Tag Archives: expression

Some music must be free

All music cannot be contained
in simple structures, common forms,
by formulaic skeletons
that would restrict the way it’s made;
it reaches out beyond those lines,
a crayon in untutored hands
that blurs the edges in between
the guidelines of a thing.

Some music, yes, belongs inside
of metered time and measured space
to ground us in the here and now,
to mold from chaos grand designs;
without such structure, we might fail
to understand in order’s calm
the limits of what is right here,
constructed on our yesterdays.

But other songs burst free those chains;
they must, else we could scarcely breathe,
and would attempt constant escape
from ordinary life, or worse,
might find a way to shade in grays
without a trace of brighter hues,
and silent, shuffle off to death
without a word but still in step.

24 APR 2013

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A song for a star

You say I’ve never sung you songs 
in all this time — ten years along — 
which proves, to some degree, 
how much I love you. 
You’ve found the time, you often say, 
to write about and sing and play 
so many other topics; 
is that not true? 

And when I offer in defense
that love is an experience
which falls beyond the edges
of expression,
you laugh and say, such an excuse
is, in its own way, living proof;
that there is no song
is its own confession.

But if my love could be contained
in some trite, overwrought refrain
composed to please the ear,
I would not claim it.
Inside a thousand symphonies,
in whispered wind through ancient trees,
no simply melody would dare
contain it.

So I will write no other song;
and if you think me in the wrong,
or simply without feeling,
I can bear it.
For my love is no simple verse
for greeting cards, or even worse;
What good are words?
They only can declare it.

You say I never sing to you
of how my love is strong and true,
and wish for me to come
and serenade you.
Under your window, in the night,
beneath the moon’s soft glowing light,
you wish a lover’s tune
that I should play you.

But if my love could be so sung,
each drop of life thus from it wrung
in sentimental tones,
how could it move you?
unless you felt the singer’s core,
and knew that there was something more
than simple words,
would it not just pass through you?

My song for you is ten years wide;
I cannot split or subdivide
one hour or two apart
to try and woo you.
I sing it every day and night;
the verses may not be quite right,
but they each speak
about, and of, and to you.

I love you.  Is that plain enough?
I have no masquerade or bluff,
no other way than what I am
to show it.
And ten more years are not enough
to finish it, it is still rough.
I only hope that in your heart
you know it.

19 MAY 2010

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Cummings on Poetry

A tag line on a message from a discussion group included part of a quote from e.e. cummings that I have tacked on my wall to remind me of what I’m supposed to be doing as a poet.

I first encountered it, strangely enough, in the foreward to Critical Path written by R. Buckminster Fuller. He found inspiration in this simple set of instructions, and so do I.

A Poet’s Advice

A poet is somebody who feels, and who expresses his feelings through words. This may sound easy. It isn’t.

A lot of people think or believe or know they feel — but that’s thinking or believing or knowing; not feeling. And poetry is feeling — not knowing or believing or thinking.

Almost anybody can learn to think or believe or know, but not a single human being can be taught to feel. Why? Because whenever you think or you believe or you know, you’re a lot of other people; but the moment you feel, you’re nobody-but-yourself.

To be nobody-but-yourself — in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else — menas to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting.

As for expressing nobody-but-yourself in words, that means working just a little harder than anybody who isn’t a poet can possibly imagine. Why? Because nothing is quite as easy as using words like somebody else. We all of us do exactly this nearly all of the time — and whenever we do it, we are not poets.

If at the end of your first ten or fifteen years of fighting and working and feeling, you find you’ve written one line of one poem, you’ll be very lucky indeed.

And so my advice to all young people who wish to become poets is: do something easy, like learning how to blow up the world — unless you’re not only willing, but glad, to feel and work and fight till you die.

Does this sound dismal? It isn’t. It’s the most wonderful life on earth.

Or so I feel.

— e.e. cummings

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The spheres of thought that tangents bring

The spheres of thought that tangents bring
in touch with mine are lessening,
perhaps in spite of my attempts
to cross each bridge, and burn each fence
so that the world seems more to me
a web of connectivity.

