That poetic hum your ear always on the alert for the cadence in the everyday, that unconscious internal rhyme there’s a barber shop on Dunbar Street; or that line that requires a non sequitur she was a woman before her time and you say to everyone’s irritation in a town lost to time. Then when you find that seed that germ of a poem you are lost to all around – family, colleagues, friends your head in the clouds; and when you poke your head through the accumulated cumulus you come face to face with another poet who says that last line’s a bugger, eh? and you say it most certainly is it most certainly is.
Outside the Gates of Hades sits a cross-eyed toad beside a burnt-out serpent a broker and a phone.
Outside the Gates of Heaven sits an angel in disguise beside a corpulent bishop with ecstasy in his eyes
and the sign on the gate says:
Closed for Renovation no judgement today if you’re looking for accommodation clear off, go away.
God is on vacation taking a well-earned break there’s only so much suffering one true God can take
So, get your ass back down there be good to everyone drink lots of water and try to get along.
Brendan’s challenge this week over at Earthweal is to write of a voyage to the Otherworld. As he explains:
I have used the medium of Irish myth, but voyages to the Otherworld are universal. Journey there this week from inside your own story-cycle, and report on the news you find there.
I was born and educated in Ireland and that education did cover Irish (pagan/Christian) myths and legends but the dominant Otherworlds by that point had become Heaven and the everlasting fire of Hell. Irish Catholicism is indeed a rough beast . Somewhere in between these poles, the minor worlds of Purgatory and Limbo floated. So when I read Brendan’s quote I thought of this poem (previously posted)
Note on the title:
Thispoem title came about because, for a brief period, I was listening to prog metal. Brief because, like all things prog, the talent rarely matches the ambition, the concepts. An exception would be Pink Floyd ( Piper at the Gates of Dawn) who were a progressive band but they were successful because they could write songs and had one of the best lyricists in rock, the concepts were secondary. Prog metal players, from what I can tell , are accomplished musicians – the guitarists can play at incredible speeds and the drummers sound like they are descended from the octopus but the lyrics are banal at best and the melodies vestigial. The album titles, though, are always interesting and that’s where this poem started – I was playing around with making up titles for prog metal concept albums…the poem evolved from there.
Last night it teemed with rain, now the garden fence steams in the morning sun.
That fence has been there oscillating between disrepair and repair since we moved in.
The posts are the weak points, when you dig down the ground teems with wood bugs and weevils gorging on that succulent cedar.
The garden shed is also cedar. One summer, a family of skunks made their home underneath it. They would regularly strut across the lawn in single file father, mother and two young skunks tails cocked, sphincters primed afraid of nothing or no one. I wrote a haiku about them and then when they were no longer of literary value I spread moth balls all around the entrance to their hole, an internet remedy which did not work. It’s a tad quixotic or ironic or both, isn’t it, trying to use smell to get rid of skunks.
All that summer as we sat drinking on the deck and the evening sun warmed the cedar shed, the odour of skunk and moth balls that naphthalene-mercaptan cocktail would hit us in gusts, in waves like halitosis at a party and inevitably, invariably I would turn to anyone within boring distance and say, as our noses twitched in disgust, “Isn’t nature marvelous? Isn’t nature marvelous?”
For this week’s challenge, TEEM. Write a poem that introduces the reader to the environment you live in –a landscape shaped by time with a culturally diverse ecosystem (with human, animal and non-animal elements). Widen the focus, deepen the gaze and green the voice. Be wild. Gallop and fly and dive a textures of suburban spring afternoon. Language is your friend and opponent here: be florid and peculiar but particular. What is in the petri dish of the verse-captured moment that undulates and cavorts and cha-cha-chas at the end?
