Thursday, July 03, 2008

poetry spoiler alert!

On Tuesday, Jamie, intern Marcus and I were having a big geeky conversation about poetry:

Eileen Myles doesn’t use question marks,” I said.

“Sometimes I don’t want to use question marks either,” Jamie confessed. “You know, like if something isn’t really a question. But I’m not brave enough—I always go back and add a question mark.”

(You don’t even want to hear our semicolon discussion.)

Marcus said he had a continuing internal debate about just how “accessible” he should try to make his poems. That led to a discussion about the author’s intention versus what the reader takes from and brings to the work. For example, you could write a poem full of words that a reader didn’t know, and even if she (like me) was too lazy to look them up, she could still extract a strong feeling from the poem. It might be the same feeling the writer had, it might not.

“At the workshop I went to on Saturday, the poet showed slides of a bunch of paintings and asked us to write a poem inspired by them,” I said. “So I just wrote like a one-sentence description of what was going on in each slide. But I just said ‘he’ and ‘she’ did such-and-such, so when you read the poem from start to finish, it sounds like a narrative but kind of mysterious poem. It sounds like there’s all this meaning I didn’t intend. It was fun for me to write, but I can’t quite decide if the poem itself is meaningful to me or not, since usually when I write, it’s because I have something to say.”*

So the question is: Just how much of a control freak do I want to be? Less and less as I get older—I’m more open to the idea that writing is a dialogue, not a monologue—but I still like to think that my half of the dialogue will be more than gibberish.

Nevertheless, gibberish can be colorful. Here’s my poem, so you can decide for yourselves. Even though I’ve already divulged its nonsensical origins (should I have given a poetic spoiler alert?), I’m curious whether you poetry readers out there—the only folks left reading after that little question mark conversation—take any meaning from it:

This is Our George Seurat Moment

They are as gold as the '70s.
She is as solemn as a morning river.
The weary man conforms his
gray body to his child's.
The ghost hovers over his right shoulder,
brighter in his heart
than the pink bloom in his hand.

From the neck down, she fades
into the night; the hole-punch moon
doesn’t help much.

The stem of the guitar presses his forehead
like the barrel of a gun.
He studies his palm like the answers
are written there. His face is blue
as mint toothpaste.
He holds the flower up to the dream,
he holds fall-yellow to dog-red.

This is the night we all come together
with warm-kitchen smiles.
This is our George Seurat moment
casting shadows on water.
The boy is back, his candle
as bright as a warning. There are
clouds in the kitchen.

*This does not necessarily apply to blogging. Okay, yes it does. I always have something to say, but sometimes it’s very simple. Like: Last night Christine fed us homemade key lime pie. She really did. It was as good as it sounds, maybe better, especially the buttery graham cracker crust.


Veronica said...

wow. for some reason, it doesn't surprise me that christine makes a killer key lime pie. i have to beg for a banana one next time i see her....

Tracy Lynn said...

Oh, great, Cheryl. Now I want pie.

Cheryl said...

V: Yeah, people start to expect things when you're a good cook. This is just part of the reason why I don't really cook.

TL: Join the club.

Peter Varvel said...

Cheryl, I don't read a lot of poetry, but I truly enjoyed this, thank you.
Very strong, vivid visuals. I saw easily, in my interpretation, the spirit of a deceased wife and grandmother hovering close to her loved ones.
You packed a lot of imagery about the cycle of life into a few words.

And I have to say, sometimes simple is best, especially when it comes to something like homemade key lime pie with a buttery graham cracker crust!

Cheryl said...

Thanks for hanging in there for the poetry post! It's hard to find the pie/poetry blog balance sometimes.

christine said...

key lime pie (easy as pie really applies)

1/3 c melted butter
1/3 c sugar
1.5 c graham crackers
- mix and press into pie pan. bake 10 minutes at 350.

1 can sweetened condensed milk
4 egg yolks
1/2 cup fresh lime juice
- mix together ingredients and bake 15 minutes at 350 degrees in graham cracker crust. serve with dollop of whipped cream or cool whip topping.

Cheryl said...

Yum! What does a can of sweetened condensed milk not improve?