The ReMix begins: 2004 draft cuts: (in parens)– 2017 adds: IN CAPS:
After the election, I saw and felt a frozenness–I NEEDED (wanted) poetry (to arrive and speak to me–) to convert (a tableau of different shades of) dread to (a weave of) courage and CUT A PATH TO transformation. TO ROAR. I wanted something to take AND SPEAK the pain, (naturally). And poetry can hold IT (every complex yearning).
“I don’t know where to begin because I have nothing to say…”
is the opening line from an essay by the poet, Mary Reufle, called “Madness, Rack, and Honey” which meditates, among other things, on metaphors, an ad for a Coach bag, the correlation between suicide and literacy, and wasting time. It’s a good read.
Moving back to London requires minimal adjustment, it’s as easy (as a writer once said about revision, compared to first draft composing) as sliding into a bath of warm oatmeal. No culture shock save for the first instant of wondering why dogs and babies are driving cars; all you have to do is exercise a little preliminary caution crossing the street and you’re done. Or maybe some mild culture shock, over here in the Land of Other People’s Problems, to learn exactly what the tabloid media judges important. “Horror on No. 77!” shrieks the top headline in the Evening Standard, the free newspaper everyone reads on the Tube going home after work.
This week, following the U.S. President’s pro-white nationalist tantrum before the press in the wake of the Charlottesville terrorist attack (remarkably deemed as such by Attorney General Jeff Sessions), it seems that we are witnessing a regression of a whole different order of magnitude.
How are you, my fellow writer? This past spring, at my annual physical exam, I was given a questionnaire I was to fill and hand to the nurse before proceeding to the doctor’s office. I have been with the same practitioners since 2009, and this was the first time they asked about my emotional well-being.
I think of your tap code late at night when I am lonely. You broken and spent in the Hanoi Hilton tapping out “Are you okay?” to the guy on the other side of the wall.
“My name is Ernie Brace,” the taps from the prison cell next to you kept declaring. “My name is Ernie Brace.” “My name is Ernie Brace.” Then sobs. Ernie Brace so overwhelmed by human contact he could only tap his name.
Last night around a campfire, I bonded with our Bedouin guide (عبت) over Arabian Sands. He said the book, which he re-reads often, captures Bedouin culture like a zoom lens (his words) and the changing culture of Arabia like a crystal ball (mine). Thesiger wasn’t the first explorer to cross the Empty Quarter, but he has become arguably the most famous. And he opened up this place for me. Last night I danced in a dishdasha, drank fresh milk from goats, and watched the sunset from towering dunes of powder-like sand.
Aristotle’s Poetics. Horace’s Ars Poetica. Freytag’s diagram. Syd Field’s paradigm. Frank Daniel’s sequence approach. For more than two millennia dramatic theorists have sought to trace, map and/or illustrate the shape and technical elements of a story told in dramatic form.
I’ve got a lot to gain by leaving my own borders every now and then. So maybe it’s time for me to read something other than plays. Time to step out of my zone and experience different things for a while. As I’m putting together my summer reading list, I’m going to select some good novels, some collections of short stories and yes, some poetry. And for Diana, a memoir or two.
Goddard College MFAW faculty member Kenny Fries: The editor wanted to crop the photograph so it only showed, close-up, the lower portion of the photograph, which showed my cane and shoes. Next to it would be a similarly cropped version of a photo of South African Olympic runner Oscar Pistorius, taken long before his trial for murdering his girlfriend.
Casey worked as a journalist in the Marines until, in the late l970’s, she attended a writing conference in California where one of the faculty told her she should, be writing poetry instead. Casey took this person and their work and when she returned to base, declared herself resident poet, meaning she would no longer report to duty.
I gave my name
rank an serial number,
said I was a poet. Beyond
that I refused to speak.
Rather than send her to the brig for going AWOL, Casey’s superior officers sent her to the psych ward. Part of her time in the psych ward is a subject of this book.
I didn’t know how obsessed I was with the world – with the actual word “world” – until I went through my second book of poems and saw that I used the word at least 30 times. Actually, another poet told me I used it 30 times but of course I went back and counted the words myself (because they were my words) to see if this was true. I’d never done anything like that – count how many times a word got used. I wonder if other poets do this?