Tuesday, December 23, 2008

I was just enjoying these ...

... so I thought I'd share: The Books of Silence.


  1. I see why, Frank, they're superb; and, I've been over at Art's place drooling from thumb-to-thumb.

    Art, question: Do you find writing within the parameters of a predetermined form more or less difficult or, perhaps, liberating or debilitating? The question always finds me arguing both sides of the answer. The indescribably satisfying sense of having nailed, say, a sonnet or ghazal, that sense makes it worthy for me; but, I am often asked about the constraints; and, as I age, I vacillate even more. I do believe yours is absolutely your invention, though (and, see, that alone says so much about how much I admire and enjoy them immensely).

    I'd be interested in hearing your (and / or Rus's or Blue's or anyone's, really) thoughts concerning this. I've been reading a lot of the poetry that's being published in The New Yorker lately; and, of all the ones I've gobbled, the most satisfying, BION? Roger Angell's occasional piece (and, he himself says he ain't a poet); but, I love his Christmas "Hello" thing and am glad to see it returned to its rightful public place (even though it's not in the same space as before).

    'Course, I think his baseball writing's the best in the world; nobody else I know can describe a diamond in dulcet shades of dream :).

    I'm getting old in another way; a lot of the poetry I'm reading there just seems, to me, to have that vapid sheen on it; it wants to be meaningful and profound; but, it ain't (IMO); I didn't particularly see anything world-class at all in the James, e.g.; but, that may just be me, I guess . . .

  2. I find working within a form that I invented to be liberating. I find working within received classical forms, such as the sonnet, to be stifling. Too much historical baggage and too many expectations. This does not apply to haiku and its related forms; haiku is actually the form I write in most, by count.

    The only form I believe in is emergent. Mostly each new poem is in its own new form. I definitely feel like the poem tells me what form it's going to be in, as we proceed. Most of the Books were emergent; I realized it was a poem in that form only when I was already in the second or third line. That's typical, for me.

    The Books are in a form that emerged, as well. It was only after I'd written several staves that I realized I had a form on my hands. After that, it was going with the flow.

    I've invented two or three other forms that I occasionally write in.

    Most often, nowadays, if I am aware of writing in a form, it is the prose-poem, if that IS a form. Or in haibun, which is the classical Japanese form that combines dense poetic prose with interspersed haiku. I write more haibun than anything else. One of my invented forms is in some ways a radical version of haibun.

    The reason I find most existing forms to be stifling is that they are imposed from the outside. I think a lot of poets spend too much time thinking about what they're going to do, and not about doing it. They choose to write a sonnet, then look for a subject. I can't write that way. It's completely alien to me. If I ever wrote a sonnet, it would be because the poem was falling into that form naturally, on its own. Again, I use emergent forms, I don't impose forms. Ever. Even haiku appear mostly fully-formed. It's not like I usually set out to do a haiku; it just happens.

    There IS value in writing in existing forms as an etude, as an exercise, as a learning tool. I've done that lots of times. But those aren't poems. They're etudes. They usually suck, and are in no way finished good poems. The value in practicing etudes is the same as in music: practicing the craft to internalize it, so it becomes something innate rather than self-conscious.

    For baseball writing, I remain a W.P. Kinsella fan. But that may just be a Midwestern attitude thing.

    In terms of the vapidness of most poetry published these days, it's not that you're getting old, it's that you're mature as a poet, and most poetry published these days is only half-baked. Lots of bad poetry would be a lot better if it had been saved for some years. Most poetry these days really is superficial and vapid, and often worse. Your impressions are not wrong.

    Age matters to some extent; some poets only become really profound when the reader itself reaches a certain age. For example, to really get May Sarton, you need to be at least 40, in my opinion; her journals are popular with young women, but her real riches lie in her maturity.

  3. BTW, thanks for the link, Frank. A pleasant surprise to discover while browsing through. :)