Monday, November 29, 2010

Six Points of Formalism

1. Formalism is the willingness or tendency to demonstrate in overt fashion an awareness and complicity with cultural restrictions or supplements (guidelines) - and the work-products and collateral merchandise resulting therefrom, the which, furthermore, can be reproduced, echoed, or parodied in compliance with said guidelines.

2. Every category is defined by what you expect of that category and by what is unexpected but complicit.

3. A component (activist), compatriot, or adherent of an idea is one who willingly or unwillingly communicates or commits transit of the tenets or effects, or indeed products and merchandise derived from that idea in an overt or implied license.

4. There is no idea old or new that has been transited or communicated that cannot be approached as a thing.

5. The mechanism of communication and transit is humanity; and the component of transit is the person; and the person is susceptible to moods.

6. Charity to the person is fealty to form.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

SEE the poem!

I am in a fairly healthy state of wondering about myself. Not in a self-evaluative way, but looking around for more obvious bits I've missed and can profit by or which might entertain.

One bit of obviousness is to say, I am a formalist. I don't know what I can add to that. It shows in the fact that I write in form, one form. I am a formal formalist. I am formal but not too formal, for instance, I do not wear gloves. I'm a ruddy, hale formalist. I care about all sorts of things. I am not exactly a snob. Well, yes, I am a complete snob. You wouldn't believe what comes out of my mouth. But not really. I simply will not traffic in crap. Nothing wrong with that! I am a Mets fan - name one Mets fan who is a snob; name one Yankees fan who isn't!

What is the poet who is a formalist and who blithely alienates Yankee fans? He is a self-destructive formalist. Ooo. Is he self-"deconstructive" of the form of his (un)doing? No, he is simply dwelling in a particularly unhelpful form - a hammer where a butter knife would do.

I love being a formalist, but I dislike being stupid and not doing a good job with being forthcoming about it. All I need to do is browse the Internet let's say for interesting or funny "formal" things - poetry-oriented or other - and post these and comment, etc. My not so formally inclined friends could take or leave these bits and everyone would I hope get something out of me being who or what I am beyond what has been, up until now, an incomplete effort.

That being said, everyone has been understanding and nice. I think my friends know me for what I am and accept me in the same vein in which I understand them. Things are convivial. Part of that is being of a certain age in Portland, Oregon and being very lucky in many ways. But the way poetry is, and it has no doubt changed since I began writing this piece, the best tack seems to me to demonstrate who and what you are to the best of your ability and let everyone sort it out. The demonstrations will vary according to style, mien, and age. We need not all blog, or mix, or read aloud, but there should be a way somehow to be amidst. And we can change our minds, etc.

Funny - you sit on thoughts to Blog, then you write almost nothing at all, but feel compelled to post it. There is something to this form of communication that elicits frankness and ease.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

It Could be Verse

The door had been sticking for months.
It looked like the strike plate was at
a weird angle and the door was hitting
it just opening and closing. All I had
to do I figured was take the plate off
and reset it a little straighter and a
little deeper. I got to work, took the
plate off, chiseled away a bit of wood
here & there, and was just about ready
to clear out the shavings and reattach
the strike plate when I heard a sound.

A subject of procedure occurs now and again. In the present case about 2 weeks of rumination led to 2 hours of writing and the finished poem. I had held off, not having a clear picture of what would happen once I had gotten down to clearing out the shavings. Leading into the writing, I figured a "thing" would happen. What a nice surprise when hearing a "sound" sufficed.

The poem-writing mind is accustomed be being given plenty of leash I suppose. This piece was challenging in that it had to handle it's poem-business and be a sufficient description of the simple act being described. Metaphors abound. Enough so, I think, that I can walk away satisfied.

These pieces are occurring in the way real poems do, for me at least. It's all very strange. I have 16 pieces so far. They are printed out and affixed to the wall over there with tape, like storyboards sketches. I glance over them looking for a hole, awaiting an idea. Another idea running concurrently in the back of my mind with the one above concerned a Chandler-like moment: a woman emerging from a bathroom, holding a gun, being described by the narrator. That one stewed for about as long ending up as:

She stepped out
of the bathroom
modeling my .45
& not much else

It took a one hour nap Saturday afternoon to bring me to change the draft "modeling a .45" to "modeling my .45." No other verb made me as happy as "modeling." I thought quite a bit about the proper caliber, too. A .38 is the typical cop or private eye caliber: too close to the source. A .44 is a Dirty Harry. The .45 is either an Army Colt, most likely, or simply an outrageous caliber. Of the available numbers, I settled on the .45.

The rhythm of this poem surprised me. I spent time recently with an old and new friend and the subject of Milton's verse came up, which reminded me of a student paper on the subject. Read aloud, there is no avoiding the close on three strong syllables. I hadn't expected or planned on that, naturally.

These pieces are printed out and stuck on the wall with the others. This last piece, in its brevity, rhythm, and in all the various intersections at which it dances, pleases me so much. But it is not an end. I look at this series from a number of perspectives.