If You Give A Cuttlefish A Blue Book…

… ze’s gonna want to fill it up.

So while giving an exam the other day, I found an empty Blue Book in the classroom, left behind by a previous class. There I was, trapped for 80+ minutes in a room, with a whole 16 pages of wide-ruled notebook paper. And a dozen extra number 2 pencils.

It was too much to resist. I plan on filling the entire thing, then dropping it surreptitiously on the floor of the English Department. So far, it only has 2 verses:

I found an empty Blue Book
And I knew just what to do:
I asked it if it wanted
To explain why it was blue

“The emptiness inside me”
Said the book, “is hard to take.”
But it didn’t want a sandwich
And it didn’t want some cake

It didn’t want a candy bar
It wanted words, instead–
It said that ink tastes salty,
So I’m filling it with lead.

****

In English Departments
You’ll rarely find times
When the stuff they call poetry
Rhymes.

Cos rhyme with your meter’s
A thing of the past
(Even meter is vanishing
Fast).

Lacking form; lacking structure
We call it “Free Verse”
(It makes amateur poetry
Worse).

It’s not worth a penny
I think you’ll agree–
Maybe that’s why they’re calling it
“Free”.

Piecing Together The Fragments Of The Past

From fragments sifted from the dirt
We piece together what was here
An image forms, a poor mosaic;
Some details never will be shown.
The evidence of daily life—
A broken lamp, a shattered vase,
A stairway worn with countless steps,
The profile of a woman’s face—
These buried pieces, lost to time
We may discover, quite by chance
While off in search of something else—
An accident of circumstance.
So, too, it seems, with memories;
Forgotten, lost, for decades hidden
But then, while on another search
They spring to present mind, unbidden.
They feel complete, in every way,
As if no more than hours old
But how much is illusory?
It could be quite a lot, I’m told.
We reconstruct our precious past
And fill in gaps, the experts say,
To fit our present narrative
And lead to what we feel today

I found this verse—well, half of it—
I’d written several years ago;
I’ve reconstructed what I meant…
Or maybe not. We’ll never know.

Frieze fragment

Frieze fragment – image: Cuttlefish

So, yeah, I literally found the first half of this verse, in the back of a notebook I was using in Greece. I must have written it after visiting one of the many archaeological museums or digs we went to (the above image is, I believe, from Pella). The verse stopped after the word “Forgotten”, which (as you can see) is immediately after the shift from literal to metaphor, and a bit of an ironic place to have to reconstruct from. Some of the museums had pots that were considerably more filled-in than original shards; some were nearly complete. Sometimes you knew, or believed you did, exactly what the artist or crafter had in mind; other times, the effect was equal parts their imagination and your own.

Did I complete the thought I had started over 5 years ago? Probably not. Maybe. I’m a different cuttlefish than I was then.

Nike of Paeonius

Nike of Paeonius – image: Cuttlefish

Heh… if I were cruel, I’d link Schubert’s “unfinished symphony” as the autoplay music for this post.

Impeach… um… Eisenhower!

In my in-box, there was drama—
We must now impeach Obama!—
And a screed without one comma
Made the case why this was so.

Since he won his last election,
This is cause for insurrection!
(It’s assumed there’s no objection
And the man must simply go)

Once the president’s elected
It has come to be expected
The mistake must be corrected
When the losers raise their voice

But it seems, each generation
Has the chance to save the nation
By suggesting usurpation
Of the people’s lawful choice

Oddly enough, I got a bunch of spam email this morning telling me how wonderful it is that there are Republican lawmakers making noise to their constituents about impeaching Obama. They’ve reached the bottom, the email rejoiced; this has replaced even the meaningless posturing about Obamacare that had previously represented the dictionary example of “exercise in frustration”.

And then, in a bit of synchronicity, NPR has a story up today about how pretty much every president gets the impeachment rhetoric from somebody. Bush, Clinton, Bush, Reagan, Carter… and the reason I am writing today, Eisenhower.

But this post is not really about impeachment. Rather, it’s about poetry, and yet one more example that what I write is not poetry (and I’m cool with that–it’s verse, or better yet doggerel, and I am proud enough of it without calling it poetry). You want poetry about impeachment? The NPR story linked to a poem, “Tentative Description of a Dinner Given to Promote the Impeachment of President Eisenhower“. Now, that’s poetry (and anyone who thinks that not rhyming makes writing easier, I’m here to say otherwise). Read and enjoy.

At The Risk Of More Competition…The Limerick Contest!

I have to tell you (I was just informed myself, as was my source, the good people at the OEDILF) of the International Limericks Competition. (And it is indeed “the” Limerick competition, based in Limerick, Ireland, as it is.)

Free to enter, up to three entries, must be original and in proper limerick form, with a cash prize of 1000 euros (if you are able to attend the final competition–that’s the bad news).

