Wednesday, September 17, 2008

R01 - Abstraction Distraction

In class last Thursday, we were given the assignment to bring abstractions to concrete likenesses; Prof. Quinlan would name an abstraction and we were asked to close our eyes and write the first image that came to mind, following with an image that one provoked, and so on. I believe we were given three minutes to think of and list our images. Our assignment then became to draft a poem based on these abstraction image webs.

I can't say that I'm wild about this exercise, but not necessarily for the reason that it was difficult to picture things I associate with the abstraction. I simply thought of extremely personal and seemingly unrelatable images. I would prefer not to write a poem that includes such direct emotional images; I think less of the poetry I write that comes of these direct images and more of the poems that come from parallels to the emotional images that I do have, for reasons I will later explain. I will give one example, which is in the last abstraction list: the word was Rage and one of the images I came up with is someone laying in a casket - I was so very angry at the visible glue applied by the mortician to keep the mouth of this person closed, that they were not more careful in their work. How much effort, really, does it take to align the glue with the lips so that it may not be visible to those viewing the body? (See, here I am, still getting indignant. Sorry.)

In any case, this image alongside spaghetti on a wall and a payment slip for a broken window, which actually do relate directly to the previous image but have no real business being in a poem without directly linking the two in the way that they deserve to be linked, which is clearly and plainly, made it hard to write what I consider to be a significant poem. ...So I would have to write one that is less personal, one that is more accessible. One, also, that won't expose those things to someone who may read it. I wonder if anyone else feels this way: I'd rather have anonymous readers to ones that I will see every week. Even of that means just one reader, the teacher. (They look at you, you know, at least once, while they're calling roll! I'm so prone to feeling exposed.)

The nature of poetry taught to me, which sometimes just sucks, comes down to what some professors have blatantly and religiously drilled: You Do Not Now Nor Should You Ever Write Exactly What You Mean. There's always the directive to write in images that serve as a metaphor (or similie or a metonymy or whatever) to the actual thing you are trying to say. This makes me trip and fall on my face while doing the abstraction exercise poem. That being said, here are the first drafts, which I do dislike and feel strongly that they likewise fall flat on their faces, if poems can be said to have such a thing.

Was that a good and proper introduction? I will guess that even if someone might like something of these, they'll be less likely to enjoy them after all of that ranting. ...Oh well. Without further distracting, the format is


Broadway Musicals Include Nothing of This

A child's too-big headphones slip
as fields whirl by bus windows,
a padded jar in her lap full of ash a
nd Fabergé-egg dreams
that cut when they break.

Crystal chandelier jingles softly
above a family saying grace.
Later that night the child kneels
saying prayers on a rosary.

The nightlight is too bright,
the orphan's eyes complain;
she sits up, calls out to answer,
but it's only the last-stop call.
Her silence is then consent.



Dusk, Somewhere in Middle America

The horse knows no better
and eats a four-leaf clover,
while the puppy lays its nose
across its folded paws.
They both watch the road.

A speeding car passes
kicking up dust and beetles
crossing the packed dirt.
Smoke spirals slowly
up the windshield,
waltzing through the cab
and out the cracked window.

A flicked cigarette rolls
to the edge of the wooden gate,
glowing dull red still.

The horse knows no better
and reaches for the butt,
while the puppy turns its head
towards chimney smoke,
trailing in from the West.




Spaghetti stains the wall
dripping thickly down,
cleaned by trails of salt.

Holding her hand,
you see, it felt
like a second.
Like nothing.
I lay on her chest,
my head, you
see, I heard

Mortuary's glue shines
thickly at the mouth corners,
only to be melted away.

I broke the window,
you know, I had
to do something.
I needed the pane
gone, you
know, to see

A basket of palm sits
next to the music box
with a wedding ring inside.


I get the feeling there will be many, perhaps countless, revisions.

Oh, also: sorry to the person with a similar title to this; I drafted this at some point last weekend after class but never posted it.