oulipost 21: battered artist

On a roll today (three done before sundown yessss), which is good, because it’s going to be a busy day tomorrow. This one is for Oulipost’s “confabulation” prompt, constructing a “he said-she said” poem out of quotes from the paper. I took a bunch of direct quotes from dudes and ladies, but ultimately it ended up being a lady’s story, so I let the poem roll with it. For the sake of demonstration, the italics came from quotes by women, non-italics from quotes by men.

Off to workshop for now!

Battered Artist Narrates Leaving Her Husband

I chose to photograph the space
exactly as it appears — I think, “Look, I’m a novice,
I’m a newbie, I’m stretching my legs,” but because
the shutter is open for so long, it moved to
the corner, and then my office, and then the closet,
attracted to spaces without people.
Architecture does not move; I tell the truth. I cannot
lie before God. Three months ago, I literally did not know
what I was doing. And then because you go away,
for a few months, I do not move or change things.
I’m finally able to think straight.
Pop culture did a good job of getting us
addicted to the airport — I don’t know where you go.
Who was responsible for this bizarre masterpiece?
People don’t even know you, but they say,
‘Oh, I guess she never comes out of the closet?’
The answer was overwhelmingly: “I’m free from
everything now.” I cut my hair. I look a little different
walking in there and kissing the ring and saying,
The good thing is the freedom. But the good thing is
letting you know
you actually leave.

oulipost 19: aging yuppies

I must say, I am surprisingly proud of myself with this one.

The Oulipost prompt was to make a (holy shit) sestina out of the found text from the paper; I took four articles about marijuana from the Village Voice, which is their feature for the week. Process note: I dropped the entire text into Word, picked out my teleutons (I’m using this instead of “endwords” because I’m feeling pretentious today), and then just wrote the damn thing, checking through the Word document along the way to see if the words I wanted were in there. If they weren’t, I checked for synonyms, or went in a new direction of none could be found, and the whole thing took surprisingly little time (about an hour). (I might have changed a verb tense here or there.) And it makes sense, kind of! And there’s a narrative, kind of!

…sestinas are beastly things, but as far as sestinas go, one could do worse, I guess. One could certainly do better. I’ll take it. ^_^

Aging Yuppies Mellow Out, Learn Russian

We spent the day reading Dostoevsky
in the crystal light of a Brooklyn spring:
all white wax and purple variation.
We bought up our pretension from the state
with old film cases and ready money
from college research. Now we can last years

relaxing on the sofa, foie gras years
topped with wine. The pleasure of Dostoevsky
is: he never gets boring, like blue money
flowing among roses from a wellspring.
We crave the Russian sentence in this state:
long and green and full of variation,

food for the brain. We want variation
because we spent so many empty years
smashed dull by the system. We couldn’t state
what love was, opened up Dostoevsky
and, halfhearted, picked out what would spring
from the page. Caught in the forge of money

were hosts of whispers. Born to covet money,
within the walls of dorm rooms, variation
seemed bizarre as a camera running on springs.
How did we bust out? It took twenty years
of care and– day by day– Dostoevsky,
to get us out of that malignant state.

We walked around the country, state to state,
doing research on how to really live. Money
fell away; we only needed Dostoevsky,
who sustained us with strange variation,
and each other. Literature of yesteryear
led us, at last, to this dopamine spring

where we’re comfortable, full of relief, spring
physical with appetite. Normal states
are for normal people. We say, “This year,
motherfucker, we’re not after money,
church, any of that shit.” Just variation,
something new. (Except Dostoevsky–

he’s staying). The first spring of the first year
of money-freedom, Dostoevsky will be
the symbol; variation, the blissed-out state.

oulipost 8: trickster god

Ah, the best laid plans. I’d intended to get ahead a bit on the poems for the month tonight, since it’s my freest night of the week (and I likely won’t get another this free for a while), but instead I just goofed off all evening. I did meet my quota for today (four), but so much for getting ahead of the curve a bit. This is for Oulipost, prompt the eighth: to write a beau présent poem, that only uses words made from the letters of a chosen name. The first proper name I came across in the paper was “Tom Hiddleston“, so I had a decent set to work with… here’s what I came up with, in my addled, sleep-needing state.

Trickster God Discusses Eschatology

Most destinies end in demolition:
no stone is stolen, totems melted,
losses on most hostiles. The demons
tithe hedonism to someone
to sit on the demolished hill,
toss some lemon-lime Stoli shots,
hidden in time’s slitted middle. Noontide,
tell the middlemen, slide the loose shot
to the noiseless tents stood in omission.
Inside, the middens on the lines
host mementos, denied modesties,
the Deeds Not Mentioned. Some
is set to one side to see its old edition;
most is led onto the sled, soon to
the sentiment mills, then deletion.

poem-a-thon 3: prayer for an easy death

A quick update, as it’s been a busy day at work… the NaPoWriMo challenge was to do a “charm” poem as a nursery rhyme/recipe. Honestly, I did not have much time this afternoon, and won’t this evening, so I threw together this simple and depressing (and simply depressing?) little thing. It doesn’t particularly tie into anything else, but I suppose once in a while one needs something simple to stretch out the fingers and the tongue.

