Saturday, July 30, 2011

More Looking, Less Deciding

This idea of an epic/consecutive epics has taken hold. Epic with a small or super-condensed "E" - ten cantos each a page of fifty lines in decasyllabic block form; hoping for ten over ten years.

In my free moments I think about possible themes. Milton spun quite a bit of good from a few lines in the Bible; perhaps I could do the same? Different lines, perhaps Moses dying in sight of Canaan, or something from Matthew.

Or biography. Who are my heroes? Kierkegaard? Robert Lowell? Fausto Coppi?

Or personal biography; or a bit of local history; mathematics and science. Science fiction: satire?

Something recounting an episode from Thoreau's life, perhaps. Or, mixing two or more themes together. And I think about starting somehow and seeing what comes of it.

I have a page running where I have set down some lines:

Coincidence and chemicals and noise

The small things we put aside and forget
and will not throw away....

I woke on a ship. We were out at sea,

A face can be recovered in a dream,

There’s some relief in falling from a tree

Not everyone can be saved, bodies pushed beneath the waves,

Whenever someone says I may, I can

Strapped-down inveterate obliging cinnamon
tied-at-the-waist - incendiary troglodytes

Who lives long enough to see how it ends?
Will I complete a circle, or will trials,
delays, make of my life a half-tale - ...

Am I secure, annoyed, or without sin?
Death, regurgitation, and little men.

I am considering a form other than decasyllables. Mixed lines, or fourteeners (as Chapman), or who knows. I have ordered a recent book edited by Strand that covers varieties of form in contemporary poetry, or examples of older forms used recently, I guess. There may be something in there to push me in one direction or another.

I am enjoying the process, the anxiety, the limbo. I like form for being, for me, both an object or obstacle and a means or prompt. Writing in form states an intent and humility, such as I understand, that is clear from the outset and remains in place for a reader's immediate comprehension. I have written something (says form) in the shape of what others have done wonderfully. I have added some personal twists. I hope I do not embarrass myself here, says form, but clearly I have opened myself up to criticism. Whatever I am at doing, I am willing and even happy to fail, if only because my models are so very alive, so very great.

At any rate, I find it comfortable, this process. I am still reading excerpts from Byron's Don Juan (Norton Critical Edition) but may move on soon to Boneshaker, by Cherie Priest, a so-called "steam punk" novel. This project has helped my with a couple ongoing poems which I may publish on FB in my usual manner or seek to place elsewhere.

More looking, less deciding, more living.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Writing the Idea of a Writing Idea

I feel recalled to the pleasure of a challenge, undertaken for its own sake, which is all I have been able to understand of writing poetry. And now I have an idea of a project where I can both dwell and reveal more than I know at any given point.

An epic in form of ten cantos, one page per canto, 50 lines per page, box form, all lines in all cantos the same width. Lines will point toward the decasyllabic.

A ten-page epic of 500 lines total. Brief, yes, but essential. Not really epic, is it? Mind your own forms and process, Mac. I will hope at the outset for ten epic poems for a total of 100 pages in identical form, and what will be largely interchangeable I hope. Let's say, one epic per year for ten years or so to supplement other projects, running underground or above-board as the mood takes me.

Themes are open, the range as broad as possible. Definition and redefinition and placement or form. Questing and placement or form. Journal entries and note-taking as with all the above. And love; and faith and love. Science and the cinema and placement. Truth and forgetfulness and form. Technique and pasturage and placement and form. Noise and God and noise and form. Mystery and laundry and clarity and shame.

I will make for myself the opportunity to employ ships, and dragons, and gods, and coffee, and hardwood floors, and the open highway, but I can promise nothing. I am happy to say, I promise nothing at all.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Words including the word "Byron"

Boarding the bus after work - ; I think that's right. One boards a bus. I recognized looking forward to reading more of Byron's Don Juan - and, Why?

The pleasure of reading Byron's Don Juan is at least two-fold. Fold number 1 is the story, or what happens next. Fold No. II is in Byron's digressions and ongoing moments where he reveals the tastes, impressions, and biases of the author composing Don Juan. There is no telling when these digressions will occur or where they will take us. The liner notes are scarcely more informative than the bald text of Byron's sarcasms toward Wordsworth, or the former Lady Byron, or a tutor he fell out with as a boy, or English politics, and on and on.

I say at least two-fold as perhaps there is more going on here, which is Byron revealing what the Byron wants to read Byron revealing, or la di da. But I doubt it. Byron was self-admittedly a fluid, prolific writer. It shows, in near identical rhymes in proximate stanzas, in close then distant adherence to the form (ottava rima). The wit is at turns linear - getting off a good crack - or sublime (a rhyme that lights the page). Whatever third or more aspect of the text there might be would result more as an accident of the reader than an owing to an effort by the author. And so. We. Move on.

You can be a different writer than Byron, but I don't think you could make better choices being the writer Byron was. It took me until now to really get around to him, and what a tremendous surprise it has been. Some of my favorite authors are 18th Century English - Swift and Richardson foremost - and here, here as I see it is the last of the great 18th Century writers, cast all over with Romantic concerns, especially those of the political variety. I don't know another English writer that posits George Washington in such a glowing aspect. But then Byron was a perfect reader for his own interests (which I think every good poet is once you scratch the surface, or not even). For instance, he put Moore, Campbell and Crabbe ahead of Wordsworth and Coleridge; was sure that "posterity" would decide likewise.

Well, who cares, is the point. He had the guts to read his own poems and those of his friends side by side with Pope's and say, Pope had it right.

Do we do something like?

If you are interested, or even if you aren't - I am reading a Norton Critical Edition. The translation from when English was King is quite fair, I think.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

World Update

I am currently reading and enjoying a collection of Byron's poetry. I could stop right there.