Archive for the 'Poetry' Category

Tremolo

January 25, 2011

Listening to the hallowed thump of my father’s fingers on the wood, the tiny squeak of the tuning pegs pulling tension on the strings, my two brothers and I gazed like giddy, perfect Buddhas into the hollow bodies of our parents’ Martin guitars from our spot on the floor at their feet.

And we watched their fingers strum and pick—the steel and the nylon—as they fumbled with their capos, and belted out the pages, one soprano, one alto, of torn sheet music with their throats.

John Denver, Jerry Jeff, Emmy Lou, Bob Dylan, Peter, Paul and Mary, Tom Paxton, Kris Kristofferson, The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band…

These folky jam sessions where my father sang into my mothers eyes and struggled to reach those higher notes never lasted all that long. The moments before someone was first to put down his or her guitar, to grab a cigarette, sounded best. The last notes hung sweetly like a tremolo, something mysterious and dark hovering overhead, a lumpy fog of calamitous death.

And it held us in place, for fear the slightest of our movements be the cause of this end. Except our voices, which rose above each plucked string along the fret, and danced, and knew we had no choice but to let go.

I take back everything I said…

June 23, 2010

Isn’t it ironic?

A teacher, criticized for his own work as having “limited relevancy due to…heavy usage of cultural references,” (see blurb below) criticizes a student for virtually the same thing. A comedic writer, not finding a comedic piece funny. And a classroom full of frustrated MFA students whose tolerance for argument seriously diminished due to an earlier line by line by line by line by line by line…analysis of one student’s 18-page story.

Such was our fate this afternoon, which made me want to take back everything I said the previous day.

Poor, poor Pete G____, whose story kicked ass but who got such bad reviews by Max Apple that I squirmed in my seat with discomfort (I think Prof Apple asked us not to use the word “squirm” to describe a character). This was not the kind of criticism I was talking about. I didn’t want anyone to have to hear over and over again “Your piece just isn’t funny.” “It’s just not funny.” “I didn’t find it funny in the least.”

But Pete’s piece was funny. It was subtly funny, and it poked fun at mass consumerism. Apple said consumerism isn’t funny anymore. It was funny But it’s not now. He also said that Pete never took his work to the next level. “It’s stale,” he said. “It’s not going anywhere.” Adding, “especially not for me.”

So, instead of giving Pete his fair share of a line by line analysis, he opted instead to read something that was “actually funny.”

And it was actually funny. It was “The School” by Donald Barthelme. And everyone laughed. BUt I argued that Pete’s goal was not just to offer a “farce” or a “satire” as Barthelme had done. Instead, he was giving us magic realism, farce and social criticism on consumerism. We shouldn’t compare. Max Apple’s reply? “It wasn’t funny.”

In fiction workshop today I learned several important things:

  1. Criticism can be harsh and hurtful. It’s all in the delivery. I think too little criticism on something that is obviously in need of it is not good. Nor is too much criticism to the point of the author feeling belittled. Some where there needs to be reality. As Stephen Dunn put it, “Our work here [in class] is provisional. These are poems on the way to becoming poems. Everyone wants their poems adored and that happen now and then…but not a lot.”
  2. Faces don’t “smolder like a freshly lit cigarette” (but I think I already knew that)
  3. Sometimes things aren’t always as they seem. Students can love a piece for one reason, while an instructor can find reasonable fault with it. Both side have merit. It’s your job to pay attention to both.
  4. And lastly: Don’t argue with an old man who’s written five books and teaches at the University of Pennsylvania. Respect him, despite disagreeing with him.

More to come on Stephen Dunn.

“Apple has been compared favorably with John Barth, Philip Roth, and Woody Allen. Although his work has received critical acclaim and enjoys considerable popularity, some commentators think it may have limited relevancy due to Apple’s heavy usage of cultural references. However, it has been posited by some scholars that Apple’s audience is increasingly a younger generation, more sympathetic to his flashy postmodern technique and for whom written language is less meaningful than Apple’s pictographs.” –Taken from enotes

We left our watches…

June 30, 2009

sleeps_alone_tonight_by_nightide_reaper

We left our watches, left them on the nightstand, next to a half glass of water with a ring of condensation under it, sweating through the night.  Some hours before, I crossed your fields, burned your crosses, dressed your burns, and ripped your dress, or at least I talked about it or maybe it was you doing the talking.  You were beautiful and spiritual and endless and a fourth thing that I cannot describe or explain or now even recall.  The images were fleeting, sexual and possibly in black and white, but mostly grey.  The lights flickered on and off.  By your hand, by your foot.  In the moments after, I seemed confused but I felt that I was not.  You looked at the clock but could not quite make out the hands across the room.  The sun was going to come up soon or it had just gone down.  The natural light was falling faintly across the ground outside your window.  Later you were gone, writing, and I was finding myself where I was supposed to be.  I looked at my watch, drank the water, and waited for you.

-DH

She’s smiling

June 29, 2009

She’s smiling
She’s smiling at him
She’s smiling at him but you can’t see him
Because he’s not in the picture
But he’s smiling back at her who is
And they’re laughing about a joke he just told
Something funny
Something funny about a Vespa
And wearing matching crocs
Something that makes her laugh so much
That she feels like she’s connected again
That she feels like she’s in the right place
For the first time
Photogenic
And smiling

Now

March 19, 2009

I’ve given up my writing for her.
All the words that were in my head,
I’ve let them go, and now
I’m hollow and barren
and reading shit poetry
for no fortune or fame.
I’ve given up my confessions
for him
and his reputation
and his people
and his feelings.
Being in love with a surgeon
rips your heart out.
I’ve lost the wide
open space of those empty
days when the lilt of time
is filled with the ups
and downs of my own brave,
imbalanced
world of emotions.
Those moments which
are no longer mine,
where I was the source
and the sink
and all the mundane stuff in between.
Those days when you lie in the grass
looking up at the sky
and watch the clouds
wax and wither like
smoke from a match, and
you have the time to think
how everything is so damn
vague and changing
and that all you want
is for this moment 
to last forever.