To anyone who worries about such things: this is entirely fictive, and I’m fine. Though it doesn’t sound like such a bad way to go.

Prayer for an Easy Death

Saltwater bless me
and candlelight rest me
with sleep again.
Let my solution
to bloodborne pollution
sound in the rain.
Cedarwood in the fire,
come finally unwire
the failing brain.

resonance six

A bit late on this one… I’ve been incredibly lazy this weekend for no definable reason. But what’s weird is that my laziness has been punctuated by bursts of getting shit done. I woke up early to accomplish all kinds of tasks by noon, and then proceeded to loaf and laze and lounge my way through the rest of the day, more or less. Maybe my blood sugar is too low or something? Anyway, tomorrow I start the other workshop, which is pretty cool. Not sure what I’ll bring yet, though; I had hoped to get something new in order, but at this point in the evening it’s unlikely. Maybe I’ll cave and try to write something decent to a prompt, since that’s usually good for a jolt to the brain.

I’m also going to try and update this blog more than once a week; keep an eye or two (or three?) peeled for a few reviews and Interesting Announcements that I will make when I have the wherewithal. But I’m pretty out of wherewithal for the evening; all that will have to wait.

It’s all I can muster to get together something for resonance six this evening. There is currently a mix of classic, little-known, fantastic, and awful 80s music ringing out from the kitchen, most of which my roommate is singing along to. It has me thinking about the idea of “retro” as cultural cachet, and wondering whether any generation realizes, in the thick of it, that eventually their music/style/celebrities will be appropriated by their children. I look around at the state of such things nowadays and feel nonplussed that that could ever happen with what I grew up with, but give it another ten years, and I’m sure they’ll be having 90s parties (even — yikes — 00s parties), finding new value in what I’ve taken for granted, ultimately paying no heed to (even though it’s buried forever in my cultural consciousness).

Therefore, tonight we’re going to look back, and then look forward to look back: a poetry in the future perfect, if you will. Start by making a list of places, people, songs, words, anything that have changed in your estimation from one point of time in your past to the present. Maybe you had a notion of France before you traveled there that has become, in the now, very different; maybe the person you thought your aunt was has been undone by crime, or Alzheimer’s, or an unexpected revelation. Each item in your list (let’s say, ten things) should have at least two qualities to show that progression from A to B. Try to vary it a little bit, too: get specific and abstract, get personal and political.

Next, take ten things in your life that you’ve only encountered, or at least formed a solid developed opinion on, in the past year. It could be someone you’ve just met recently, it could be a place you’ve never heard of before, it could be the Wikipedia featured article. Gather ten things that are new to the sphere of your consciousness, and list one descriptor for each of them that sums up how you feel.

Now for the weird part. Begin your poem with a time phrase that sets it in the future: you can be as vague as “Before I die, I will…” or as specific as “Next Thursday, at three o’clock…” Project yourself forward to that date. You don’t have to make it a first-person poem, but allow your view of these places and people to color them when they appear in the poem (because yes, they’re going to appear). Next, you’re going to look for connections between your two lists: maybe some of the items on your first list have trajectories like mystical—disappointment (your idea of Italy?), aloof—traumatized (your childhood neighbor’s daughter?), a chore—a way to relate to my parents (Church on Sundays?), etc. Then look for items on your second list that echo either “mystical” or “disappointment”, and pair them with Italy. Look for items on your second list that are either chores or points of parental connection. Consider these new things in your life as they relate to what is already present, either as it is now, or as you used to see it.

Try to form metaphors and similes and make-likes that draw these lines for the reader in fun or interesting ways. (“My first taste of the air at Genoa / could not have been less like the emerald salt / I imagined. Santa does not exist; / all dogs do not go to heaven; / the spray off the cliffs was too familiar / mud, and sedge, and sunburned thorn.”) You can populate your poem with as many as you want, but ultimately, you are projecting into the future, and the overarching theme of the poem is how will you come to terms with change, or transformation, either in general, or for one/some/all of the things specifically? How will the things that have recently entered your life change in the future, and how will you deal with that, given your past experiences and how you associate them with the now?

Let that inform the structure and content of your poem, and possibly even the voice of it. It’s an exercise that can be uncomfortable — I think as material beings, we are programmed to avoid thinking about mortality and time in this way — but writing our way through it helps. If you feel the spirit move you to do so, please come back to share; I’m curious to see what comes out of this one in particular!

resonance three

This just in: apparently my prompts can be confusing! Sorry guys. In regards to the last one, what I meant by “scatterplot” wasn’t anything from a statistics course, I just meant a bunch of dots drawn on a page. I thought having some kind of visual connect-the-dots component might be nifty, but I suppose I should have given an example. :P This week’s will be easier!

