Steven's Poetry/Writing: August 2007 Archives

A Theory of Poetry


Not really. Theories of poetry are bloated, self-referential, and filled with all sorts of erroneous assumptions. Let's call this more self-referential revelations about one poet.

And there won't be many of those. I just wanted to note that while I greatly appreciate those poets who are able to use rhyme naturally and fluidly--Eliot and Frost come to mind, my own poetry doesnt' fit well into that schema. I have found over the years that I tend to prefer alliterative, assonant, and resonant poetry. I like the internal and external sounds of the words to work in more intricate ways than rhyme. I like the complexity of the music of words. And it was hammered home to me more and more as I wrote the following:

These Woods

How very easy it is to become
lost, to wonder down the wrong trail looking
for some sign of having passed by this way,
forgetting that the only motion is
forward, even when it seems like standing
still or continuous circling. Shadow
and light, the sound of leaves in wind, perhaps
a nearby stream trickling over rocks in
the late summer heat. Or, if these trees were
mangroves and the scuttling black ghosts were
crabs, the vision beyond the tangled limbs
would be the sea--blue-green immensity
stretching out to a sky that thins, becomes
transparent and lingers on the distant
[_____] Or, these woods are a muddle
a confusion of all forests, all lands,
all times. Whatever they are, I am lost
in them, stopped by a pebble from moving
forward, transfixed by a shadow, caught out
by the sudden unsearched for splash of sun--
light in eyes more blinding than the dimness
of the domain in which I wander. Where
am I? I want to call out shattering
a sylvan stillness, thoughtless blind silence.
And within me, the echo, "Where indeed?"
Still stopped, now I stoop to touch the pebble
that seemed to bar my way and feel its cool
damp surface and it's sun-stored warmth all at
[__] When will I want to move on? Is it
even a question I should ask? Still here
touching the smooth white that first distracted
me in my headstrong stomping through the gloom,
I dare now to ask what I would not know.

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Morning Thoughts


You know, poetry really says it all. If you bother to listen to the voice under the voice, if you read between the lines, or if you just enjoy for the moment and let the moment linger--poetry says it all. I suppose that is one reason, one very good reason for praying the psalms. Poetry is, by its nature, closer to God. Which is not to imply that God is a poem--but God is at the heart of every good poem--just as He is waiting to surprise you in every work of art and nature, if only you are willing to be surprised.

It's amazing to me how the night
passes and the morning thoughts
born of dreams pass silently away,
unencumbered by the obligation
to teach, unaffected by the need
to nurture. They present and then fold
passing briefly into the light of memory
and fading with the stronger morning.

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Stumbling into the Light


Time has always intrigued me, and the experience of time is even more fascinating. I have nothing deep or insightful to say about it. Nevertheless, to attempt to say it I shall because I have ever learned that discretion is the bitter part of valor. [No, that wasn't a typo.]

The Mystery of Time

A clock ticks, arbitrary measure
of a moment--a waterclock drips
and each tiny splash gives weight to now:
but what is now? And even as I
think the word the now of that moment
passes and the thought became memory
of what slipped by.
[______________] There is no now, each
now is gone before it can be named.
A chronic waterfall, the seconds
wash over the rock ledge and vanish
with a tumble and turn; at this joint,
poised on the brink, I can see but can't
move the water flowing to, water
cascading away; no more can I
halt it, stop it on the brink, study
it, name it, and then let it flood pst.
One moment it is the unspoken
future, trips over the rocky juncture
and then is past, but no held, not owned
not ever my present, but always

In some sense now is never. That is, by the time you recognize NOW it has already slipped by. By the time you think NOW, that now is an instant in the past. In a sense all though is memory. It happens in the moment, and people constrained to our linear experience of it, it seems like now.

The Buddhists seek to plumb this mystery by mindfulness--living in the now. And if one could truly live in the NOW one would actually be living in eternity where all the chained together nows have a meaning the transcends the sequential NOW of our experience.

Or something like that.

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The Way Words Shape Themselves


This poem started off going one direction and ended up in another entirely. It isn't particularly good and isn't presented as a sterling example of the poetic art, but rather as what happens when poetry begins to take over prose. These are essentially stray thoughts from a journal--although that wasn't the intent upon composition.

And so we're back to the observation made the other day regarding authorial intent with particular reference to William Butler Yeats. It doesn't much matter what an author intends, means, or even overtly states as he writes because meaning is, in some sense, collaborative--it is the work of the artist that brings it forth, but the work of the reader and the place of the reader at that time that gives it force. If the reader intends differently from the author, the work can likely be interpreted in that light. I often wonder about the many works of scholarship surrounding written work. I suspect there are darn few authors who would admit it, but the object of composition is not necessarily deep meaning--in fact, there may be no object at all--it may simply be that the artist cannot do otherwise; it is in the nature of the beast.


The actions put in place today
spring from seeds planted in the past.
The actions taken today
set seeds that form the future.
In the moment of movement the past
and the future are fused
to become the present.
We cannot see the present come
into being, the bridges between
seconds are burned as one
instant ticks over into another.
But in some shared space
we enter together the only
time any of us have.

