It seemed that I am in the company of sages. Poetic sages, so many, too many. Each one unique as hell. If you ever felt like a poet of lesser light, like I do, you’d get out some John Ashberry poems to read. I just read one called “My Philosophy of Life”. It started like this:
“Just when I thought there wasn’t room enough
for another thought in my head, I had this great idea–
call it a philosophy of life, if you will. Briefly,
it involved living the way philosophers live,
according to a set of principles. OK, but which ones?”
What melange of thoughts do we go through in a day? In a week, in a year?
Is it possible to have deep, meaningful conversations? As opposed to how people just latch on to whatever there is? Like discuss the latest ‘in’ things, or spout totally unoriginal ideas. I mean, what’s your personal take? Is it even that original?
This is how he ends the poem:
“Still, there’s a lot of fun to be had in the gaps between ideas.
That’s what they’re made for! Now I want you to go out there
and enjoy yourself, and yes, enjoy your philosophy of life, too.
They don’t come along every day. Look out!There’s a big one…”
So the prompt is to write about the ideas that are in your head.
John Ashberry has died. Much celebrated in academia, but his poetry is difficult, not accessible. He had said of his poems, “What they are is about the privacy of all of us, and the difficulty of our own thinking. And in that way, they are, I think, accessible if anyone cares to access them.” Also he said, “I don’t find any direct statements in life” (how true)..”My poetry imitates or reproduces the way knowledge or awareness comes to me, which is by fits and starts and by indirection. I don’t think poetry arranged in neat patterns would reflect that situation.” (touché)
Look at these lines from his poem, “The Problem of Anxiety”:
“Suppose this poem were about you–would you
put in the things I’ve carefully left out:
descriptions of pain, and sex, and how shiftily
people behave toward each other? Naw, that’s
all in some book it seems. For you
I’ve saved the descriptions of chicken sandwiches,
and the glass eye that stares at me in amazement
from the bronze mantel, and will never be appeased.”
So the prompt is to write a poem in which what is written about is actually not what it’s about. What? Who said poetry is easy?
It’s been a while since I last wrote a poem. So I stayed up late to write one. So what has poetry to do with flood relief? Well, Josh Medsker will be reading the first poems out in our Fall/Winter 2017/2018 issue on Monday, 4 Sept 2017. The poems are by Mitchell Krockmalnik Grabois, a clinical psychologist. Josh’s asking for you to make a small donation to flood relief in Houston. We do what we can right? I am heartened when I see photos of rescue. Thanks to all the guys who are doing flood relief work there. The prompt is to write about rain.
Stay tuned to Josh on Facebook here.
Have you had the experience and no words? I mean, all along you were trying to say everything in words. But when you say there’re no words, it seemed that the real thing is huge, it’s like a gargantuan thing. Or the scenery, it’s beyond words isn’t it? That’s because words are really secondary, not primary to what’s out there. What’s out there? It’s better shown in a picture or a moving image than in words. Might one think of words as inferior then? And my answer is, not if the words nailed what is happening so well that they became the net that gave meaning to the experience. And anyway can we go for prolonged periods in a wordless state I ask you? So for this final prompt for the Spring/Summer 2017 issue–submission closes today guys–it is to write about language and how we use it to show experience and that includes the feeling that went with it. Yup, you have today to write if you so desire.
So guys we’re indeed drawing to a close. In about a week, the Spring/Summer 2017 issue will be all wrapped up. Next Friday 25 August to be exact. I’ve been waiting for this day. The bar’s closing up. Don’t ask me what happens next. I’m thinking of those vintage places–so many–whose occupants are mostly dead and well, you know. Are you sad? Nah. Maybe just a little. I’d need a little time to reflect. At least we’ll be thought of as vintage. No seriously I’ll keep doing these prompts. I like doing them. You can still send in poems, prompted or otherwise, to the journal. It’d be like a free and easy tour. Kind of. Of course you can always submit to other places, more legit ones maybe? I don’t know. You decide for yourself. I did say I’d be putting out poetry collections. But that’d be taking place at a much slower pace. So yes if you’ve got 30 poems and I like them all, then yeah. Collections, guys. Stay prompted. For today write about something that has a sense of an ending.
Love is always a good idea, isn’t it? I’ve been reading stories about love and it’s always about illusions. It’s a kind of obsession that is ultimately illusory. What is true love but real love? And that’s about not having any illusions. It’s about pain rather than excitement. Real love is painful. It is kind of like thinking about the other person’s mortality, and your own, and then dealing with each other in tenderness about it. It’s about emotional support. It’s never about physical ecstasy, although that seemed to be a selling point. Think about the idea of the labor of love.
Time flies. Soon I’ll be wrapping up our Spring/Summer 2017 issue. It’ll be our final thematic edition. As they say, I’m taking a sabbatical. I could still be writing poems and prompts though, if you’d like this sort of thing. We’ll see. As Cyndi Lauper sings,
“And once we start the meter clicks
And it goes running all through the night
Until it ends, there is no end.”
I’m aware that it’s not entirely natural to write at will to prompts. So if you don’t do prompts then you can still send in your newly written poems. We’re starry eyed and we like it that way, right? I could always put those under the unprompted section. Anyway for today, write about the stars.