“Balance your image systems: An image system is the set of images we create in a poem to make our argument. A good image system coheres, but also makes an idea new. The elements of the image system should be clear and lucid and dynamic.”
“If you think about an animal, there’s no perfect animal. Most people think of poems like they’re machines. I’m thinking of something more organic and human that exists the way it needs to exist, more like a baby or child. How do you achieve that? I think of myself as a person who likes to be in control of everything. So how do I surprise myself? For so long I’ve been this person who’s been too in control, so how do I relinquish control? Some of it’s about line breaks, narrative. I like the poem to look a certain way in terms of line breaks, but how do I release control? Some of it is subject matter. The poet wants to be liked in the poem, but what does it mean to not always chase some kind of appeal? Discomfort, vulnerability, rawness that come up in a poem—that also has to do with perfection, the absence of perfection. That’s hard to teach, but if you make people more generous in the workshop, then you can get it. You say, “Oh, it’s not a perfect poem, but it’s pretty good; we’ll take that.” It creates generosity if you aren’t chasing a perfect object.”
“…line breaks have everything to do with doubt. That’s why poetry is so different from prose, because it’s infused with doubt. At the moment of a line break, even if it’s for a millisecond, you’re thrust into doubt; you’re thrust into a place where you’re not certain what just happened or what’s going to happen. Only faith that the next line will land us on solid ground is what keeps us breathing.”
– Jericho Brown, from his essay The Possibility of God (via kathleenjoy)
Portraits | Xhosa Textbook Fiction
A series of linguistic experiments and poetic explorations. And beautifully rendered.
who sang to him, stroked the nap
of the scalp, kissed the flesh-knot
after the cord completed its work
of fueling into him the long history
of those whose suffering
was made more bearable
by the as-yet-unknown of him,
playing alone in some unthinkable
future city, a Cleveland,
whatever that might be.
“Gibbs is influenced by the philosophy of writers such as Merleau-Ponty, who defined perception as an organism’s entire bodily reaction to its environment. In an experiment by Gibbs, used to illustrate his theory of embodied cognition, participants were taken out into a field and shown the location of an object, some distance from them. They were then blindfolded. The participants were read two short texts, both of which used the familiar conceptual metaphor of a relationship as a journey. In one version, things were ‘moving in the right direction’ whereas in the other, the relationship had ‘stalled’, and the people were ‘moving apart’ rather than ‘moving forwards together’. The participants were then asked to walk forwards to where they thought the object they’d previously been shown was. With remarkable consistency, participants overshot the mark after hearing the first, positive text and stopped short of it after hearing the second. Gibbs used this to illustrate the ways in which our understanding of many concepts is intimately related to our physical experiences (for example, the way we interpret a word like ‘stand’ with its many literal and metaphorical meanings has a lot to do with our bodies and the way we acquire language.”
1: write the poem. The language of it. The actual words are important. The music is as important as the idea. If the music isn’t there, the idea doesn’t take flight.
2: don’t get precious. Write until you find your way. You’re a millionaire of words. Speculate to accumulate.
3: figure out how to get into the sweet spot between idea and music as quickly as possible, ever more directly.
4: no time to second guess yourself. That’s what later is for.
“Art, be it poetry, music, sculpture, puppetry—the whole of it, inspires change on a personal level rather than a global one. This is important because the individual is the whole. The creation of art argues that people are connected, ideas are connected, the past and future are connected by this moment. Meanwhile, exploitation of the poor, drone strikes that kill hundreds of children, slavery, genocide, land theft—these are all acts that depend upon convincing large groups of usually well-meaning people that “they are not us.” Dean Young once said, “The highest accomplishment of the human consciousness is the imagination, and the highest accomplishment of the imagination is empathy.” Poetry, along with every other art, is a tool for teaching and expanding empathy. Violence and injustice cannot endure empathy.”
RC: What role should poetry play in everyday life?
BH: None. Should sounds like eating vegetables. I’m sorry— I sort of criticised your question there. But I don’t like should. I’m guessing that your question has to do, in part, with poetry’s diminished status in our culture. I certainly wish poetry still didn’t seem so strange to people. Which is weird, given that, if people write, they’re more likely to write poetry than anything else, in my experience. With that in mind, I think poetry is an every-day thing for many.
“This juxtaposition of space and text—each poem in the cycle adheres to the same format—creates multiple effects. First of all, and by far the simplest of all possible explanations in my mind, would be that open space creates a field for the reader to imagine the absent, roughly two-dimensional, visual surface that triggers the writing. But a far more interesting explanation, made possible by Bleakney’s aesthetic choices, is that the field created by the space allows the speaker to create a three-dimensional absence which she may fill with her own internal weather, a process in which the speaker becomes the painting’s ego, and eventually even a superimposed alter-ego for the painter herself, who remains mostly absent, in terms of fact. Throughout the cycle—other than a reference to her birthplace, we get very little information about the painter herself—but she remains ever-present through the speaker’s entreaties. The speaker evokes Owens directly, or more particularly, the Owens she is in the business of creating”
– Lamenting the fact that this chapbook appears to have sold out. That said, Bleakney’s next collection is out in April. Looking forward to picking up a copy.
Lamenting the fact that this chapbook appears to have sold out. That said, Bleakney’s next collection is out in April. Looking forward to picking up a copy.
“First thing every morning after waking up, I take a pill that may cause drowsiness. The darkness begins to peel away in long, uneven strips, exposing patches of brighter darkness underneath. Later, I’ll feel as I often do, like a candle eavesdropping on sunlight. Going up on the escalator, a vague little man who reminds me of me will hug a bag from Infinity Shoes to his chest. I’ll have the sense that anyone who isn’t a victim is a suspect. In infinity shoes, you could, theoretically, walk forever.”
– ‘The Shadow of an Airplane Crosses the Empire State Building’ – Howie Good; via Right Hand Pointing
“For a year I went blind as a freight train, thrashed
in a wild grief, because nothing as loud
as my sorrow could be heard. Now, in the formless dark
I can’t untangle my tongue
even to know what kind of help to ask.
But he tells me I’m all flintstrike
deep in the basement’s gut: again, again, again, again—”
– Extract of Small Bang Theory by Anne Shaw | Kenyon Review Online. Follow the link for the full poem.
“Can’t say I’m worried about success because I don’t really know what constitutes success in the poetry world. Book sales? Fellowships? Being invited to read or interviewed? Having people request your work rather than having to send it out cold? I don’t ever want to think that what I’m doing is automatic, or that I can’t fail. Too many once-great poets (no names here) have let their work go stale, and I wonder if it’s because no editor will tell them “this sucks — I don’t want it.” I don’t know if I’ll ever be a great poet, but whatever I am, I don’t want to be a guy who writes the same poem over and over again, no matter how well I write it.”
“Living, we cover vast territories;
imagine your life drawn on a map—
a scribble on the town where you grew up,
each bus trip traced between school
and home, or a clean line across the sea
to a place you flew once. Think of the time
The body of a bird in your mouthbreathing songs. Raw light spills from your eyes, utterly naked. You must breach the horizon, once, in order to wake up. You must open window after window. You must support the walls. I let alphabets cling to me as I cli…
Nii Ayikwei Parkes and daughter…
Long time no photo. Long story short, I’m shooting again. Had some old rolls of film processed recently and I’m back to shooting digital courtesy of a diminutive Sony Nex 5N. These are from the Bronica at the be…