Monday, August 3, 2009

Poetry in Motion--My Thoughts Won't Sit Still

As a student at the University of Hawai'i-Manoa, I saw Professor Susan Schultz in passing fairly often. Thinking of it now, I'm surprised I've only taken one class with her: Reading poetry as a poet. It was a graduate level course, my second semester in the master's progam. We had required reading--

A Thought went up my mind today-
That I have had before-
But did not finish- some way back-
I could not fix the Year-

Nor where it went- nor why it came
The second time to me-
Nor definitely, what it was-
Have I the Art to say-

But somewhere- in my Soul- I know-
I've met the Thing before-
It just reminded me- 'twas all-
And came my way no more-
c.1863 Emily Dickinson

--But the purpose of the course (IMO and in my memory these few years later) was to 1. Look at poetry and analyze it in different ways, not just the purely academic standard, and 2. read the works of poets with an eye to how their work influenced your own poetry.

I mention this, because she is also the editor of a small publication called TinFish, and has a blog as such. A few days ago, she wrote about the "Seductions of Can't." The gist of it, as I see it, centers around the commonly-found thought that poetry is hard. "I can't understand it." "I can't write it."

I've never had a problem writing poetry, per se. Actually, I only had to struggle through it, as a challenge more than a frustrating impossibility, when an assignment required a poem in a certain form.

Ah, the villanelle. I love a free-form poem.

But it was an interesting reminder how many people are averse to poetry, as portrayed through poetry profesors' syllabi: the presentation of poetry as something that you shouldn't be afraid. I know you are, but with this class, you'll learn not to be.

[I am currently wearing my headphones, listening to "Dark Blue" by No Doubt, with the cord of my headphones marking two poems in a pocket-sized copy of Dickinson poems (indeed the volume we used in this course).]

Schultz's post resonated with me somehow, thus this post to try and get some of those thoughts out, instead of bouncing around in my mind, pinball-like. [Thinking about poetry makes me poetic. Not that I claim I am such successfully.] She says of the poetry class, "We are not immediately readers, but a support group for poetry phobics." Her idea is to take all the energy of the 'cannot's and push it towards creation, to can, to try.

Don't give in to the fear, poetry is our friend.

At my local library, there was a slim volume of poetry that I borrowed repeatedly. Some long poems, some short, all of them about time. I have my life-motifs: masks, butterflies, quill pens, and time. They are the visuals, the concepts, that I turn to, that I get wrapped up in, that I seek out.

Poetry is not something for a reader to struggle through fearfully or with trepidation, nor does it require a "reader." [Who else has friends that claim not to be 'readers'?] Anyone can skim a sonnet, write a short poem. No rhyming required unless you want to. What's outside the window?

Tiny sparrows and palm-sized green birds, that flitter and jump from slim branch to slim branch, bouncing the whole plant as they play and search and fly.

Don't be afraid of poetry. It likes you.

I'm Nobody! Who are you?
Are you- Nobody- Too?
Then there's a pair of us!
Don't tell! they'd advertise- you know!

How dreary- to be- Somebody!
How public- like a Frog-
To tell one's name- the livelong June-
To an admiring Bog!
c.1861 E. Dickinson

*As an aside, when I took her class, our final/big assignment was an anarcho-scholastic project (a-s being a combination of creative and academic approaches, structures, and presentations to a subject) on a poet who person or work resonated with us. I chose John Keats. I still feel incapable of putting into words how or why he resonates with me. In fact, one of classmates and friends said she was surprised I picked him--she expected me to choose a more modern poet. Her explanation for that was as amorphous as my own. I set out to search for Keats in the modern world and listened to my professor's suggestion. Although I turned in a hard copy, I ultimately re-created my project on a blogspot blog: Encountering Keats. Currently, it's set up as the most recent post is the first page and each subsequent post is a subsequent page, corresponding as closely to the hard copy version as possible.

If Keats ever jumps out at me (when it happpens I'm usually not looking for it), there will be more updates to that blog. Keats does not stop at the introduction. I wonder if Junkets has a facebook? ...indeed there are! Quite a few, too, including "John Keats: An Emo?!", "John Keats was a sexy mofo" and "I'd put out for John Keats."
WHEN I have fears that I may cease to be
Before my pen has glean’d my teeming brain,
Before high piled books, in charact’ry,
Hold like rich garners the full-ripen’d grain;
When I behold, upon the night’s starr’d face,
Huge cloudy symbols of a high romance,
And think that I may never live to trace
Their shadows, with the magic hand of chance;
And when I feel, fair creature of an hour!
That I shall never look upon thee more,
Never have relish in the faery power
Of unreflecting love! - then on the shore
Of the wide world I stand alone, and think
Till Love and Fame to nothingness do sink.
(one of my favorite Keats sonnets)


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