, including film pieces. I thought briefly, as I was taking my usual moleskin notes on the pieces i found particularly inspiring, that it would be cool to find one of these clips on YouTube and send it to a friend, so they could share the experience. BAM. My friend was back in Virginia. I was in Paris. And yet, I could bring her to that gallery space with me, in a sense, because Beckett's medium has now become portable and reproducible, in the fullest sense. The moral dilemma struck me as well: if this piece of artwork is infinitely reproducible, then, where does its integrity lie? I am no longer a museum-goer looking at a rembrandt which only exists in one copy. It's not a one-to-one correspondence.
Where is the art?
Or, where isn't the art?
Thursday, August 02, 2007
Laced tributaries formed
a watershed of dark
hair, hung like thread
at the base of a loom,
down my back.
Your short, papery fingers
pushed the blonde from your face
with nails like clean plates, encircled
by skin pulled back like fins
on the belly of a fish.
The foggy bathroom smelled of lemon.
The juice ran slick and clouded
with distended, lucent-yellow fibers
squeezed from a plastic bottle
you kept in the fridge.
My wavy, wet hair based,
and sent to play in the yard
by your Lowcountry voice,
I would swing between the willow
and sugary-sweet mimosas,
until the sun
offered enough gold
to wreathe it, like yours.
I would perch on the deep green, marble counter, while
she placed the sparkling birds or delicate, round pearls,
first in one ear, then the other,
while she told me that the thing about pearls
is the more you wear them, the shinier they get.
I pressed my fingers until they formed indentations,
catching the clasp at the nape of her neck.
She asked me to, because her knuckles already buldged
like Cypress "knees" above the swamp;
besides, her nails were freshly done geranium-pink.
Her maried initials were threaded through the pillow shams
of a canopy bed: elaborate soft white linen and lace, as pristinely sharp-cornered
as the collars on his shirts for nearly fifty years.
Next to the dresser, she, as a young woman, looked
back at herself, from a bone-china oval frame
chased in painted bluebells and forget-me-nots.
Her eyes were taut at the corners, her teeth
shining to match a double row of pearls
at the hollow of her throat, over the "v" of
branching collar-bones above a pale dress.
I thought her the most beautiful woman I had ever seen.
The photo must have dated from her Coker College years
of high-wasted, belted skirts, and no curlers allowed at dinner.
She had been happy and had a "steady" then,
but grandaddy wouldn't leave her alone until she was his.
In a frame beside it, his big, pale eyes caught the light
beneath a heavy brow and a Citadel crew-cut.
Though they were no longer married by then, she still
bought him clothes at Christmas, and answered when he called
to ask what she was cooking.
She would pull on the jacket to her cornflower-blue suit
when she was ready, and stick her feet,
into two different shoes, lifting the crease
of her pant leg, for a sidelong view,
always choosing some pair of less-comfortable, more-beautiful
leather heels, no matter where we were going.
She talked about Tokyo and Paris as though it was still the 1950's
and her wordliness could never be outdated.
She always said "Italian" as though it were "Eye-talian,"
affecting an accent though she was from "right there in Trio."
Wherever we went, people told her she was beautiful,
and I was beautiful, and so lucky to look like her.
I asked her how come she was a tomboy when she was younger,
and she said it was cause she wanted to be like her brother, Wendell.
And I asked her, after the divorce, why she didn't change her name,
and she said it was because Green was a nicer color.
(though this poem is based on the relationship I have with my grandmother, much of it has been fabricated or altered in some way to serve the poem, largely because of the creative direction of my creative writing class peers.)
Wednesday, August 01, 2007
GREETINGS, DEDICATED READER(S). So, I've been doing some thinking...and this is going to be jumbled. Because, I don't know exactly what I've been thinking about, only that I am about to start my senior year of college, work is slow and summer school is over. I find myself washed ashore in my college town virtually devoid of my friends (who have all scampered home for a few weeks' vacation, or work uncomplimentary hours to my own). So! I have had occasion for thinking. Ooooh.
Firstly, I have been visited by a few extravagant and kind gestures from the universe lately. I won't mention anything too specific, since the persons who supplied these actions need not be made starlets from my blog-o-praise. ha!
One of the incidences, though, does bear repeating: I had occasion to visit my hometown over the weekend, for a friend's wedding. While there, I dragged my boyfriend to see my childhood home. I lived there from my second birthday until I was fourteen years old; and the house was designed by my mother specifically for our family. I haven't been back in a few years. While there, Boyfriend and I were creeping around to the backyard for a peek, when the current owner of the house emerged, very wary of us. (In my defense, I had every intention of knocking once I established that there was in fact someone home!) A lovely barefoot woman with chin-length silver hair, pulled back from her face with a clip, demanded that we tell her our business in her backyard...my answer? "Hi. Sorry to bother you, but, I'm the little girl who grew up in this house."
We talked for an hour. The willow is bigger than the house, the mimosa is gone from the backyard, and the bradford pear from the front, black-eyed susans run along the new rought-iron and red-brick fence, caging a lab-mix and a basset hound. They took down the wallpaper in my brother's room, redid the master bath, kept my pink walls, closed off the upstairs and don't run the AC up there (oh the mold, was my mother's response later). The backporch was extended with a deck onto the garden, and an elaborate trellis of vines where our playhouse had been; the chimney sweeps still live in the chimney, and the robins in the back ferns. She called the vines "creepers" and said they don't flower, so that rules out trumpet flowers or 'yella jasmine' (the state flower). When we left she said "Ya'll come back now, hear?" and I was surprised that people still say that.
When we couldn't stand the sweat or bugs anymore, I climbed in the driver's seat of my car, which now felt like an oven, and drove around the neighborhood, breaking for the corn patch, bike paths, ditches, fields, and the house with the-asian-family-who-owned-Shoney's and (still) have a huge, vintage Big Boy statue in their backyard, along the way. It was some 7 hours later, when we were in the car on the way back to VA, that I turned to Mark and said, "I wanted a moment to myself at the house, you know?" He said he could tell, that after I was finished playing 20,000 questions about the trees and birds, I had wanted to just be there for a little while, maybe look at the grass, or the porch floors, or the curves of the railings. I had wanted a switch from my willow, I had wanted to run my hand over the basketball hoop.
I know that I am unusually sentimental, attentive to detail, and I come from a family overgrown with the urge to tell stories, impart memories, sanctify places... but, we all have that to a certain degree. I waited a day to call my mother, sure I would cry. And I nearly did. That much-changed house, in that dried up and dying town (i was overwhelmed by the number of vacant buildings), still calls to me after a childhood hell-bent on getting out. The taste of it has lingered with me for a few days now, making my coffee sweeter, my books richer, my thoughts softer. I put myself to sleep with a virtual tour of the house as I knew it. I made some peace with leaving that place, and rekindled a yearning for those roots, at once. These things are invaluable when I, and most of my peers, stand at a juncture, a precipice, a crossing, a change, and peer over. There's always a trail of breadcrumbs back, guys.