I think I’ve said it before, about showing up for work. When I show up a poem kinda pops out of the oven. It’s kind of magic. I don’t know how long the magic will last. I’m willing to bet that if I don’t practice a kind of literary rust will happen and I’ll kick literary dust. So today, I’ve got another Dylan number. To be honest the poem happened before the song. That song just kinda fits. So here it is, and you’re to write about it, around it, away from it and then come back to it. Oh right, imagine you’re coming to another birthday and mortality’s knocking.
Hey guys, everyone’s into the presidential election and I suppose the outcome’s a somewhat forgone conclusion by now. This election’s marred however you interpret it. I don’t mean to get into any of it. Whatever goes on with politics, your personal struggles remain and of course it’s linked to government. What the government does, how it does, and does not. I’m really an outsider watching so yea I am sticking to poetry, poets, and Dylan in particular. Him and Yeats are towering in my estimation. In contrast my own poems are just ditties. Anyway, does it matter? Not to you maybe, but it’s my journey. Hopefully I’m not on the final leg but who knows? What I love about poetry is that it addresses eternal things. It addresses feelings, and those are real. Write a poem inspired by Yeats (see below) or Dylan or both.
THE LOVER TELLS OF THE ROSE IN HIS HEART
All things uncomely and broken, all things worn out and old,
The cry of a child by the roadway, the creak of a lumbering cart,
The heavy steps of the ploughman, splashing the wintry mould,
Are wronging your image that blossoms a rose in the deeps of my heart.
The wrong of unshapely things is a wrong too great to be told;
I hunger to build them anew and sit on a green knoll apart,
With the earth and the sky and the water, re-made, like a casket of gold
For my dreams of your image that blossoms a rose in the deeps of my heart.
By now America’s great again. At least by measure of the 2016 Nobel Prize in Literature awarded to Bob Dylan. It’s timely too. Seemed to have salved the wound that is the current presidential campaign. A counter revolutionary poet no less.
So write a poem that wants to be a song. Try to be as poetic as the lyrics that Dylan wrote. Like this:
The wind howls like a hammer
The night blows cold and rainy
My love she’s like some raven
At my window with a broken wing.
–Bob Dylan, “Love Minus Zero/No Limit”
Truth is, I’ve dreamt of snakes and a scorpion. I still remember the sliminess. But you look on as a captive audience. Stilled in continuous movement. I don’t know what to make of the scorpion though. Perhaps it’s my unconscious telling me I’ve been stung, back bitten. Whatever. So you are to write about things of the unconscious. Your dreams maybe. Or, as a foil, you are to write about light, or lightness. Like stained glass windows. Like this. It always works to expel all that ooziness.
How right the poet was who called
man a brittle, crazie glasse,
unable to convey God’s word,
but also, that with grace at last,
cracks may delineate fine forms;
though stained, he can reflect his God.
Poetry alone cannot reveal
the aptness of the analogue,
but coming here to see and feel
the Master’s spirit in their work,
these jewelled windows of the air
make the poet’s meaning clear.
Our words and pictures need the light
to capture what’s beyond mere sight.
–Lee Tzu Pheng, “Cathedral Windows”
Is October gonna be awesome? My favorite month, you won’t let me down will you? You already have you know. My heart is bluish. Feeling so out of it. Kinda like hitting rock bottom. So I’m wary of social circles. They’re like permeable barriers that one pushes through and then pushes out of. Human connections are helluva complicated. Fragile’s the word. You wish it’s like the threads will connect and strengthen into a kind of rope. And then the rope hangs someone. You maybe. Now you know how morbid happens. What to do? Write a poem describing some scene, fictional or otherwise. Words are like paint, so paint a scene to distill a feeling. For example, like this:
Grass is being cut
along the verge
of the main road.
Every once in a while
workmen give the ground
a good shave.
The air becomes an acrid tang
the colour of green.
Blades of unkempt grass
flick like shrapnel
in the wake
of the grass-cutters’
trim and hum.
When I was young
the whirling blades were real
and steel and would
snarl and snap
at a wayward child
as well as grass.
Now the grass is
and softly pruned and lapped
with plastic thread
like pliant curlers.
Even as these lines
fall behind me
the grass will resume
its intractable invasion
of the verges
while the days
that are left
fall and fall away
from the hard edge
blade after blade
like cut grass.
–Alvin Pang, “grass cutting”
So we’re not dead yet, are we? I don’t know about you, but there seems be a kind of death when you’re not writing. Paraphrase that. Not writing seems to be a kind of death. I write therefore I am? Are you smelling ash? As if on cue, I am. Anyway why not hold that thought (or smell) and write a poem about death. It’s something that you hold close to your heart, I’d bet. Here’s how one poet wrote about ash:
“The house and yard dressed in a skin of ash.
It was raining embers, the night air thronged
with giddy petals that swirled
on the updraft, flared
to incandescence before curling into papery
–Boey Kim Cheng, “Clear Brightness”
If not for death, we’d not be poets. Probably.
You’d be forgiven for thinking poetry is dense. Obscure stuff. So why bother right? I mean, if you’re uninitiated, then yes. Its riches are gathered up by only the initiated I guess. The likes of Emily Dickinson “spreading wide my narrow Hands/
To gather Paradise.” Yet the veil is thin. So see what you can gather up in Ada Limon’s “The Frontier of Never Leaving”. And try your damnest to join the ranks of the initiated. Heck, write a poem in response.
If the wound you cover is made of sheet metal
and iron gates left over from the junkyard of
of Forever Worried, and the school of Always Broken,
here, I have saved you a seat. If you have hidden your
outlawed books in your mattress and your outlawed
thoughts in your hands, here, I will give you refuge.
This is what I heard underneath it all, underneath and in the
beginning but now let’s move to Canada. I hear it’s nice and
they don’t kill each other as often. I can even forgive them for speaking
French. Really, not all of them speak French. But would I miss it?
If I move to Canada, and there’s no war in the Spring
I won’t miss Iowa, that’s for certain, but it’s the only thing.
The fields keep growing longer like a veil between us,
the mountains like sutures on the map, and yet they are
ours, the way mustard can be ours off the highway
and windmills in the deserts and roads, even roads. Barbed
wire between us, fences between us. The roadrunner has
run into the river and Misters, you do not care. Another puzzle
piece of my American map has unfolded. I am the only
thing that fits together here, in this frontier of Never Leaving.
Today, I am going to play the record of the revolution,
everybody is going to sing along and the more we turn it up,
the less the flag will wave over you and the more it will
become a swallowtail and migrate to our houses, the little ones
in the back, the ones with the lights in the window. Look!
You can see them now, opening their doors in the fog.