Mouth 10 Inches from Mic.

March 4, 2010 § 5 Comments

Here’s a thing you should be looking at right now.

The Lunch Poems series from Berkeley is great for a number of reasons.  The poets are great.  The poems are great.  Robert Hass is great.  It’s on YouTube.

Just listening to Hass’s introduction gives me thoughts about poems.  There are glimpses here of big ideas: a snapshot of something that might be called a mid-Western poetics; poetry that is suspicious of “voluptuous rhetoric;” minimalism as a movement towards “getting the thing said as plainly as possible;” the relationship between meditation and saying things simply.  Any one of these ideas could be developed into something rich & complicated.

& then there’s Graham Foust, who puts a million more things in my brain.  Dickinson, Creeley, Stevens.  Compression/deletion.  How I used to write inside a smaller space, before I began to wonder if I was hiding behind some form of minimalism as a way to self-censor & run away from things & I made of my new project a push-stuff-out-onto-the-page kind of mess.  How maybe it’s time for a reapproach, this time from a place of less scared.

Ok, so, here (from his poem “Concussion”):

I want the full

glare my body

veils to not tear

my air away.

Poorly articulated, associative & self-centered brain-thoughts to follow:

What compels me so much about this is that to me, on first read, it’s dense & complicated in a not un-pleasing way.  It’s as if there’s some deletion, though there isn’t; it’s grammatically complete.  But it feels compressed, spring-loaded as deletion often does, like the words that are there are actively hiding something/cutting something out.  If I’m going to simplify or paraphrase, which is almost always a dumb idea, this a complicated way of saying “I don’t want to die.”  But it takes place in some weird space where the words regardless of their part of speech are objects that are being picked up and set down and you can feel the muscles that lift them firing.  I like a poetry where the words are objects that are being picked up and set down and you can feel the muscles that lift them firing.

Like “Back out of all this now too much for us.”

Like “Muscled unjacketed egg.  Impossible butcher’s diagram walking.”

Like “Bluffed to the ends of me pain / & I took up a pencil; / Like this I’m longing with.  One sign / would snow me back, back.”

I’m going to try to say it another way, though I doubt it’ll come out any better: I like this trick of grammar/language wherein you can make everything no matter what it is seem like a noun.  (This is probably, dummy, called syntax, used to a particular end.)  Something in the way I want to write moves me toward it.

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§ 5 Responses to Mouth 10 Inches from Mic.

  • Amy Ponomarev says:

    I think I understand what you mean. Somehow the deletions make you ‘feel’ what’s missing from the line within you – perhaps before the point of articulation – before it becomes a word. There that energy – and comprehension pre the consciousness of articulation

    This is great writing by the way, especially this:
    But it takes place in some weird space where the words regardless of their part of speech are objects that are being picked up and set down and you can feel the muscles that lift them firing. I like a poetry where the words are objects that are being picked up and set down and you can feel the muscles that lift them firing.

  • Amy Ponomarev says:

    I know what you mean about hiding behind minimalism – that’s the danger –
    But doing both push stuff out onto the page and a reapproach of this muscular neuronal minimalism you can’t go wrong – you’d be building your instrument. It’s like playing the piano – you have to know the big chords like they’re your lovers, but you also work for years perfecting the tone in a trill – just two notes back and forth, next to each other. Thanks so much for this – it’s very inspiring

  • Amy Ponomarev says:

    Glad you’re feeling inspired yourself 🙂

  • Amy Ponomarev says:

    Thinking more about what you wrote – and realize you also are loving that feeling of life/attention/neurons firing that is triggered by the missing words

    It’s a beautiful feeling – it’s why Leonard Bernstein used augmented fourths resolving so much (like the first three notes of Maria)

  • Amy Ponomarev says:

    Forgive the wordiness, as you can see I’m not much of a minimalist

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