A Caution To Everybody

February 27, 2009
Consider the auk;
Becoming extinct because he forgot how to fly, and could only walk.
Consider man, who may well become extinct
Because he forgot how to walk and learned how to fly before he thinked.   

Ogden Nash 

 

The lawyer and the barista

February 21, 2009

You are not normally self-effacing.

Until you push past the carts.

In a black suit.

Against a dichotomous background.

On your way to the Cafe

To buy  black coffee

Circumnavigating the aisles of Whole Foods,

Where you obviously don’t belong

At two in the afternoon

While there’s work to be done

At your desk;

Your glass office

Some ordinance to file.

You are

Linear and finite

Braving a sea of amorphous,

Communal, leftist, hippies

Who brush past you with their flowered dresses

And canvas tote bags

And downplay their superiority,

Just so you can catch a glimpse

Of your girl’s smile.

 

 

 

you are not erased

February 3, 2009

I remember you like a woman who comes up and out of the subway like a flower opening in the spring. Quite unsuspectingly. Brushed by the crowd. Thinking of nothing in particular but the sun on your face, the clarity of sound of your shoes on the pavement. And the girl you passed three minutes ago who reminds you of a doll that you once had as a child. I remember the lightness of your thoughts and the strangeness you always felt knowing that something else more important was about to happen. That your shoes and the doll and the passing girl is nothing compared to the face in the crowd you are about to see that will bring you to a place of unpredictable gracelessness.

I remember your face and your swirling hair when he appeared as if starting from a pinpoint in the distance in that slow, steady, irreversible manner in which dreams occur or a movie in slow motion is played out. And at each step, I remember your face, seemingly locked into a pattern of recognition—yours for his— forming the ability to block out stimuli, tunnel vision, drawing yourself closer in no other manner more appropriate than the way an average business woman walking down a crowded street at rush hour would. Only, for a moment, you and he share the same tempo in your walk. A pace that is not only yours but his. And the brain and the eyes like the magic that is synchronicity form from the shared memory that is reborn and says, “There is my old lover.”

Dorothy Moore tunes go through your head. Roy Orbison’s In Dreams goes through his. And an “I heart you,” written on a chalkboard that was erased many years ago comes back in dust to reshape those same words, like the glittery bang of a dying star. The passing is nothing less than a miracle— the work of a god that believes in reminding us that this felt good once. But it’s gone. Just like a cruel trick. Erased. I remember you like a woman who smiles a cordial smile. Briefcase in hand. Flustered and hurried and harried. Passing close enough to rub shoulders with a stranger. Your mind always elsewhere. I remember the very faint smell of a cologne and a perfume that once, when mixed, made its own smell and lingered much longer than we had expected.

 

 

 

 

 

Bubble House

January 14, 2009

When I was twenty I was supposed to be in college- like everyone else. But instead, I was trailing artist and sculptors over at what was then known as PCA (UArts now). Drinking cheap beer and singing Patsy Cline songs at Franks. Crashing at Debi’s on 9th and Pine. Throwing cigarette butts out eleventh-story windows from the Illustration Floor. This, of course, was right before I flew off to Paris to drop out of the Alliance Francaise and quit my job as an au pair. Needless to say, I was a reckless twentysomething. I didn’t believe in higher learning. I didn’t believe in conformity. And from those beliefs I gained two things: a love of adventure and low self-esteem for not following the herd when it came time for graduation. 

Why I mention that is because I started working with PBQ again, which means being back on a college campus at age forty, socializing with twentysomethings and idealist professors, constantly reminded of my own failed youth and/or how late in the game I got started. 

Lisa Grunberger, a professor of Comparative Religion and Writing at Temple read some of her poetry last night at Bubble House. I didn’t know what to make of her. I didn’t know if I liked the idea of associating myself with her or not. On the one hand, she was dressed well (ok, that’s pretty superficial), on the other all I kept thinking was, am I like that? Is that me up there, but without the great job? Am I this old, single woman who dresses all vogue and city and reads mediocre poetry to young students about the men I fucked? God. That’s ugly. No, please, no. I don’t want to go certain places. I don’t want to be certain things. 

And then there was Christy Schneider, the homely-looking, thirtysomething “museum educator” who also read about being single, being accused of being “too excited” once when getting laid and a string of dates that went no where. At least that’s what I was able to fish from her. Most of what she read left me staring off into space. My brain felt like a tic tac box when it only has one tic tac in it, and you shake it and it makes that one-tic-tac-in-a-plastic-box sound. Like only one thought is rattling around in there and it’s not making much sense on its own. 

But I was so far removed from associating with her that she didn’t quite bother me as much as Grunberger did. 

So my issue is, do I stay with PBQ and work out these growing pains? Or do I seize this feeling of discomfort and say, this just isn’t me anymore. 

Food for thought.

The Tree

January 11, 2009

eden

Today

I plucked the fruit from The Tree  

in the garden of Eden–

the very one that condemned you and me

to a life of certain doom.

Oh, but I am a daughter of Eve.

And it’s in my blood to do my thing

and seduce the snake

from out of its place among the leaves.