Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Poem Hunters

As is often the case and I’m good at it, I have done something wrong headed, blind and/or stupid.  Probably all four.  That I have unsuspectingly done this makes no difference.  I am dealing with the consequences. What have I done, you ask?   I have inadvertently and unknowingly got on an internet mailing  list.  Every day, sometimes twice, an e-mail winds up in my mailbox.   It is from Poem  When opened it will reveal a “classic” poem for my reading pleasure.  Which means I will have to read it.  And digest it.  And as often as not, too often in fact, not enjoy it.   

Why do I not put Poem on my junk mail list?   Because I am a writer.  As ridiculous as it sounds, sometime I even teach creative writing which is like a clown teaching someone to drive funny cars.  As a writer and a teacher I feel I should like poetry. 

(As the lovely wife always tells me, there are no shoulds.  This is usually before she asks me to do something I don’t wish to do.  It’s sort of like saying, “you don’t have to do this, BUT.....”)

BUT...  because  I’m like a guy who goes to church and even though he doesn’t want to, sings along with the choir - because it’s expected of him - I read the poems.

This morning I got hit with this.

Will Our Love Succeed?
I know deep down you're good
That much is understood
Honest and hard working
I'm proud to wear your ring
But my heart does not sing
You still bring me flowers
I know what's yours is ours
You have never said no
Even when it's for show
But you don't make me glow
You let me have my way
Yesterday and today
Trying to make it right
Each and every night
But I don't feel delight

You're there when I need you
You are solid and true
Everything that I need
You always take the lead
But will our love succeed?

Will someone please shoot me?   You, true, need, lead?  Well, yes, of course - poems are supposed to rhyme.

Yesterday begat this:

Five Ways To Kill A Man
There are many cumbersome ways to kill a man.  You can make him carry a plank of wood to the top of a hill and nail him to it. To do this  properly you require a crowd of people wearing sandals, a cock that crows, a cloak to dissect, a sponge, some vinegar and one man to hammer the nails home.
Or you can take a length of steel, shaped and chased in a traditional way, and attempt to pierce the metal cage he wears. But for this you need white horses, English trees, men with bows and arrows, at least two flags, a prince, and a castle to hold your banquet in.

Dispensing with nobility, you may, if the wind blows, blow gas at him. But then you need a mile of mud sliced through with ditches, not to mention black boots, bomb craters, more mud, a plague of rats, a dozen songs and some round hats made of steel. 

In an age of aeroplanes, you may fly miles above your victim and dispose of him by pressing one small switch. All you then require is an ocean to separate you, two systems of government, a nation's scientists, several factories, a psychopath and land that no-one needs for several years.
These are, as I began, cumbersome ways to kill a man. Simpler, direct, and much more neat is to see that he is living somewhere in the middle of the twentieth century, and leave him there.

Hmmm.  What to make of this.  Jesus, an English Knight, World War I and the atomic bomb.  The middle of the twentieth century - that would be 1950.  Yes, I suppose the adventures of Ozzie and Harriet and the cumbersome three martini lunch could kill you.  If I’m not mistaken this is called dramatic irony.

I would suggest this is not so much a poem as it is a treatment for a multi-part HBO mini-series.  Blackadder with no sense of humor.  Just add vampires.

As did this poet:

A Desperate Cry
God's creation
Blessed to be born in this world
We all may feel that's the truth
Until I read this-
An abandoned baby
Malnourished, hardly an year old
Famine struck
Skin and bone
No food to feed
No water to have
Stranded alone in barren land
Helpless eyes staring straight
Standing legs more like a bamboo stick
Cerebral neurons popping out
Veins struggling to carry weak blood
Oh God! Nothing more I can add…
My heart is not strong enough
To read the rest-
A vampire vulture
Sitting beside and
Looking eager to end its hunger!
I pray! Save these innocents!
Let this never happen again!

The human race begat Shakespeare.  How did it ever begat, however well intentioned, this.

(I’m suddenly reminded of a stint at Actors Theater of Louisville where one night in bar, a fat girl got up and announced she and a friend were going to do a dramatic reading with improvised accompaniment on bongo drums.  I’m very much for the soul expressing itself and so I quickly ordered a triple boilermaker.  I told the waitress to “keep them coming”.)

I should mention that I have my tried own hand at writing poetry.  In college.   At the behest of a teacher.  He said all poets are mad.  Being mad, I decided to write some poems.   I have actually saved some of them to remind myself that there is such a thing as humility.  This is an example.  

(Please note how in all good poetry, a simple sentence is broken up into multiple lines.   I think this is to suggest abstract thinking.   Or perhaps to disguise the fact that what is in truth a simple paragraph, is in fact, a poem.)

The Frost Giants Rolled Out of Jottenheim
Pissed as hell and struggling with each other
Screaming their asses off

My mother,
Danish in descent
With the Viking spirit of a Spaniard

Issued small craft warnings and declared the harbor closed
As she headed to bed to ride out the storm

Thor and I,
Hammers in hand,
Ventured forth, red beards wrapped angrily around our necks,
To show the multi-headed invaders we weren’t afraid

They obviously weren’t impressed.
They laughed so hard they shook themselves into little pieces
Which they unceremoniously dumped on our heads,
The cold blooded bastards

Thor and I,
Somewhat embarrassed at our poor showing,
Trucked back over the bridge to Valhalla
To get righteously drunk on mead

The feasting and the boasting got so riotous,
We woke my mother up
That  was a real twilight of the Gods.

Ah, the wit.  Oh, the archetypal, mythological references.  I’m sending it to The New Yorker.

Okay.  Serious.  (I hate serious BUT...)  Poetry.  I leave you with this.

I do not love you as if you were a salt rose, or topaz
or the arrow of carnations the fire shoots off.
I love you as certain dark things are to be loved,
in secret, between the shadow and the soul.
I love you as the plant that never blooms
but carries in itself the light of hidden flowers;
thanks to your love a certain solid fragrance,
risen from the earth, lives darkly in my body.
I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where.
I love you straightforwardly, without complexities or pride;
So I love you because I know no other way
Than this: where I does not exist, nor you,
so close that your hand on my chest is my hand,
so close that your eyes close as I fall asleep.
----------Love Sonnet XVII by Pablo Neruda**

Sometimes I like poetry.  A lot.

(** to Claudia)