Odds and Ends (and a Poem)

June 19, 2007

Find below evidence of my growing web-savviness in the Regina Spektor live performance of “Samson” I found on YouTube:

The quality leaves a bit to be desired, but I opted for this bootleg over both the music video (which is ok) and the produced live version from a music festival in April. I found this more real somehow. Whatever that means. If you like the song, you can get it here.  

Also, DawgE will live! She is without parasites or any real health problems. She had some gland issues that needed to be flushed out. And I should tell you that I did not enjoy putting a headlock on the poor girl as the vet swabbed out her rectal cavity with two well-lubed fingers. The dirty look afterwards, however, was masterfully expressive. Who needs language when you have daggers like hers? Plus, I got shunned for a few hours afterwards. We’re good now, though, thanks to a treat and a long morning run.

That’s about all on the odds and ends front. As for today’s poem, it’s a piece from Yusef Komunyakaa’s Talking Dirty to the Gods. A brief bio on Komunyakaa can be found here. Though this is not the poem I wanted to post, it’s a strong piece worth the time to examine. The book is taut, and Komunyakaa imposes a systematic design to both the form and organization of the individual pieces within the collection. Each poem is four quatrains long, which adds a cohesion and a design befitting the abundance of gods, goddesses, and the geometry of nature the poems tackle. Here’s the bibliographic information:

Komunyakaa, Yusef. Talking Dirty to the Gods. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2000.

And here’s the piece:

Body of a Dog

(Cadavere di un Cane)

 

He’s chasing a hare.

In eleven or twelve countries

The philosophy of the hourglass

Has turned into weathered stone,

 

But he races the same sun

Through threadbare silhouettes.

If there were human prayers

Left, they wouldn’t reach him

 

In Vulcan’s dream come true.

Did he know when vicissitude

Eased over hills like mist or scent

Of a bitch? Given another month,

 

He would have made the boy

Into a very good master.

He’s treed his own ghost

In a nearby poppy field.   

With “Body of a Dog,” I think we’re being asked to confront our transitory existence on earth. Referring to the “philosophy of the hourglass,” “Vulcan’s dream” and closing with the surreal and vivid image of the dog in the “poppy field,” Komunyakaa uses the ethereal and lofty connotations in philosophy, dreams, and poppies to contrast against the penultimate sentence, which spans the end of the third stanza into the first line of the fourth and helps us realize more clearly the importance of the hourglass in the first stanza. If the dog were given that month, things would have been different. In essence, it’s potential unrealized. Time had run out for the dog (and the boy, too, in a different way), and as it is those plans are left unfulfilled. 

As always, there’s plenty more to say, but I will shut it here. Feel free to drop your own thoughts on the piece or question mine.    


Shoreline Sure Am

June 15, 2007

We’re reaching record temps for the area this week, and as I griped in a previous post, my upper apartment is sweltering. Though I found this morning some mangled and ill-shaped screens on my steps that I can only assume are meant for my windows, it’s too little too late, and I’ll have to wait until this evening to cool the joint down. 

But here’s a great link to a poetry website that, in addition to showing the text, has a limited selection of classic work being read by a pretty well-honed reader. I’ve listened to the whole catalog, and it’s worth it. There are no downloads or anything like that. It’s supersimple point-and-click. Also, there’s an email address to drop suggestions their way. Enjoy the site, and tell ’em Puddle sent you. Just kidding. I always wanted to say that, you know, like my name opening great and secret doors. Or a speakeasy and illegal gambling den filled with men in tailored clothes and flappers dancing on plywood floors.

Keep on, all. And tune in soon for a Yusef Komunyakaa poem with a brief gloss.

Puddlehead 

     


I *Heart* Literary Journals

June 7, 2007

One of my favorite things about being a writer is the sense of tradition I feel whenever I fire up a new Word Document or take pen to paper, jotting in my illegible scrawl some thought, some image, I will one day try to craft into a piece. The act of writing is the act of joining a community that spans time and space, and cannot be limited by age, race, or era. When you write, you join a conversation. A “California Supermarket” that shows up in one of your poems cannot be seperated from Ginsberg’s. We write from, or in response to, the views of those who came before us. For me, I write from Cormac McCarthy’s driving prose, from Yusef Komunyakaa’s lyrical visions, and from Wallace Steven’s technical precision. And, if you write in English, you cannot escape the Great Bard’s impossible shadow. Nor, for that matter, can you escape Emily Dickinson or Uncle Walt, or T.S. Eliot or whomever. The point is is that those tried-and-true English-speaking writers (not to mention the many great non-English writers) have left some vast footprints, and it’s important to know where we come from. That’s what our anthologies and favorite college texts help us with. And I love revisiting certain authors whose work continues to mean so much to me.

Equally as important, though, is to know where our contemporaries are. This point is why I think it is so important that we nourish what literary journals we can. I don’t only mean with our submissions but mean as well with our monetary support through subscriptions. Too many dedicated editors and their quality publications fold for lack of funds. Often times, these journals rely solely on subscription fees to keep afloat. There are only so many grants to go around, and many editors find themselves unable to keep their journals afloat for lack of subscribers. Yet, there never seems to be any shortage of submissions.

But, it’s not charity that drives me to subscribe to journals when I can; it’s greed. I love reading what my contemporaries are doing, love finding some gem of a poem that sends me spilling beyond my boundaries. I love when, a year later, I see a first book published by someone whose poem moved me when I read it in a journal. I am not advocating any particular journal, mind you. But I do advocate buying a back issue of a journal or magazine you might submit to. For me, it’s a good way to get an idea if my work would fit, but I am also exposed to more work, more writers I might not have read if it weren’t for their appearance in said journal. And, if I like the mag overall and have the funds, I’ll drop the 15 or so dollars for a year subscription.

The other side of writing well is reading well. Many of my books and magazines are annotated to the point of sin. There are cross-reference marks, question marks, lines I love underlined softly in pencil. That way, I’m actively involved . I’m a participant in making meaning of what I read. Not only is this fun, it helps me as a writer. If I am careless as I read, I will be careless when I write. That does no one any kindness.

For my part, I read as I’d like to be read. Sure it’s a remake of childhood’s golden rule, but I tell you what, whatever you read has cost someone a lot of time, effort, and energy. Plus, it might be damn good and, if you’re rushing, you’ll miss the greatness. And there’s a lot of greatness in journals and magazines and other small presses.

If you like, I’d be happy to comment on a few of my favorites, but I am not advocating any particular press or magazine. Rather, I believe writers should read nearly as much as they write. And just about every University has a magazine filled with worthwhile prose and poetry.

Anyway! I’m off to watch the rest of the NBA game. And then off to read and to bed and in the morning…Friday, which is Billiards day for me. Nine ball run, come on! Whoot!