I greatly enjoyed M Stone’s found poem “My Life By Water”, constructed using… well, you can follow the link to find out – and does it matter? It stands on its own merits as an evocative piece of writing with some interesting juxtapositions.
MY LIFE BY WATER
I rose from marsh mud.
I knew a clean man
in the great snowfall.
Consider at the outset—
I am sick with the Time’s
Keen and lovely man,
I lost you to water, summer.
Now in one year
my life is hung up.
something in the water.
Along the river,
traces of living things.
On what would have been my father’s 87th Birthday this poem by Robert Wrigley seems fitting. It captures something of the tension between the worlds of literary endeavour and the practical, literal workaday world ; a world with, as Wrigley writes, its own evocative vocabulary and moments of poetry:
My father loved every kind of machinery,
relished bearings, splines, windings, and cogs,
loved the tolerances between moving parts
and the parts that moved the parts,
the many separate machines of machinery.
Loved the punch, the awl, the ratchet, the pawl.
In-feed and out-feed rollers of the thickness planer,
its cutter head and cutters. The barrel and belt sanders,
the auger, capstan, windlass, and magneto.
Such a beautiful vocabulary in his work, words
he knew even if often he did not know
how they were spelled. Seals, risers, armatures.
Claw, ball-peen, sledge, dead-blow, mallet,
hammers all. Butt, mitered, half-lap,
tongue and groove; mortise and tenon,
biscuit, rabbet, dovetail, and box: all joints.
“A poem is a small (or large) machine
made of words,” said William Carlos Williams.
“To build the machine that makes the machine,”
said Elon Musk. Once my father repaired
a broken harpsichord but could not make it sing.
The chock, the bore, the chisel. He could hang a door,
rebuild an engine. Cylinders, pistons, and rings.
Shafts, crank and cam. Hand-cut notches
where the hinges sat. He loved the primary feathers
on the wings of a duck, extended and catching air,
catching also the tops of the whitecap waves
when it landed. Rods, valves, risers, and seals.
Ailerons and flaps, yaw control in the tail.
Machinery, machinery, machinery.
Four syllables in two iambic feet. A soft pulse.
Once I told him what Williams said,
he approached what I made with deeper interest
but no more understanding in the end.
The question he did not ask, that would have
embarrassed him to ask, the question I felt sure
he wanted to ask, the one I was too embarrassed
to ask for him, was “What does it do?”
Eventually the machine his body was broken,
and now it is gone, and the mechanically inclined
machine in his head is also gone,
and most of his tools. The machines that made
the machines are gone too, but for a few
I have kept in remembrance. A fine wood plane
but not the thickness planer, which I would not know
how to use. A variety of clamps I use to clamp
things needing clamping. Frost said
“poetry is the sort of thing poets write.” My father
thought it was the sort of thing I wrote,
but what mattered to him was what it did.
What does it do, and what is it?
A widget that resists conclusions.
A crank that turns a wheel
that turns. A declaration of truth
by a human being running at full speed
in a race with no one, toward nowhere
except away from the beginning and toward arrival.
Once my father watched the snow
and noted how landing on the earth it melted.
He said, “It’s snow that doesn’t know it’s rain.”
From the always interesting First Known When Lost here is a post with a wonderful piece of 0rose (rather than poetry, FKWL’s usual beat) by Walter de la Mare:
“As for our waking traffic with the world-at-large — and how infinitesimal a fraction of that is solely ours — what a medley this appears to be: loose, chancey, piecemeal, formless. From birthday to death-day we continue to collect and weave together the materials of our minute private universe, as a bird builds its nest, and out of a myriad heterogeneous scraps we give it a certain shape and coherence, wherein to lay our treasured brittle eggs. But how little life itself respects the rational, adapts itself to our convenience, discloses its aim, explains the rules — despite the fact that every thread of it that is ours is weaving itself into a gossamer fabric thinner even than dreamed-of moonshine, which we call the Past; and which, when in recollection we attempt to record and arrange it and to give it something of a pattern, we shall call autobiography. Nature, inscrutable mistress of her vast household, even although man assumes himself to be her fairy godchild, shows him a fickle favouritism, destroys him if he ignores her, and is indulgent only if he obeys to the last iota her every edict, her every whim. She is; she perpetuates herself; as if she herself were bemused and in a dream — with her seasons and her weather, her greenery and stars and her multitudes; creating, destroying, never at rest.”
From the Summer 2018 issue of Temz Review here is a sonnet (of course) by Joanna Cleary. I like its ironic treatment of contemporary lit crit certainties. And of course, the poem itself subverts the title:
The Sonnet is Dead
By Joanna Cleary
The sonnet is dead; we’ve talked it to death.
Love is complicated, political.
And what could be more complicated than
a sonnet? They are always ironic,
my professor said sternly to the class.
Always. The idea is ironized
in the sestet. I was still half-asleep,
retracing my pen over the octave,
thinking that it first could have been written
on a day as rain-splattered as today,
and the poet could have walked home slowly
with both feet wet from stepping in puddles
as sunlight appeared in the sky again
to touch water drops shining on cobwebs.
From The Writing Disorder
If I Knew Braille
If I knew Braille, perhaps I could read
the graffiti of purple-mouthed limpets clinging
to old, sea-washed boulders
the secret Bibles of zebra mussels clinging to dry-docked boats
the last, profound gasps of snails and slugs dried out in clumps
on the sun-baked pavement in front of my house.
There may be language in the teetering piles of droppings
the rabbits have scattered throughout my yard
written in squirrel on the skin of half-nibbled tulip bulbs
lifted from the ground and carried into the trees
in the fresh pattern of teeth marks gnawed into the table leg
by the dog. I am missing too many important things
because I don’t know how to read.
Lawrence Sterne of Tristram Shandy fame was born in Clonmel in 1713. Spending only a few months of infancy there, he is nevertheless commerorated by two memorials in the town – one a plaque on the West Gate, another being , “Nothing Odd Will Do Long” designed by Ron van der Noll and sculpted by Bobby Blunt, and installed in its current location in 2012 following damage at its original site.
From a distance the memorial consists of four pillars, one of which is taller than the other:
Approaching one sees the smaller pillars have some kind of odd motif on top
Look through a peephole in the larger pillar… and it all comes together:
.. a portrait of the author!
The poetry magazine Magma has a call for submissions for a special issue on Loss. The deadline is April 30th – so you better get writing if you want to enter (or dust off a poem you’ve prepared earlier…) The Call For Submissions is itself a nice little essay on the poetry of loss, and features Elizabeth Bishop’s “One Art”, new to me:
I lost my mother’s watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.
I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn’t a disaster.
—Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan’t have lied. It’s evident
the art of losing’s not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.
The essay/call is worth reading, although I would dispute that “Grief following bereavement is one of western society’s last taboos. ” I am not a fan of the last taboo trope. And surely rather than being “one of western society’s last taboos” it is a fairly recent taboo. Think of all the rituals of bereavement such as wearing black for a period of time, various religious services. Certainly in Ireland much of this is intact. Often people from other countries remark on the social, even celebratory nature of Irish wakes and funerals. And the body itself is very much a presence at these. In so far as grief after a bereavement is a taboo it is quite a new one and a product of a particular historical and social circumstances.