A run through the poetic forms

As much as I laud those who attack National Novel Writing Month with great zeal, I am a poet not a novelist.  So in my own parallel to NaNoWriMo, I’ve decided to once again work my way through each of the poetic forms identified in my old standby resource, Lewis Turco’s Book of Forms: Revised Edition starting with the acrostic and ending with the virelai – hitting all the Irish, Welsh and other forms and meters along the way.  I’ve done this in the past – I’ll try to post a poem a day, which may take us through the new year.

I am so sick of poets

I am so sick of poets, in real life and found online;
how they tend to wax poetic, and pretend to be sublime
when describing some quite minuscule and unimportant thing:
the dewdrop on the lily, a mosquito’s lacy wing.

With pretense they have pretensions, and expect to be profound;
particularly when their fancy talk has drawn a crowd around,
and every word that drops like nectar from their honeyed lips
is guaranteed to break a heart, or at least, sink a ship.

But worse are poem lovers: those sad, sycophantic thralls
who quote their favorite bards by name whilst walking through the halls,
and without grace or courtesy, expose the world to verse
that often only merely stinks, but sometimes, is much worse.

Not everyone can hold a tune, or expect that their voice
will earn them any supper, if the listener has a choice.
Likewise, because you cast in rhyme a metaphor or two,
and hang a shingle (or a website), does not make true

that you are either poet, or can recognize the same;
such things are proven over time, and not by just a name
applied by those who dare not prick your bubble of esteem
for fear their own imagined greatness will be robbed of steam.

I am so sick of poets; every single one I’ve met
is either spent and sick and sad, or hasn’t happened yet.
In either case, I have no interest in their point of view
unless it can be spoken in a simple phrase or two

that doesn’t count on me to picture some fantastic scene,
and waste my time imagining I know just what they mean.
Dispense with all that sentiment, and vivid imagery;
a life that needs a poet is a boring life, indeed.

On the Professional Diarist

There must be something more to it,
some sense behind the scenes,
a glimpse of meaning not quite shared,
or else my mind’s not keen
enough to understand the point
of merely keeping track
of each new day’s minutiae;
the long hours looking back
on what appears so trivial
would seem to waste, in turn,
great spans of time recording it;
who has such time to burn?

And why think such small moments
are something to be shared,
imagining some audience
is out there, and will care?
I wonder, in a thousand years,
will my old grocery list
of little peeves and daily notes
stand out from the great mist
and find interpretation
as the cipher that unlocks
the soul of this time that we’re in,
or if it’s just a crock.

23 APR 2006

For Bukowski

Believe it … poetry can heal wounds;
of course, an awkward, ill-set bone
will sometimes need to be re-cracked,
and soft illusions that so gently cradle us
to bind the flesh beneath, must go.

And often, language is so poor
a conduit for what needs said
that poetry, to remain true,
must eschew words and simply ape,
pretending to be civilized.

In drunken rages, curses slurred
and spewed into a sewer’s maw,
a poet finds epiphany;
and if not driven to reveal
that underbelly, often pawns

off lesser dreck to pass as art,
or spends their time in all-night shops,
dissecting life with coffeespoons.
Let he who is well understood
explain such mincing words. Pray tell:

What inner demons exorcised
conduct themselves with grace and charm?
The world needs screaming, now and then,
and herds of pigs snorting, pell-mell,
beyond decency’s cliff.

04 OCT 2005

As if the hazel mud

As if the hazel mud
its edges flecked with dull green
and salt-stain,
cracked and peeling along
the summer dry edges
of the viaduct
that ran its length,
a brittle concrete spine,
down through the
creosote valley
from cinder block to overpass
were somehow host
to hordes of unseen ghosts
where once the heartless roots
of dandelion split
the grey white skin into
psoriasis scabs and lesions.

That’s how the city’s heavy
mid-July became a poem;
rending itself, in slow catharsis,
from some meaningless
overpass photo op
into a metaphor
of urban blight.

As if that were enough:
to use each word from that
threadbare thesaurus,
marking up the boring proof
that being marble, made a statue,
with no sign of art
beyond the lexicon
of vague pretension.

That’s how you become a writer:
just convince yourself
your vision isn’t just another
meaningless sight.

In your world, I can never be a poet.

20 JUL 2005

If I Should Choose

If I should choose to force myself to write
despite the lack of something new to say,
would any notice much change in the way
the words embrace as equals dark and light?

And if compressed into some hackneyed form
to serve as a straight-jacket for the mind,
would any reading these words sense, or find,
a difference from the bloviated norm?

Some writers seek for solidarity
among their own kind; that is not my goal,
to praise my fellow scripters, as a whole.
I’m more concerned with who is reading me.

And further, I would rather know each one
that spends the time, by name, than be so known
to millions, on their lips my words alone,
that they sought out my light, and not their sun.

I choose to force myself to write these feet;
a mere ten minutes action on my part.
And yet, from such small germinations, start
the thoughts that make the universe complete.

11 JUL 2005

Sometimes a phrase

Sometimes a phrase, or single word,
will prompt a poem. How absurd
to think that there is some great plan
on my part; so few understand

how unlike following a chart
this process is. There is no start
or end defined, no single grain
of sand that unlocks in the brain

the secrets of the universe.
A gift? More like a mummy’s curse
that reaches from beyond the grave.
All one can hope is to be brave

enough to take the message down
before it slips back underground
into the psyche’s fetid lair
(assuming that it comes from there).

It bubbles, like some sulphur gas
up through a molten, gray morasse
of hidden urges, secret wants,
and like a phantom limb, it haunts

the poet through their waking hours.
It begs, cajoles, and then devours
the retinue of conscious thought,
never elusive, unless sought

from the great void as one small word
or single phrase. See how absurd
it is to think the poet’s craft
one honed on purpose. Yet some daft

professors praise as skill and art
the bull’s-eye found by these rare darts,
and build great schools to analyze
what comes, if at all, by surprise.

24 JUN 2005