Deadline for entries is 30 July, so get busy!

Send Your Haiku To Mars! (or… not)

Have I mentioned that I hate Haikus? Not real haiku, but haiku as it has been translated into American.

I don’t speak Japanese–well, not much. Very little, but I have been told by a Japanese student that my pronunciation is remarkable. Which, I suspect, is only true in comparison to this student’s experience with other Americans. A low bar is easy to jump.

But I am told that haiku is Japanese like baseball is American. Yes, it has been exported, but not without transplant rejection. Haiku is, I am told, beautiful and perfect in Japanese; in American, haiku is counting syllables. Sometimes more than that, but only rarely, and oh my goodness is it difficult to tell.

But that’s not my point.

My point is, NASA is looking to send three haikus to Mars, with the MAVEN (Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN) mission. Three haikus. In English, which means 51 syllables in total.

And I think it is a horrible idea. If you are going to send haikus, have a Japanese competition (the current competition specifies haikus in English). If space (or rather, mass) is at a premium, send heroic couplets. Dirty limericks. Whatever. Hell, you are sending poetry to Mars! Why on Earth (yeah, ok, work with me) are you limiting yourself to 3 haikus? Don’t send it because you can, send it because you must–send poetry that belongs on Mars. That’s the way to do it.

Here’s mine. Spirit was the muse, so Spirit should get to read it.

(off topic… I was astonished at how good it felt not to write for a week or so. I honestly don’t know if that is a good or a bad thing. I am not really back yet, but drafts are returned, and final papers aren’t due for a bit, so I may be around for 2-3 days. Or not. I have discovered there is a real world, so I may explore it for a bit. If you are among those who have read this far… thank you for everything you have done for me!)

National Poetry Month–Guest Poet 5: Salty Current

I have always loved the writing of the person I only know as SC, or Salty Current. Intelligent, emotional, well-crafted in prose and in poetry, her writing is always worth the reading (and always far more poetic than mine; I am far too chained to rhyme and meter, and SC is one of the few who makes me regret that). So I’ll direct you here, to a recent poem she quite incorrectly predicted I would hate. And then I’ll cheat a bit, and quote a separate poem, linked at the above, also written for National Poetry Week, and which I just absolutely love:

Three Dead Animals

The bullfighter, writer, and sportsman Ignacio Sánchez Mejías died
poetically
the morning of 13 August, 1934.

The bull Granadino died
obscurely
around that time.

The poet Federico García Lorca died
ritually
in the same era.

National Poetry Month–Guest Poet 4: Rikitiki

In my continued observance of National Poetry Month, a contribution from reader Rikitiki. There is something just plain wonderful about a good sonnet:

Legend says we are but that mid-span
‘tween airy angels and demons below:
Our nature wrestling itself ever so –
A battle that’s between the base and grand.
I’ve seen no devil from some fiery realm,
Felt no help, no seraphed beneficence:
Perhaps ‘tis so and I but lack the sense
To realize such fiddling at the helm.
Within, I feel my own duality:
Scoundrel or saint, that label is my own –
Perceived, I judge and measure all alone;
Fashion belief to make reality.
What clarion call becomes my true life’s voice
Is, in the end, determined by my choice.

National Poetry Month–Guest Poet 3: Callinectes

In my continued observance of National Poetry Month, I present for your amusement and edification a verse by reader Callinectes, which I find wonderfully illustrates a problem that a lot of my students have. Of course, it does so by way of metaphor:

In the land of Pyrûn, an exporter of lead
Ruled by a king (who’s extremely inbred)
Homeland of giants, but the giants are dead
So the towns are beset by a dragon instead

You can only burn down and eat all a man’s stuff
So many times before he’ll say, “Enough!
It’s time for the dragon to see that we’re tough,
Our knight will extinguish that piteous Puff!”

So out rode their champion, in gleaming steel armour
Bearing his shield with its heraldic llama
To be the right hand of the force they call Karma
(At this point it’s safe to assume there’ll be drama)

And drama there is, but you’ll have to click through to read it. Delightful, in my opinion. Enjoy!

National Poetry Month–Guest Poet 2: richardelguru

In my continuing observance of National Poetry Month, I present my second guest poet–too modest, but I am a sucker for a new verse form:

I’m more of an essayist, but I once (possibly) invented the Hairimeraku.
There are essays explaining the structure and the necessity of them fulfilling “both the exacting requirements of the Japanese haiku, and the even more exacting requirements of the Irish limerick… the best of them having both seasonal and salacious aspects as befits their combined ancestry” here and here, but I’ll add the verse here to save you the disappointment of visiting my site.

I’d visit anyway–it’s actually a pretty cool story of the invention of the verse… but since he added them, here they are: [Read more...]