The great TS Eliot once wrote:”April is the cruelest month”. I’m not one to make facile connections but April is also National Poetry Writing Month or NaPoWriMo which is about as un-poetic as an acronym can get and now….
poets are dutifully posting a poem a day the blogosphere is loud with words like babble, ripple, burble, unfurl glow, glitter, shine, glisten winds are blowing suns are setting dawns are breaking waves are crashing on every available shore and birds, yes, birds are chirping, trilling, twittering, even singing, nature is under siege; but I have to admit I’m not up to it I don’t have the diligence, the discipline the creative bandwidth besides it’s the second day of April and I’m one day behind already nothing constipates a poet like a deadline.
Versions of this poem appear every year around this time
dogs and trees dogs and trees free jazz, jazz for free, the
bass player leans like a drunk around a lamp post.
After hearing this one, I asked Slim if he found this verse form, this 3 syllable line too confining. Did he not want to escape its shackles and roam free, go for 5, 6 syllables or even stretch a line across the width of the page. “Au contraire”, he said. He actually said that, “au contraire”, which I thought was a bit effete, a bit foppish for a bald guy of his heft, his corpulence.
“Au contraire, in fact I find it liberating to escape the tyranny of free verse, the endless decisions – upper case, lower case, line length, is it really a poem or is it just chopped up prose, if I am writing a poem about a flower, should the poem be in the shape of a flower, should I rhyme or not rhyme, what is doggerel anyway? This is like fundamentalism, religion, the boundaries are clearly defined, this far and no further, you have 12 syllables per verse, make the best of it!”
Well, that answer was a bit more than I needed or wanted, if I owned a watch I would have been looking at it.
“Got to go, Slim” I said.
“Hang on” he said, “I am feeling a vague fin de saison ennui, a certain je ne sais quoi and I have this urge to use every hackneyed French phrase I know in a pathetic attempt to sound world-weary, like I’m sitting in an outdoor café, a scarf knotted at my neck, smoking a Gitane and nursing an existential crisis, out on
a rain swept pier, a lone tourist bends to the wind.”
Bono, Paul name those streets it’s time it’s time.
Mr. Joyce, James yes, that sea still tightens the scrotum.
Mr. Beckett, Sam we’re waiting we’re waiting we’re waiting
Mr. O’Brien, Flann, Myles of the Little Horses this is not about a bicycle. My dad once told me you were a regular on the last bus out of the city, heading home to Booterstown langered, stotious, three sheets to the wind whether this was an observation or a judgement or an exaggeration I could never quite figure but if you should meet my dad in that section of heaven reserved for former residents of South Dublin please say hi from me and I hope it’s always late June up there and the evening is stretching its legs and the light is like filtered longing.
today I remembered limbo you can’t stand too far from the track
the first line is about memory the second is a disconnected fact
Bob Dylan mentions Rimbaud Van Morrison does too
today I remembered limbo Jean Paul Sartre, Albert Camus
existential boogie do that existential thing been waiting for that vaccine summer, autumn, winter, spring
if you’re looking for an answer don’t ask Albert Camus
that dude’s been dead a long time he can’t tell you what to do
and old Rene Descartes he said I think therefore I am
well I call that a beginning I don’t call that a plan
waiting for that vaccine waiting to cut loose hit me with your best shot of that antiviral juice
Johnson, Moderna, Pfizer I don’t need no appetizer hit me with your best shot of that antiviral juice
Over at earthweal, Brendan asks in reference to the pandemic “What tools in the poetic repertoire are there for describing and naming and calibrating it?” A good question!
This poem is adapted from two other poems – ‘Limbo Blues’ and ‘Existential Boogie’. So the form I picked is a sort of mutating blues and humour is a part of my poetic repertoire (although not everyone might agree ), so I used that!
(Episode 1 is here) The following is a memory and like all memories it’s under constant revision. What’s significant I think is that it was the first time I realized that Slim was taking this whole slimverse thing a bit more seriously than I was. As I remember it……..