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The Wonders of Waiting


Sam has three hours of dance classes on Monday night. As a result there is much waiting. Last night as I was pacing up and down in front of the strip mall where the dance classes occur, a middle aged, probably Vietnamese lady emerged from a nail salon. As she opened the door and turned to lock it, I caught a whiff of acetone and it resulted in this:

Nail Salon

A life of volatile organics--of
making life better by painting the stuff
of beetle wings bright red, soft pink, polished
orange, dusty cherry, hot brick, beryllium
blue, cobalt, aster, seafoam, or buffing
them to high gloss shine and making them as
nature intended, flesh and pale off-white.
Who's to say if it could be lived better?

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The Next to Last for the Day


Study in Red

Not a shred of it--
not in the rolling river
or mid-day sun-drenched
sky or trees limned against
the etched and eerie never-ending horizon,
or in the grass-bleached, burnt brown
by rainless days and dewless evenings
nor in the road that threads
the landscape, nor in the wildflowers
relentlessly blue, so blue, so sky-blue deep
blue they tip the scales
and roll into purple.

There in purple petaled blossom
splendor it hides, the only tinge
the only suggestion of it in
the whole world.

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Another Observation



To stand for just an evening moment
and see the oak, spanish-moss tufted, pinned
against a still blue but fading sky, scraggly,
mostly naked branches, knobbed and curled, spiky
balls of bromeliad, pierced through on twigs--
sea urchins on a thread--is to know with
some assurance how strange we really are.

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Providing Insight


Praying the Psalms

Words on paper, meaning in black and white
and I wonder how to transform static
image into heartfelt prayer.
[--------------------------------] A pause
a silent moment thickening into
a knot that hardens in the throat. What once
I prayed eagerly, I pray now as dust.
The overfamiliar words stumble out
of my mouth, overflow my lips, and when
they mean, they mean lightly, barely denting
the lips, barely weighing on the tongue, now
falling off, vanishing in weeds that choke
what wheat sprouts.
[----------------]And yet isn't there something
in obedience? Is there no merit
in doing what you've been charged to do? In
saying the words and joining the torrent
that flows through the centuries, baptising
the world anew in each generation? But
beautiful words and bright blossoms don't change
a landscape of ash--the bitter ashes
of obedience, humility, and
{----} The good that is done is buried
with us, words not ours have refreshed the world
and borne us to the grave with no sign of
any difference. We're told that our words do
untold good, sanctifying the hours and
redeeming the unredeemed day. Weary
and tired of prayer's trying toil, I try
to remember how much worse all might be
if I did not pray, and for a brief time
I'm on fire again. This moment dies in
an ashy sirocco, a dust-devil
through the solitary inner desert
landscape of prayer when the wadi's dry.

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Another Poem


Writ in Water

Who you are changes
with the day.
Yesterday's poet is long gone
replaced now
by the accountant, husband,
father, unquiet man,
disturbed soul, unrested in his
rest with all this change.
Changed and changeable
look around
for the person you remember.

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Another, with a couple to come


[as yet untitled]

Words have no weight
no heft, no meaning
unless you are there
to make them mean.

They say what others
say they say and so
they say nothing at all
of what you intended.

But should that stop you
from saying at the start?
Should the novel rest unwritten
the poem unpenned?

What weight words have
will gives them, intent
imbues with purpose;
a sentence unsaid

for fear it will be
resaid, misunderstood
is a tragedy and a selfishness--
depriving all.

I wrote this upon reading Harold Bloom's comments on W.B. Yeats. He typified Yeats as "virulently anti-Christian," and yet, one can read Yeats very much within a Christian context and have it make perfect sense. In a sense, this must be enormously frustrating (for Yeats, who is in a position to no longer care). But for me it is one of the great wonders of the written world. What I write will mean differently as it is encountered by different people who read the poem from the poem they are.

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A New Poem

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In the Sequence:


Can we count the branches of the tree
from the oak's catkin?
The needles on the branches
from the pine cone?

Can we tell how well
it will winter? What burden of snow it will
shed? What summer's heat will wilt
and burn--all from a seed?

And from this one, how many others?
Can we know whether from this one
a whole forest springs or the sapling fails?

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One more


A draft.

Dark Swimming

An everyday mystery
enmeshed in flesh,
the dark swimming
from one to another
that results in a third;

a third so small she
can be held in the crook
of an arm, cradled
and rocked, this small
sighing and crying

image of the two of us,
mirror in the flesh
who came from nowhere,
who came from a moment,
who makes real what isn't

seen. An everyday mystery
no less deep because we
make it happen; in the stillness
of the night of who we are,
another life comes to be

out of air, out of nowhere
or even out of us,
it doesn't matter because
the mystery is darker
than that dark, dark swimming

that brought her home to us.

Very different in mood and tone from the one below, and possibly one of a series. Will depend upon what it is upon redraft.

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A New Poem


Something relatively new both in content and style

Impression: Sunrise, 2007


I cannot breathe
the air here stinks
of rotted root and sawdust

Where the end was
it still is sharp
and deeply visible
limned against the sky
a ragged wound

You wish
you could
speak to

who thought the ice flowed
who knew the cracking song
of water shattering

the red eyes
do not see
and light up the red night
each time my eyes
snatch open

suddenly the one I knew
I thought blind
and stood him naked
on the shore
for the breeze

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About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Steven's Poetry/Writing category from August 2007.

Steven's Poetry/Writing: September 2006 is the previous archive.

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