Sunday, September 12, 2004

ON POETRY

Sometimes, when I remember, I visit Ron Silliman's blog. He writes on poetry and poetics, a critic of sorts. I usually comprehend about 10% of his writing. I have an odd fascination with poetry, with literature. I rarely read a book of poems all the way through. Nor do I remember what I read. I have read almost all of Shakespeare's plays, but I couldn't give a plot outline of more than 2 or 3 of them.

One has to admit, Silliman has an expertise, a small circle of knowledge that only one in a million possess. In a quest for uniqueness, I once thought of poetry as an avenue of worth. Some days, I ponder the big picture. Like a chessmaster, the poetry critic labors at excellence in a field over the head of the common man; the work displayed in a near empty arena. An unimportant excercise in the grand scheme of things? Sometimes I wonder what isn't.

A Silliman sample:

Of all the major projects undertaken by the New American generation of poets – which for the sake of definition lets presume consists of the 44 poets included in Donald Allen’s groundbreaking anthology that gave its name to such different tendencies of poetry as the New York School, the Black Mountain or projectivist poets, the San Francisco Renaissance and the Beats – only one appears never to have been published in book form, Robert Duncan’s booklength critical volume, The H.D. Book. The reasons for this are many and complicated, but the major blame – if we are to use that word – lies with Duncan himself.
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I first got into poetry and writing through my college dorm-mate's girlfriend, Jan. During her visits to our room, I would pretend to do homework while she feigned interest in her boyfriend. After a semester of this, my roommate moved out and, shortly thereafter, they broke up. One afternoon, she came over and pressed her lips into me, pinning me to my closet door. We started dating.

She was an English Lit major. At the time I was studying business education. Faced with a future of teaching typing to 8th graders and accounting to 11th graders, I changed over to English Lit. Plus, she liked a few of the things I wrote. I vaguely remember a poem about axes and a bloody murder.

(Embarrassed, I admit one other woman that similarly influenced my life. Another girlfriend, Eva, thought earrings looked cool in guys. I still have the hole in my earlobe to remind me.)

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For 2 years, I was an editor of the college's annual literary journal. My work entailed sitting around an oak table deciding whether to publish the submitted works of angst-filled freshman girls and the boys who lust for them.

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I remember one poem I had published in the above journal. Submitted for your amusement.

Back sides, track
sides of cities
standing.
Tar paper doorways,
dull ends of dead ends
and rock-
knocked windows

all lead

to a father and daughter
skating on a small pond
beyond the farmer's field.