So tis the last day of submission. I’m sorry guys, if your poems weren’t selected. Don’t stop trying. Your poem’s got to move me in different, sometimes unexpected ways. Who said writing poems would be easy? But there’ll be a new issue coming up shortly, so you’ll still be able to submit if you wish. Whatever it is, if you’re a poet, you get to live a creative life, which isn’t quite what ordinary folks get up to. Other folks get creative in other ways of course. Dance for instance. Whatever you do get into the groove. Then you’d be happy. Meanwhile I’ve got to get changed and go for a musical. That makes me happy. Write a poem about what makes you happy.
It’s almost the penultimate day to the final day for submission. How’s your mood? Are you in the mood for writing? For submitting? For not submitting? I’ve just finished reading Emile Zola’s The Belly of Paris. It is set in and around Les Halles, the enormous, busy central market of 19th Century Paris. It contains pretty robust descriptions of a real-life market. For instance, pigeons being slaughtered by breaking necks and slitting throats. I’m old enough to remember how live chickens were slaughtered in the markets where I live. The theme of the story is in the final punchline: “What bastards respectable people are!” Respectability is a veneer, associated with prosperous living and the willingness to sacrifice truth, practice deceit, to preserve that at any cost. I also came across an article in which Pope Francis said that it’s better to be an atheist than a hypocritical Catholic. Hmmm. Write a poem about hypocrisy, either of a person or in general terms.
Hey guys there’s about a week left for you to submit to our Fall/Winter 2016/2017 issue. Submissions close on 25 February. The theme is, The Heart Knows. Knowing is terribly important, is it not? In Antoine De Saint-Exupery’s The Little Prince, the prince had met a wild fox who’d asked him to tame it. Once you’ve tamed the fox, he won’t be just a fox like a hundred thousand other foxes. He’d have become your friend, the only one of his kind in the world. Same thing with roses, said the fox. “It’s the time that you gave to your rose that makes your rose so important,” he said.
“People have forgotten this truth,” said the fox. “But you mustn’t forget it. You become responsible for ever for what you have tamed. You are responsible for your rose…”
That’s why the prince had to die. So that he could return to the only rose on his planet. And thereafter the narrator would always think of his friend, the little prince, when he looked at the stars.
The secret, said the fox, is that “you can only see clearly with your heart. What’s essential is invisible to the eye.”
See if this quote inspires a poem.
It’s almost the end of the season for our current issue. Some of you might be looking forward to the next issue and wondering what the theme might be. I’d say, whatever it is, themes all kind of overlap one another. Love, loss, lies, spies, and the process of making art. So you just feel deeply whatever your godhead is, and write from that place. The theme would be one that’s familiar. I just defamiliarize it by putting a name to it, that’s all, marking a new season of spring/summer. If you are in reality in the fall/winter of your life, look back on your spring/summer. The second time round (you wish) would be just as sweet.
Everyone has a life story. What if you had to write a memoir? What would you tell? Would you list down events, expositional style? You know, the “and then” “and then” way of setting things down. Someone had said life has three great events: birth, sex and death. Would those be the hooks from which you’d expound your mini stories? Someone had also asked, what three things would you remember most about a person. Perhaps you’d try and answer that, as if your narrative is really an attempt to paint a character. Character is all. If someone remembers you as kind, curious, and has a sense of humor, would you be happy? I think I would. Your prompt would be to write a familial story.
Write a poem about nationalism. However that expresses it for you. How is that precious to you? How much of nationalism goes into making you? You could do it in a memoir form, which would mean how it was for you growing up in the country in which you were born. Describe the landscape, the people, the habits and how all of that becomes part of you. You get the idea. I’d like a peek into the country that made you.
Write a poem about mothers. I got inspired by this exchange.
Boy: Mom could you iron my shirt please?
Mom: No. Why?
Boy: Because you’re my mother.
Another one bites the dust.
Then take out the volume of poetry you’re reading, and quote one line from one of the poems. Why? Me: Because this is how poetry works. You: OK.
My quoted line, “our boy ate quite a pile of acid one time”, is taken from August Kleinzahler’s poem, “Green Sees Things in Waves”.