via Daily Prompt: Observe
Short Unsolicited Advice on Writing Poetry
write long poems on short days
short poems on long days
you don’t need a drummer
but you do need rhythm
your head cannot explode all the time,
there is uncharted territory
between ecstasy and despair
look after your images
they should splash like cold water
on the reader’s face
observe, always observe.
When I first started writing poetry, I had really no idea how to do it (I’m still not totally sure). We had covered poetry in high school (or secondary school as it’s called in Ireland), mostly the works of English poets like Wordsworth, Keats and Shelley and a bit of Yeats, but after high school most of my exposure was through reading anthologies or Irish poets like Heaney, Muldoon, Durcan.
So when I started writing, my only technique was to try out lines and see how they sounded and this is pretty much how I write today, although occasionally I will switch to a form as a way of compressing the language. Lately. I have been looking more closely, but always in retrospect, at why a particular line works and another doesn’t.
Recently, I saw in the newspaper, an obituary for Daniel Berrigan, the activist priest, who was a controversial figure in the late sixties and early seventies and at one time spent time in prison for burning draft records in a protest. I immediately thought of a line from a Paul Simon song “Me and Julio down by the Schoolyard”. Initially, I remembered the line as “when the activist priest came to get us released/ we were all on the cover of Newsweek”, but that didn’t sound right. Then, I realized that it was “radical priest” not “activist priest”. Why does that sound better? Music, the ‘r’ in ‘radical’ is repeated in both ‘priest’ and ‘released’; the ‘d’ and ‘l’ in ‘radical are repeated in ‘released’. Without music, it’s prose!
(By the way, Berrigan is the priest that Paul Simon is referring to in the song.)
The leaves have abandoned
that chlorophyll thing
and are leaking yellows and reds
like a paint store catalogue.
Death (a slimverse)
A God’s voice
You are not
Conversation with Slim
Me: Slim, in a previous post “Slim’s Advice Part 2” you said and I quote:
“Avoid Autumn and Death
they’ve been done before
there’s little more to say
on either score.”
Are you being ironic here in a self referential way?
Me: “Slim, the first poem here is an outtake or revision of a previous poem (Slim’s Advice Part 3), are poems ever really finished?”
“Words can be ‘
if you just
talk to them.”
Lately, Slim has taken to talking in these 12 syllable bites he calls “slimverse” and I find it irritating and more than a little disturbing. So, as gently as I can, I say to him:
“Slim, that makes absolutely no sense to me, do you not think you are being a tad cryptic, a tad gnomic, if you keep on like this, you are danger of turning into a fucking garden ornament”
We haven’t talked since.