It could be that these are not times
for straying beyond party lines;
or worse, more likely, minds are closed,
so wary of thought overdose
that if a single word slips past
their brave defense, the die is cast
and they will be like Robert Service’s
fitless man, alone and nervous.

Such things occur to me, and then
I feel the urge to write again —
despite the fact that precious few
will find my voice worth listening to,
instead preferring rehashed news,
extremist views, and seats in pews
where others preach some party line.
If that’s the case, it suits me fine.
I do not write to please the masses,
or think these brief missives classes.

It’s a desert; most oases
are mirages not worth chasing.
Each one has a tale to tell:
some only sand, others with wells;
and sadly, when illusion sells
more stock than substance,
these sad hells
are peopled with a hopeless lot
who can’t or won’t let go, and plot
the quick demise of any who
would posit their heaven untrue.

20 May 2005

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Who Says That Poetry Dare Not

Who says that poetry dare not describe,
except in abstract, the signs of the times,
when modern culture abounds with sound bytes
from cinema, like Puzo’s line
that all business is personal,
and we hang with pride by electron pins
our ragged, besmirched angst,
so that a global web of public noses
can share our hampers’ contents:
the tattered, faded t-shirts (now vintage wear)
that in high school twenty years ago
could get us suspended for dress code violations
(I think of the Ramones, the Clash, and Bauhaus,
who sell more accessories now than
they ever dreamed of during their lifetimes).

Who says that poetry must first, before all else,
be small and disheveled, a Pigpen trailing the muck
of his own me-o-centric dust bowl,
or soft and insecure Linus, grasping desperately
to the security of psychosis,
lamenting years of analysis that have left us,
as a people, addicted to neuropathic drugs
and fattened the wallets of countless would-be-Freuds
and their pushermen?

Who says that language must devolve
to suit the temper of the times,
instead of lifting, by the scruff of the neck,
its whining, self-centered congregation
beyond the dry and brittle pews of academia
into direct experience with the Divine?

Who says that poets must wait, patient,
while the world argues and decides their fate?

Who says that poetry dare not touch
upon the sacred? Without tangents
such as these, what good is it? Why, then,
keep on, and on and on, ’til break of dawn
insisting that the pen is mighty?
Wherefore comes that might? From lashing
oneself to the mast of culture’s speeding craft,
so that the Sirens on the rocks
may loose their soft, seductive stream
of sacrilege,
and yet not sway the poet’s course.

24 APR 2005

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Let Words Escape

Rescind your tortured sentences; let words
escape like AWOL soldiers past the fence,
like sullen rocks that would grow wings like birds
and fly out into fresh experience.

Rethink your injured poems; let each line
cascade in a cacophony of sound
where all the images you dare define
in simple rhythm’s ancient tongues resound.

Don’t cast your works in broken, fragile stone;
they will not last beyond the dusting brush.
Instead, seek for the essence that alone
reduces recent shouts and cheers in hush.

The modern lasts no more than single days;
its history a palimpsest of mist.
If you would build a temple worth more praise,
you must do more than exercise the wrists.

What vision can withstand the critic’s bile
unless the artist draws it from within?
What good to end up in some dusty file
where fickle fancy’s fads end and begin?

Let no one else restrict the words you choose,
nor help you seek the spirit of the age;
If you would seek to please others, refuse
to put another letter on the page.

24 APR 2005

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Valentine

If we rely on calendars and ad men
to prompt us into thinking of our love,
and on one day a year make feeble gestures
to compensate that love for our neglect

(the endless days of noncommunication,
illusions of control based out of fear,
a slow loss of respect for one another,
the taking all for granted without thought)

do we expect that one day makes it worth it,
that souls, despite starvation, can endure,
or hearts, wracked with a lifetime’s hairline fractures,
are still willing and able to respond?

If you would love me, do so in the open.
Do not in secret build devotion’s shrine;
and if by Valentine’s I have not known it,
there is no point in saying you are mine.

14 FEB 2005

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