final anecdotal poem : 넷 : the mythology of the stream

 

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the white mountain path

i have a lot to say about these poems. non of it is very good. i am on the whole unhappy with the result & for numerous reasons. first of all, the poems are too informed by the landscape, that is, the content is too informed by the central motif of the stream, which would not be too bad if i had achieved the desired effect that i had in my head when i decided to attempt this method of composition. the problem has arisen due to the original notes taken on the walk being too long. once i had got it all in front of me it amounted to maybe 7 – 8 separate poems that were all written in lines as long as Wallace Stevens stride & maybe 50-100 lines each & this would have just been a dull slog for any blog reader & would have made me look boastful even if i could have pulled off such a feat. i think a better poet would have managed such a long piece. i am not that poet.
to answer why this has sullied the effect i originally intended is probably quite obvious to you by now: the stream seemed a good location & furthermore, symbol for a poem that worked on both the level of a landscape that a protagonist might move through & moreover the stream of consciousness that develops whilst moving through the landscape. but that is just too much movement.
as i wrote far too much & decided to edit what was already a mesh of thoughts & motion, i lost something. i think i lost the substance of the poetry & actually ended up editing a diary entry, never having kept a diary & knowing full well they are not edited, i shot myself in the foot. any impact i wanted them to have i feel is lost as the work doesn’t know what it wants to be.
the form too is ugly. i read so many contemporary poems with this sort of wending free verse structure & i always say i want to achieve it myself, because i like it; i think it is a flexible form that can be applied to many themes. i actually took my inspiration for the form from a fragment i read of Michael McAloran’s breath(en) flux, which was published at Poethead. a brilliant & complex poem. but i have just made a hash with the structure, it looks awkward, like a gangly person with small feet. i still have much to learn about the confessional mode.
but i take solace in the knowledge that the confessional poem is still largely uncharted territory for me, at least a honest, well more honest, first person witness of experience.
whilst i was still fidgety & awkward about titling myself poet & studying with the simple aim of one day being proud of something i wrote, i did something that is probably normal: i abstracted everything, hid everything beneath the stones of symbols, jokes i had with myself & character from myth & literature. this was natural as, when i was a child i hid all of the things i wanted to do & be, as i was terrified of being alienated from people at school: if they found out you wanted to be a poet, life could be very difficult.
i wanted to be a gourmet poet, like the classic poets of the high brow schools after i had learned about them later in life. the closest i came to confessional or self reflective poems or even honesty, was when using the third person, a tip i took from Wallace Stevens; who even now worms his way into my style, as can be seen in my Wallace Variations poems. those poems are really a way of exhausting his hold on me.
regardless, i am not unhappy with all of it. this final poem has some good moments & i think the similes work well & there is a little more artifice to the piece, which seems totally absent in the other three. there is an emotional audacity, while maintaining & fulfilling poetic lines that i feel are not mimicked or imitable. this is important as it shows that the line came from a portion of myself i recognize only if it comes through in poetic form. this is the source of all memorable lines of poetry: they are an absolute, pure expression of the poets mind. it is like when Robert Crumb talks about the lampposts & details in the background of his comics you can’t make that up he tells us, they are incidental; but a character is a pure expression of his, as the line that expresses something deeper rather than details of environment, are in a poem. an example in this poem of a line direct from me would be

it seems so easy to apprehend imagination & myth there
: everything is so unashamedly real.

this is completely different to say

once i’d noted the tanned soil / thirsty / bare
/ the piles of pillaged pine / warmed in the sun / belching fragrance
like a dying man’s carefully picked last words

which is really just detail but nevertheless important. a poem full of inspired lines would develop nothing & leave the reader exasperated. these moments are seldom achieved & i would say it is the reason any serious poet puts anything of the world & mind into poetic language. perhaps it is a minor form of satori.

i think it’ll be a while till i attempt anything of this sort. & now i’ve inspired you with confidence onto the final anecdotal poem.

 

넷 : the mythology of the stream

하나

i continued on a man-made gravel path .
i was / at first  uncertain of its purpose
/ it wasn’t a hiking trail
/ wending through the mountains as it did / like a dollar sign .
once i’d noted the tanned soil / thirsty / bare
/ the piles of pillaged pine / warmed in the sun / belching fragrance
like a dying man’s carefully picked last words
/ it was clear / the man-made intention of the lumber road .
yes, the road was off-white, but stained ochre
it would have suited more the motif of my stomp.

i mistook the squawking f15s for the silhouettes of falcons
/ their engines like the loud slurping of coffee
/ the peace & quiet disturbed then fading like a singing bowl.
i imagined mythopoeic village kids / bored / seeking adventure
/ trading fables & trusted sources about the f15s’ mission
/ just as i mythologized the environment around me when i was young
& often still do.
they don’t need the dull truth told to them just yet
: that r.o.k. & u.s. forces were doing annual military exercises
/ monitoring with omnipresent belief in themselves.
it seems so easy to apprehend imagination & myth there
: everything is so unashamedly real.

fidgety coal tits said wurzel repeatedly in funny accents.
searching the origin of their nonsensical twittering
led me to mistletoe / the god-head’s nest in miniature .
i am always pleased to spot a bushel of mistletoe
/ as if i were a miltonic character . suffering doubt . shown the face of god .
it always reminds me of an apothegm my parents use
: wherever you make your bed is where you call home.
it seems to me that being roguish / mistletoe has no origin
/ no place to call its own / it seldom grows in colonies
/ but latches on to any host it chances on & there germinates
/ it borrows from its host all of the vital nutrients required to grow .
completely at the mercy of chance / the routes of birds .
some judge it parasitic / a pest to elegance
/ however / its medical potential is well documented
: an enemy to cancer cells.
once dried / it brews into a tasty tea with a woody odour .

i paused to clear sweat from my eyes & swig some stream water
& noted something of importance about myself
: i could not write like this / pausing as i stomp along
to scribble notes & remedy the itch to plot
the acts & observations i leave myself open to / if / i had a companion
/ i become too involved in them / bending to what is rightly theirs
: my undivided attention to what composes them
/ people deserve to be fixated on / to be studied.
i realise this is a characteristic of mine
/ i don’t think anybody knows about
& will be as surprised as i was to discover.
it is the reason i came to this odd country alone
& persist on periods of loneliness.
i receive no essential joy from myself
/ i manage only the completion of selfish endeavours
/ to busy myself / distract even / with the transmutation of life into poem.
of versed life / pushed far enough ahead that i can feel infinite now
/ like the hunter gatherers who printed their hands on a cave wall in argentina.
this poetry lark seems the final method i have left to me
& i am mad with the task.

다섯

if only a friend / if only any companion at all
would have been with me up
there by the glittering stream / naiad-less
/ where everything pushed & pulled
but nothing moved or stirred but i
/ or on that artificial white mountain path
/ you wouldn’t need to read this anecdotal poem
/ an exercise in the emotion of place
/ i’d have just entertained it in passing & quietly forgotten it .

 

 

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