words soliloquy

i’ve been busy lately, not only writing poetry, but doing it. The Soliloquy Poems have grappled on to me like pollen to a butterflies legs, dragging me into consideration of what i want them to do. i know myself: i get carried away when the dam busts or the flower sneezes & the ideas drain out. But i didn’t want that for these poems, i wanted tautness, density, for them to be packed like a Kimchi container, juice & scent seeping out from the cracks.
For an English poet, i’ve never really explored the dynamics of the sonnet, so i hope this sea change for the Soliloquy Poems, from an out-pouring of inwit, contemplation & observation, into this very durable & condensed form will be profitable for not only writing but doing poetry.

Words Soliloquy

Every single one of them a euphemism
for abracadabra, every single one summons
with simple utterance, pressed & packed,
an object dense with self. It isn’t hard to understand
why Yeats & Hughes were dabblers in the Occult
: the command of the word like a gavel,
in their hands, out their mouths, especially potent
— young, tragic muses dropped their knickers,
both men’s countries gasped, ribs snapped open
from the heart’s pressure, popped out like Jack-
in-the-box. But such phenomena hinge on
a coming-to-terms with incantatory will
in words. To make rain fall i need but cast a word,
cloud gathers & a downpour, steeps the soil.

10 Comments Add yours

  1. robert okaji says:

    Reblogged this on O at the Edges and commented:
    Daniel Paul Marshall soliloquizes on words. This one begs to be read aloud!

  2. zeencom says:

    The poem really expresses your deep feelings.It is the soul of a poem .Good!

    1. I hope so. I’m feeling more confident since you said so. I suppose words are part of the soul of a poem so a poem about words would be the poem reflecting on itself.

  3. I took Bob’s cue and read this one aloud, and I do agree that you have made much beautiful music here!

    I love your message of deliberate doing, of “incantatory will,” but I’m also confused about your (ostensibly loose) utilization of the sonnet form. I’m having trouble apprehending your reasons for creating something that resembles a sonnet only in that it contains 14 lines. Most notably, while reading your beautiful piece aloud, it seemed that your line breaks are mostly haphazard (i.e., not related to flow, rhyme, or meter) — that is, unless you were deliberately defying meter (poets have been known to do stranger things!). Of course, there’s no law that you have to employ language in specific, traditional ways while “doing poetry,” but I do wonder what specific goals you might have had in mind, especially since you express particular interest in the sonnet in your preamble?

    Anyway, I know that you’re extremely introspective, and that you probably know exactly what it was you were doing here. I hope you don’t mind my probing. I’m genuinely interested (being the form nerd that I am), and it’s been my experience that dialoguing about poetry in this vein really helps with the “doing”/executing part of writing poetry.

    Finally, I have a little nit-pick, which I hope you don’t find too obnoxious: it’s just a subject-verb agreement thing in the line: “…But such phenomena(plural) hinges(singular) on…” It could either be “But such a phenomenon hinges on,” or “But such phenomena hinge on…” depending on whether you intended to use the singular or plural form of “phenomenon” (it seems either would work equally well).

    All in all, I think this poem packs a punch with well-executed economy — which is kind of ironic for a “soliloquy,” and therefore, all the more appreciated! 🙂

    1. I’m away with only my phone currently. i just want to acknowledge your message. This deserves explaination i dare not tackle on a phone.

    2. Thanks for the grammar heads up, must of slipped through the cracks that one. Nothing obnoxious about it, glad you told me.
      As to my sonnets. Some are more formal, though i don’t use the formal end stopped lines, at least not always, simply because sometimes the line sounds rhythmically correct & functions how i want it to, so correcting it to meet a formal demand seems like peeing in my own bed, if you’ll excuse the vulgarity. i will & have wrote some more formal sonnets, though i don’t really see the need to write formally, i want there to be an organic feel to the sonnets, like thought in action.
      But there are formal devices at play: My end rhymes are subtle & they have some relation which may be apparent, but other times, perhaps only make sense to me in a very personal or abstract way. But often they are the poem’s themes in miniature or one end word expressing the function of another, for example ‘gavel’ & ‘will’ just fit together to me, for innumerable reasons that will no doubt be flooding you now. ‘Packed’, ‘understand’, ‘word’ is basically the function of the whole poem to express how our understanding of anything is unpacked or packed with words. It gets pretty abstract & i don’t do it for every poem, but when i start to see the connections in drafting i can really go to town on it. i am a meticulous drafter & rearrange, re-read & prod my drafts tirelessly.
      i explained a little about my method of writing in my Rhyme & Reason series. But i’ll explain a little here. i tend to get the bones out first, with no rhyme or form in mind, other than now with the sonnets, 14 lines & a theme. Now i started to note that i had formed such a habit of writing in iambs that i now need to scan through & break this up. i don’t want my poems to have the driving patter of iamb running through them all. i want the sonnets to be jarring, like thinking itself, as to me the sonnet is a treatment of a single theme, idea or thought & so the form, the formality rather is not integral to the treatment of the idea, theme, or whatnot. So i’ve begun cutting a beat, so you get that rhythm of stubbing your toe or someone cutting you up on a pavement; to stop the reader & make them think perhaps “with simple utterance, pressed & packed” is a good example ‘pressed & packed’ is a wall, the reader is cut off ‘with simple utterance’ flows then the meter just drops out & the catalectic seals it. So i get the bones out. After i comb through & note any rhythm patterns & then see if i can connect up lines, or if any words can be changed, so that the function is not interrupted but the music can be slipped in, sort of like grace notes. i don’t want the music to be instantly apparent, but i want it to work on the reader as a sort of undertow, it makes people go back & read again, like they can’t put their finger on what it is about the poem. People always tell me my poems are musical, but yet i seldom if ever use full rhymes. If i do rhyme you’ll find some word have sonic familiarity with more than one word in both assonance & alliteration for example ‘will’ rhyme with ‘word’ & ‘soil’. This isn’t so much to be clever, as to work subtly, the unconscious is very powerful when provoked. i think i should stop there. Please feel free to ask anything else. i like explaining my methods. & thank you for asking questions too.

