Notes on Types of Poetry

  1. You look at something you believe should be familiar but see something else, something unexpected. A moment of confusion, you are given a start, seeing something new or strange, out of place or off kilter, in place of what usually passes practically unnoticed. Some like that feeling; others do not. But the feeling, whatever it is, passes. You dismiss the experience as a kind of déjà vu as what you expected to see comes into focus and the other vision, the mirage, the mistake, disappears.

 

  1. That night, you dream of a chess game, even though you don’t play chess. The chess pieces are friends, neighbors, and relatives. The Queen is a woman who walks by your house daily but never says hi. The King is the friendly dog from across the street, always happy to see you. The Knights are kids riding bicycles. The Castles are bell towers full of birds over empty churches. The Pawns are corporate employees you once supervised, riding a desk all day in a building of sealed windows. In those days, you used to dream of getting up from your desk and throwing open a window, a breeze of fresh air blowing all the papers off the desks, creating a ruckus. You are called down to the Personnel Department and summarily fired.

 

  1. You learn a new word, eggcorn. Slips of both the tongue and ears. You make a list of words you frequently misspell, fold the list, and put it into your Moleskin pocket notebook. You save the Moleskin pages for poems that never come. A week later, the Moleskin still empty, you take out your list of frequently misspelled words and throw it away. You make a new list of words you often mishear or mispronounce. You think of getting a dog and naming her faux pas.

 

  1. The plumber arrives to fix the pipe that froze in last winter’s silver thaw. Something about him smells familiar. It’s a stale beer odor. It’s late afternoon, a hot summer day, and he must have been out at lunch drinking beer, perhaps in the lot of food carts located down by the creek at the bottom of the neighborhood. You look into the back of his van. An old blue and white striped mattress lines the floor. The sidewalls are cubbyholes full of tools and plumbing parts.

 

  1. The power has gone out again, another rolling summer blackout. You light a candle. The phone and Internet are also out. You think absurdly of walking down to the corner to use the pay phone – the pay phone was taken out years ago. The evening is dark and quiet and peaceful, and you decide this is your favorite kind of poetry, the kind that creates a still clearness, and the stars are like rocks on the floor of a shallow, smooth running stream that ebbs and flows with the salt water tides. Suddenly the power comes back on, the fan spins, the radio blaring, the streetlight flooding through the open front window. A door slams. A car starts up. The lights flicker indecisively. Blackouts are only rarely epical.

 

  1. A young woman knocks at the door, a canvasser. Lonely for someone to talk to, you invite her inside. You make tea. Her skin is like parchment, full of colorful tattoos, pictures and words. And she has piercings, one in her upper lip, another in her ear, and a tiny diamond on the side of her nose. Her eyebrows are painted black shellac. She comes quickly to the purpose of her mission: she is selling low cost cremation plans. If you buy now, pre-ordering, before you die, you save lots. She’s already been able to help several of your neighbors. Your block is a gold mine of old people.

 

  1. You’ve the kids for the day, to babysit, day care. You get out large, thick sheets of brightly painted paper. Everyone takes a pair of scissors and cuts alphabet letters out of the sheets. You string the letters together with clear fish line and hang them from the ceiling with thumb tacks, creating slow moving mobiles that say different things depending on the breeze coming through the open windows. Everyone lies on the floor with pillows and blankets, watching the letters turn this way and that, reading aloud new words that appear.

 

On Words

City Life

“Overrated and abused, underrated and reused, hyperbolized and underused, understated and overstated, restated and retracted, excused and double-downed, drowned and rusticated, nailed to a wall and drawn on a scroll, ignored and explored, welcomed and turned away, painted and scrawled, yelled and whispered, tattooed and erased, written down and written up, spelled out in the bottom of a tea cup.”

The above quote is from the comment stream to a previous post: “Bob Dylan & Clarice Lispector: Bewildering, Transfigured & Redeemed.”

The drawing above I made years ago, the paper now yellowing. I wanted to title the drawing “Leaving the City,” or something like that, “City Life,” but the drawing might somehow be appropriately titled “Words,” for the city is constantly in commute, the exchange made with words; our world is filled with words, sounds rising, mixing in the froths and foams – the city yeasts of ambition and commerce, change and exchange, the city a sea of words that act like yeasts, fermenting. Inside each car a radio no doubt adds to the mix, each car an oven full of baking words.

At night, a bread of crusted quiet rises, the din below softening, words breaking apart and falling like shreds of unintelligible graffiti, night words. From a distance, animals contemplate the city scene.

Walking with another in the country, on a path, words spoken have a pronounced different quality than words spoken walking on a sidewalk on a busy city day.

The characters in the foreground of the drawing might be workers in an urban call center. The fellows in the bottom right might be stumbling or sneaking home from a local pub.

“Words are overrated,” the commenter had said to the Dylan & Lispector post. No doubt, I thought, but more, and replied with the comment quoted above, to which the commenter then replied, “Ja, just so.” And, there you have it. Talk on.