I’m a bit dismayed at not being at the Winter Getaway this year. I had family things to attend to this weekend, and although I had considered driving down for an evening’s jaunt, being sick + the threat of snow + everything going on dissuaded me sufficiently. So now I am just wrapped in many blankets and curled in my bed, typing a prompt. I hope that will do to keep the poetic juices flowing for today at least. I need to fashion an ice pick out of words to start chipping away at the layers that have accreted to my brain, to help speed along the thaw.

So, I’m going to keep resonance three a lot simpler. I’ve been noticing a lot of moments today with interplays of color; rolling with that as a theme, along with a few other nimble techniques of crafting the word. First, pick two colors (blue and white? red and purple? black and chartreuse?) and assign a texture, tint, or some other quality to each one. You might say “metallic blue” or “soft rose” or “dull jade”. Get an idea of what material you might be considering, whether it’s pure light, or a piece of fabric, or something else entirely. Allow one color/texture combination to fall upon the other, and place it within a setting: a kitchen, a park bench, a DMV office. Show the setting with objects or people or sounds rather than just telling us where in one place or another.

You can consider how these colors might catch your attention in that location, or they might be incidental details that distract you from a larger story. You can create this scenario, or just keep an eye peeled during your day for the first moment when the colors come to life in some interesting way. But however it is, jot it down and keep that experience in your pocket and leave it for a bit; because then, you’re going to wait until something reminds you of it. Maybe you’re suddenly struck by a “liquid bronze” (sunlight) against a “cold granite” (countertop) spilled next to a carafe of orange juice (in your kitchen), and two days later you’re reminded of it by a fire in a trash can covered with dirty snow. Or maybe someone talking about countertops will remind you of it; or maybe just drinking orange juice. Allow the senses to re-awaken this memory, real or unreal, and allow yourself to consider the connections between these two moments.

Now, begin to write. Consider the tone of each moment and how they differ, as well as how they’re similar. Try to stay within the realm of description; don’t allow your thoughts to carry you too far away from concrete details. Who is present, what are you doing, what are you wearing, what smells surround you? Play around with narrative structure: do you want to write about the second occurrence reminding you of the first, or the first foreshadowing the second? Overall, the sense we should get is that these moments of connection never happen in isolation: they add a layer of emotion that transforms and is transformed by what they link together. If you were lonely and quiet in the kitchen, then full of adrenaline in the alleyway with the trash can fire, how do those experiences affect each other through the lens of their shared tissue, those colors? It might be a tenuous connection, but try to use words to bolster it, making it strong enough for your reader to walk on.

Notice I said it might be a little bit easier to follow this prompt, not harder to execute. :) Take the time to really understand and be with it, then by all means come back and share it. If you really want to make it hard on yourself, write a poem in two stanzas of equal length, balancing these two visions. Happy writing!

renovation twenty-five: prospect park

Five more days until the end of the month! I honestly can’t believe that I’ve made it this far. And yet, those next five days still seem like an impossible task… but I suppose, by the time next week rolls around, things will be, for better or for worse, advanced to the next stage. And then the week after that, and the one after that.

A friend of mine did a tarot reading last month for me that she said was to be predictive of the next year. November and December both came up as crazy and chaotic, but then it was the up-and-up. I’m going to hope for that kind of thing. There have been moments where my own strength has surprised me, and others where I think I only got by thanks to luck.

Enough small talk. The prompt, an ‘t please thee:

1. “…couples were gathering like flocks of geese…” (Tony Hoagland, “Coming and Going”)
2. “The bark spreads, the roots tighten.” (Louise Bogan, “To a Dead Lover”)
3. “I am too polite for my own good…” (me, “Champs-sur-Yonne”)
4. poker chips
5. Name something that irks you, even though it makes you feel silly.
BONUS. Move through time and tense, grammatically and/or thematically, in the following order of “frames”: present, future, past, present, the unreal or alternative present, and then a real, but undefined and “universal” present.
ALTERNATE (4). a bowl of chowder

And the sort of off-kilter, bizarre narrative that grew from it:

(prospect park)

Tall grass is full of conversation
and lovers are unscrewing thermoses
while I am hunched in the bushes,
quite near. This one stretch of path
bristles with inkberry that I gather
one panicle at a time, very quiet,
trying not to make any noise.
I drop each purple cluster in my sack.
Later, if I am lucky, the juice will turn
to ink that I can write with. Long ago
I promised someone very dear
that I would do this: make paper,
make ink, make language, for her.
And now that the sky has grown
so grey, my unkept promises stand out
in sharp relief like ravens. The sack
droops half-full. Joggers are pounding
somewhere close to my little corner
behind the thorn. I almost wish
storms would open to ruin the day
for these people wasting time
while I am on a mission. Although,
I suppose it’s possible they felt
the same pressure around the temples
that I did. Sometimes these things
which seemed so foolish yesterday
become important. They perch
and clasp you. They drive you
into strange between places like this.

(I’m not sure if my use of “strange between” as adjectives works here, but I’m equally not sure how to punctuate it to make it clearer. Don’t want to say in-between, though, for some reason. Hrmm.)