      1. I do appreciate knowing your process, which is why I asked about it. I’m fascinated by, and I constantly challenge myself with, ideas relating to what my own motivations might be as a writer — that is, as someone who creates meanings with words and grammar, according to my own, particular, pet, maybe even selfish and secretive tastes — and reconciling those aspects of the writing with the aspects of expression and craft that need to happen in order for my writing to be meaningfully accessible to the reader. Some parts of the process are non-negotiable, in that there’s literally no point in even writing the poem if I don’t do it in a specific way for specific reasons; but invariably, I find that the success of my poems depends on my ability to step outside of myself, pretend that I’m not privy to the agenda behind the poem, and determine as objectively as possible whether I’ve left enough guideposts for my “readers” both to be motivated to enter (engage) the piece, and to be able to find their way through the piece in a way that resonates and fosters a connection.

        More often than not, none of what I might have initially set out to achieve in terms of poeticism ends up having any substantial bearing on the finished product, if those “devices” don’t serve the function of enhancing the meanings/resonances/relevance/implications (you catch my drift). In other words, if I have it in mind to employ a form, or to undermine a form I might be employing, I ask myself, “To what end?” and then I assess as honestly as possible whether or not I’ve truly served that end.

        Writing poetry, to me, is nothing, if not ultimately a dialogue, a giving over of self, a becoming vulnerable, and a firm understanding that I can’t coerce, cajole, manipulate, or otherwise will the reader into accessing anything about me and my purpose that the poem doesn’t do seamlessly as an entity separate from me.

        Thanks for your generous response to my questioning. I really do enjoy, as well as benefit, from this type of dialogue. 🙂

      2. i do ‘catch your drift’. i used to think obliquity in poetry was the service to our readers, that big words & difficult subjects matter meant you are showing your audience you respect their intelligence. i really don’t think that is a single, pointed purpose anymore, at all; so i agree with you that “readers” should “be able to find their way through the piece in a way that resonates and fosters a connection.” & if that means doubling back on what you initially had in mind, then a sort of humility in defeat takes place so that the poem can be realized— i sometimes see it as the poem writing itself, as if once the theme is out there & fixed the poem takes over. That sounds mystical, which i don’t like, but sometimes a poem just sorta happens without much interference. Ted Hughes say this about some poems, he says often he drafts & drafts, but sometime the poem just appears, perhaps a touch here or there but ultimately it comes out fully formed. That’s a rare but cool feeling.
        Asking “to what end” is very important & this ties in with the humility in defeat position.
        So the poem as “separate from me” is something we share.
        As to talking method, George Saunders wrote a very good piece on process in the Guardian recently & i really admired his transparency & thought a good writer should be able to talk about & sort of show their working out, like in mathematics. i always think as i am writing something & especially once i say “done”, how would i explain this to a critique questioning me, how would i justify my choices & show that i have method beyond just putting finger to keyboard or pen. i think these dialogues are essential to showing people that poetry isn’t something that usual just happens, you can’t just put words on a page & say “poem, next!” So please please feel free to speak at length with me on these matters. i like you enjoy it immensely. That is why i wrote a 3 part series on breaking down one of my own poems & re-writing it, to be a transparent as possible, to illustrate craft as best i can.

      3. Yes, I love how you put it: “humility…so that the poem can be realized.” I wouldn’t necessarily think of the humility as an acceptance of defeat, though. If anything, it’s a sign of maturity when a poet honors and works to the end of giving a poem what it needs to be realized, and that realization is the triumph.

        Poetry doesn’t happen in a vacuum, and while a word, as you astutely observe in this soliloquy, is a tool, a mechanism that is “dense with self,” the act of responsibly and responsively wielding it, I’d say, is largely selfless. Most of us word-wielders are lucky to “cast a word” and “make rain fall” even once in a lifetime.

      4. Yes, i think you’re right not ‘defeat’, at least not in its negative light, but in its humility, just sort of giving over to the pull of a new franchise.
        i love that line “poetry doesn’t happen in a vacuum” reminds me of Stevens in ‘Sunday Morning’, i think that’s the right poem, where he says “There is not nothing, no never nothing” i quote from memory, sorry if i fudged the line, but the sense should be right.
        i think if poets are too successful they might just get bored with casting a line that lands every time, there wouldn’t be any process, if not for the probing into the ‘selfless’ act of using words the poet wouldn’t have much to do but write down every poetic thought that appears, which seems to defeat the point of doing.

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