Sunday, August 16, 2009

Back to Blogging; Poem, "On Resurrection"

I haven't blogged in a coon's age and my readership has fallen by two thirds, but I am not concerned. Facebook and Twitter are downsizing prose into convenient bites, endangering the language until it becomes a telegraphic utility. Imagine Joseph Conrad or Henry James trying to twitter--it beggars the imagination.

Likewise I like a good deal of blank page to initiate thought, and language must prepare us for denouements, for set-ups and set-downs and cruise control as well.

I am a classicist, I admit. Not all changes in the use of language are propitious, and poetry is certainly one of the casualties of modern reality speak. It's the subtleties I love, the difference between "indifference" and "neutrality." It's the fine lines between connotations that Shakespeare exploited, not to mention his joy in puns.

The reason I have ceased blogging for so long is that I've been happy. Happy, happy! And whence this source of happiness? Good chemicals! Yes, my mood has been purring along like a satisfied cat after a meal of fresh bird. Only me and my psychiatric headdresser know for sure.

I have been writing poetry though reading much more of it. I've recently sampled Ashbery, Merwin and Stevens. Stevens outclasses them in spades. Indeed, Stevens ranks as one of the top five poets in English in the 20th century, IMHO. Throw in Eliot, Frost, Yeats and Larkin and you have my preferred current quintet.

A friend from Ireland who had the temerity to purchase and enjoy my book recently sent me a CD of a rare Larkin recording, and what a joy it is! To hear "Whitsun Weddings" read aloud by the master is nonpareil. It has encouraged me to scour the net for recordings of all my favorite poets, though I must say about my all-time favorite, T. S. Eliot--yes I must say--that his recordings don't do justice to his poems, so dry and monotonic and unforgivably English in his performance. I may get over this. Sam Rasnake, editor of Blue Fifth Review, famously listened to "The Waste Land" every day for a year. I don't want to repeat his experiment, but I would love to lard my CD player with more spoken verse than I ever have before.

Speaking of which I am a good reader, and when faced with an audience my verse rises to new heights for both audience and reader. The least inflection, pause, or variation of tone can put a poem into a three-dimensional matrix that carries the hearer along in its sweep, aiding the experience immensely. I love to read. My next date is August 29 at the Mendocino Hotel conference room at 7 PM in Mendocino, CA. If any of you are in the immediate geographic region, I hope you can stop by.

As for Stevens, I read aloud his "Esthetique du Mal" yesterday to great profit. I needed to read it out loud to understand it. Same with Rilke. Eliot I find easier from long study. The spoken word revolution is right in this: a poem is two-dimensional until launched from the tongue.

Recent adventures include a ride in a jet boat 52 miles up the Rogue River in Oregon and a kayak adventure up the Big River here (for which I paid in sciatica). At the turnaround point of our trip, Kathleen and I went skinny dipping in the cool water, a real Adam and Eve encounter with no one in sight.

I find the rhythm of rowing delightful and only wish that the chronic disability of my spine might let me indulge in previous occupations like backpacking and bicycling and body surfing, but alas, one must live within one's limitations. I can still hike without a pack and swim as well; prolonged kayaking would likely land me on my back, and already did as I spent sometime on the kayak supine on the benches, resting my twisted spine. But no matter; as I said, I'm happy! And happiness should not be questioned too deeply or it loses its sheen; one should not go Descartes on the experience but accept it with gratefulness. Periods of joy in one's life should not be analyzed lest the butterfly become the man.

I have decided to hoard my ongoing work in poetry until I have a cache sufficient for an assault on the "good" journals. I feel I have sold my work too cheaply in middling journals to this point for the sheer thrill of publication. But to enhance my modest reputation would be best served by pursuing journals of reputation. I know the rejection rate will be much higher, but the reward is proportionately greater. Despite this I can still post poems here, as in most journals it does not count as publication and posts here (usually in earlier draft form) can be easily erased from the cyberworld.

BTW, there is a new review out in Chimeara from a reluctant reviewer who was won over by the poetry. I'm convinced that if you buy the book you might experience the same, even if you are not a regular aficianado of the art.

Poetry seeks to universalize the particular and particularize the universal. It can be read as a Whitman's sampler, no need to eat the whole box (or whole book) at one sitting, though with practice you can read longer. Nevertheless the impact of one good poem ought to be savored, as in my reading aloud of Stevens.

Here's one of my latest:

On Resurrection

I saw English ivy swallowing up
the wreck of a Bishop pine
in a colonnade of green,
how life incorporates death--
not resurrection but displacement
as if the pine had never been--
not transformation
but vegetable vampirism.

Last year's angelica's
brown umbrella ribs
sway beside new white umbels,
bright clones with no
recollection of death
like a phoenix shaking out
its brilliant feathers
on an extinguished cinnamon pyre
without a name.

Displacement, re-growth;
these examples fall short
of immortalization, as when Hercules
was penciled in the heavens
to join the eternal pattern
though he did not remember--
no snakes to crush, no stables to wash.
His night is a mausoleum
of connected fires whose figures
cannot speak or gesture,
imprisoned in stars.

Ah Hercules, who were you?
Your fires will not recall
eons of fusion, collapsing
into dull iron. If stars were sentient
you might be reconstructed.
For now comets streak by without remark.
Not to be recognized again
is equal to death.

The soul, a compromise
between consciousness and pears
necessitates a resurrection,
a thought fantastic in this age
of polls and corpses
but no other myth
preserves the person.
How would I know myself
if I did not remember?

I'm saving this for a good journal, should I be so lucky.

For now, adieu, my few readers. I do love blogging, much more than the telegraphic pronouncements of Facebook and Twitter.

Happy Trails,

At two kilobunnies,

Craig Erick

1 comment:

  1. I agree about Facebook and Twitter. I love my LiveJournal, and I HATE Twitter!

    --Kate Gould


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