Sunday, December 6, 2015

Word play

My past as a poem reading drawing card at HRO.
A few weeks ago I posted a picture of myself on Facebook reading some of my original poetry during Open Mic Night at High Rock Outfitters. I posted it as a Throwback Thursday item that I thought would raise a few chuckles.

I did the HRO thing for a couple of reasons: one, I wanted to face down my stage fright – in truth, I'm petrified as a public speaker; and two, I wanted to experience the perspective that performing artists have on that particular stage.

Don't ask me why. There was no logic behind it. But, anyway, mission accomplished. Sort of.

Curiously, a few of my friends have since asked me what it was I was reading that night. Most of the poems I wrote bubbled up during my college days at Kutztown State (PA) back in the time when my brain was fertile and fresh. Now, as I zero in on Medicare registration, fertile and fresh are all up for debate.

But I found a poem I'd written almost 45 years ago and this is the one I read. It's titled (probably ungrammatically), "She":

Not as vast as galaxies, nor is she deep beyond
         the oceans;
She soars the skies on fragile wings, but does not
         trace clouds in circular motions,
                          or in loops or spheres.
Not brave, or even firm and true, but rather
anxious in her dreams and fears
                        and knowing who she is and what she wants

She will not hold the stars in her her hands, but
          points to them instead;
Time does not obey her words, and confusion often 
          dwells in her head
                          because really there is no time.
I can not describe her beauty anymore, I only
feel her inside and know she is there
                          and I will try not to let her slip away

She is not magical sunsets or wondrous universes
          or blue skies;
She is the rich, damp earth, cool and moist between my fingers –
          but do we realize
                          the goodness of touching earth?

That day comes, as usual, and he looks to the horizon
as a distant dream, discovering its natural worth
                          as she heads in the opposite direction

Something waits for him now in the starsplit night, and it is he
                                                                     who slips away

I can't tell you how that poem came to be. I think I wrote it during a particularly numbing social science lecture and clearly, it was about a relationship that was failing (the impetus that drives most sane people to write poetry, I think).

Anyway, my theory behind poetry is that while I don't necessarily need meter, I do like words to rhyme. I think rhyming is part of the discipline behind a thoughtful, expressive poem that helps paint a picture or color an emotion. I also like to use rhyming words, when I can, whose root structures are spelled differently, i.e. "spheres" and "fears" or "motions" and "oceans." It makes things more challenging and can also raise an eyebrow in the reading. It's part of what I think "word play" is all about.

And, oh, yeah, don't forget about making your point. Making your point is the whole point about poetry,

One of my friends asked me why I haven't written any poetry more recent than 1973. My poetry basically vanished when I became a journalist in 1975 because, you know, making money was an imperative back then and I didn't want to travel the starving artist route. I mean, really, how many professional poets do you know?

But a few years ago, a photographer friend of mine, Rodney Slate from Thomasville, took some stunning black and white snaps after a brief snowfall. One of the images he captured was a stand of trees bordering a country lane somewhere in Davidson County. He posted the pic on Facebook and, four decades later, it got my poetic juices going again. His picture was stark, yet inviting. Geometric, yet open and free. I wrote my untitled poem and sent it to Rodney, who posted it in his blog along with his photo, much to my surprise.

A now, a few years later, I'm doing the same:

(Click on the picture to enlarge it.)

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