On the Control of Movement through Image, pt. 1

Poetry moves. Successful poems contain a movement of some sort from one point to another, and this movement can be regulated by any number of devices to create a “logic” for the poem. Whether this logic offers clarity or obscurity is dependent on the poet, but the poet makes this decision. One of the most clarifying devices for movement is that based on the narrative structure, and it is also one of the oldest. The narrative traces its roots back to the oral tradition, in which a people’s history was translated from generation to generation by vocal memorization, often set to a language’s natural qualities. From “The Epic of Gilgamesh” through “The Odyssey,” “Beowulf,” and into contemporary poetics, the narrative structure has served to tell stories. Moving from A to B to C, a narrative structure often controls the movement of a poem in a logical and straightforward manner. Even in narratives in which the progression cannot necessarily be called logical, as in Mark Strand’s “The King” or Mary Ruefle’s “Full Moon,” the poet uses narrative to create an internal logic. Another common device for controlling the movement from beginning to end of a poem can be seen in the language the poet applies. In utilizing techniques such as rhythm, rhyme, syntax, and line breaks, the poet can control movement even without the imposition of a narrative structure. William Carlos William’s “This is Just to Say” presents a good example of this type of “logic,” or movement, with little imposition of narrative. ee cummings’ poem “loneliness” also exhibits this kind of control, primarily utilizing manipulation of syntax and semantics to effect movement in the poem through extreme deconstruction of the language. Poems which offer neither a primarily narrative structure nor a language-based structure can still present a movement from one point to another.

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Layering Complexity and Recklessness (or, How Poems are like Cookies)

I’ve started reading Dean Young’s The Art of Recklessness, and have been thinking about loosening up the layered connections I am beginning to make in my poems.  The lateral leaps it takes to pursue these layered constructions seems to align to some of the things he’s talking about in the beginning of the essay – it’s really like one long essay.

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On Writing Outside of Tone

The assignment: Draft a poem outside your normal tone.

So far, I have come up with three drafts.  I usually write on the more serious, exploratory side, so I’ve been trying to imbue a sense of humor, or dark humor in response to this assignment.  I would love to be able to write poems like Tony Hoagland or Dean Young or Billy Collins: filled with a striking insight and humorous tone.  So I’m attempting to write one.

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On the Edge of Vertigo

Again, I find myself drawn to Stewart’s discussions in Poetry and the Fate of the Senses, but this time am finding it more difficult to locate a continuity between this reading and readings from Hoagland’s Real Sofistikashun or Longenbach’s The Poetic Line. Hoagland’s essays, especially, seem to want to break the connections seen in “Facing, Touch, and Vertigo,” while at the same time they are reflexive and recursive. At the same time, Hoagland points to the idea that those poems which become completely disconnected or overly aware of the connection between writer and reader, which invoke complete vertigo, are necessarily less successful.

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Intention and Questions

When I write, I struggle to locate myself within a concept of self.  If identity is dependent on understanding one’s relationality to all that is around, and writing is dependent on the ego, then must the act of writing assume a defined identity?  As I write more, I feel a more concrete definition approaching… a better word might be concept.  The concept of self avoids the immutableness implied by definition.  It’s fluid, and therefore changeable.

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Twitter Poems

I think, in addition to the long form poems, that I need to continue to work on shorter works as well.  I hope this will help me keep my language-use focused, which, with all the room available in the longer forms, probably is a skill I need to keep honed. Continue reading “Twitter Poems”