I invited Slim and the rest of The Poet’s Circle over for a few drinks to celebrate something, I can’t quite remember what it was and to be honest, it doesn’t matter. The evening began relatively smoothly with an intense discussion about accessibility (no surprises there) and I made an emotional speech about the end rhymes in Leonard Cohen’s song, “Suzanne”. The conversation moved on to verse forms – cinquains, tankas, sestinas, halibuns, what happens if one turns a haiku upside down -fascinating stuff. Then Slim chimed in and asked where our own invention, the slimverse, fitted in to this pantheon. There was an awkward silence. Eventually, The Accomplished Poet spoke up. I should add that he is indeed accomplished and his compact vivid poems, mostly about his garden, have been widely published. He politely suggested that perhaps a 3 syllable line was too limiting, that making poetic music with such a restriction is quite difficult. Now there was another kind of silence, the kind that ensues when a lion tamer drops his whip. Slim said quietly “fuck you and your fucking garden” and aimed a punch at The Accomplished Poet’s head, who, perhaps because of all that work in the garden, is quite agile. He ducked Slim’s punch and kicked him adroitly in the crotch. When the applause died down and Slim could speak again, he uncharacteristically apologized and gave The Accomplished Poet a hug, a doubtful pleasure given Slim’s personal hygiene issues. The evening ended on a happy note with a raucous rendition of “Suzanne”, everyone hitting the end rhymes hard. Later that night Slim and I wrote the above poem which stretched the slimverse form to two verses. History in the making.
Looking back now to 2016 when the above was written, it’s hard to believe that slimverse was once an obscure 12 syllable (3-3-3-3) verse form, standing in the shadow of its older sibling, the seventeen syllable (5-7-5) haiku. Now, it’s 2021, year 2 in the age of Covid and slimverse is, well, still an obscure 12 syllable (3-3-3-3) verse form, standing in the shadow of its older sibling, the seventeen syllable (5-7-5) haiku. The above masterpiece was composed by Slim (Volume) and I in the early hours of the morning following “the Poet’s Circle” Christmas Party which was held at the Accomplished Poet’s house. It was a fun-filled night of poetic over-indulgence and excess. The Accomplished Poet (an avid gardener) read a poem about pruning as a metaphor for the editing process involved in writing a poem, it was tortuous but accomplished. The Upper Case Poet had a minor shoving match with our newest and youngest member, the editor of an edgy E-zine called “Capslock Off” – no prizes for guessing what the argument was about. Slim hung around the buffet all night like a dog that had come across a bag of pork chops while walking in the woods, then later insisted that he had an invented a new word : “tumultaneous” – when tumultuous events occur simultaneously. He was met with benign indifference. But that was all back when Slim and I were in each other’s pockets before our estrangement, our parting of the ways, but more about that later…….
Taking part in Open Link Weekend over at earthweal
thousands of turtles are stunned by the cold off the Texas Coast, the lights go out, the lone star flickers, Republicans tilt at windmills. Ted Cruz flees to Mexico but returns prematurely after a less than excellent adventure chastened, but still oilier than thou.
The challenge over at dverse is to write a 44 word poem (quadrille) incorporating the word “go”.
the only one between me and the magaleptic mob, a zaftig army in dollar store camouflage, is Mike Pence
their fists are raised to the spacious skies there’s spittle on their lips anger and atavism in their eyes
this does not bother me a rock hits the wrought iron gate behind me this also does not bother me I’m staring into an open cooler containing ten tall cans of craft pale ale and a bag of frozen shrimp and I can see that the ice is melting way faster than I expected this bothers me
Go through the gate, Mike yells Go through the gate But Mike, I reply, I need more ice for the shrimp! Forget the fucking shrimp, Mike yells Go through the gate and I’m thinking, Mrs. Pence would not like that kind of language
I look down at the shrimp and imagine them curled and pink on my plate with a dash of soy a dash of sriracha another rock hits the wrought iron gates they swing open onto a long driveway that leads up to a large mansion which I know in the strange logic of dreams is a house of consequence I know this is the house of Richard Nixon
I turn to Mike who is bleeding from the forehead and clutching the nuclear football like a quarterback waiting for someone to run a pattern and I say Hey Mike, I wonder if Mr. Nixon has a freezer.