Lil’ Spud

Children can be so cruel.

Lil’ Spud

queuing to pay for my basket
of tofu, sesame oil, red chili & pumpkin seeds
at the local mart— a boy, lil’ spud of a child
pointed at me, singled me out
&, with the menace of Mephistopheles
laughed archly—no question, he directed the tip
of that podgy forefinger at my white, stubbly head
& beard, shaggy as a swallow’s nest.

his younger sister joined in
& his mother, bold as a radish
clipped the little shit round the ear ‘ol
— i didn’t get an apology
& why should she, or even he
—just, a lil’ spud of a child
hauled out the dirt too early.

32 Comments Add yours

  1. “Hauled out the dirt too early”… what a great line… you are just a non-stop great line machine!! 🙂

    1. i dunno why, i just have an algorithmic capacity for the line. i seldom have anything else in mind, i suppose they say “practice makes perfect” it should no doubt apply to poetry as to anything else. i don’t believe in natural gifts, there can only be a lot of doing to get good at something. i have said before, i spent a decade just working poetry out, reading it & experimenting until i just knew one day that it felt right. For a decade i told myself i wasn’t good enough, it worked. i can say this without boasting because i know how hard i worked to be able to do this.

      1. Nothing like hard work to make oneself “lucky”!

        You are really outdoing yourself lately with some really really really great content (both emotional and structural)!

      2. If only i had more time i could certainly do better.

      3. There is a case to be made for both being pressed for time and having ample time, considering the personality of the writer. I do waaayyy better in the “11th hour” than I do if I have a month to do something. Being busy can bring out the creativity in certain people while other thrive with an open day timer.

        Whatever approach you are taking now it sure is working, but maybe extra time might produce more good stuff (???). Whatever you choose I have no doubt it will continue to produce the high quality you are producing currently if not better.

      4. robert okaji says:

        Having more time lets me write more, which means more poems emerge. But I can only work in the “create” mode for so long, and then I’ll turn to something else.

      5. Because i can’t allot time i feel i am always in “create mode” thus my trusty pocket notebooks. i don’t think i have in many years sat down with the intent to write from scratch. Dunno if i could.

      6. robert okaji says:

        I almost always sit down and write from scratch, but sometimes the poem requires me to do a little research, which sends me down multiple paths, some fruitful, some not. But I write to learn, not to instruct, and traveling these paths is almost always joyous.

      7. That is very profound “write to learn”. i try to do that in my more conceptual/imaginative poems like The Wallace Variations & The Charlie Poems.

      8. robert okaji says:

        It’s not profound, merely true. For me.

      9. Profoundly true then haha.

      10. I look forward to reading your renewed efforts once you find your ideal schedule…

  2. robert okaji says:

    If only more people had patience and the willingness to work…

    1. Amen to that Bob. i can often spot a first draft poem a mile away. i tried putting hand written poems on Instagram, but stopped as from the first time, i had two people said me poems for “critiquing” & it was clear they had just brain farted into the shape of a poem. i told them i didn’t have time to re-write their poem in criticism & that they should not write what they think a poem is, but a poem instead.

      1. robert okaji says:

        I’d hazard that they’d not read much poetry, and had little experience with the work of writing and reading. Both take time, and so many new poets want to skip straight to publication, to be “authors” without having put in the work. Hence the plethora of badly written, poorly edited self-published books. I encourage those poets I mentor to READ!

      2. None i reckon, other than birthday cards. Poetry should be approached like an art such as painting or music: first soak yourself in it & practice then go into the world with it. But poetry is not, generally approached or seen as necessary to be approached like this. Do you mentor?

      3. robert okaji says:

        I mentor a handful of poets, but I have to limit the number for the obvious reason – time constraints. It’s rewarding, and I enjoy it, especially when the poets work at it, turning a piece from artistic impulse to a crafted poem.

      4. How do you go about it? Do you have a linear structure to how you instruct?

      5. robert okaji says:

        I tell them upfront that I am not a teacher, and that the only thing I know to do is to treat their poems as if I’d written them. So I mostly offer suggestions, sometimes line-by-line, as to how I’d strengthen their piece. Sometimes we examine a verb, sometimes nouns, even articles, always with the hope of taking the poem just a little further, adding nuance and texture with often simple tweaks.

      6. Good honest method. i get the feeling they approach you then?

  3. Brain-farted is being polite. Poetry is unpopular with the public (in general) because they have been quasi-force fed the liquid sh*t of a million aspiring “writers” who think having feelings means society must pay homage to said feelings with our eyes and ears.

    i once had a person at a conference literally thrust her self published collection of terrible poems into my lap and insisted I must have a copy of her latest work which she proceeded to autograph “for me”… though I had previously told her I was not interested. She was going around literally pushing her book into people’s hands no matter their opinion on its contents.

    It was the first (and guaranteed last) time I was figuratively and almost literally molested by the written word!

    1. Haha. i really have completely avoided ever doing anything of the sort until i have established a link wiyh someone. There is nothing worse. What’s worse is the beneviolence (sic) of it& the supposition that with enough thrusts & no work on content someone will get it, will see the value. It is pitiful. But you’re quite right. That is why i say to them “don’t write you think a poem should be, write a poem instead.”

      1. These “confused” need to read the poems of people like Deokbong Song, especially the letters to her husband. Simple yet florid, reticent yet passionate; the classic female Korean writers have much to teach us about form and feeling…

      2. Kim Seung-hee is another, though more contemporary, but full of passion. One line goes “do you know what one lonely hand can do.” Just stunning.

      3. Yeah!! She is great!

        “…Avant-gardists are dreadfully fierce though they do not mean to be; because they are so lonesome…”.

        Yoi have great taste in poets…

      4. Not bad taste yourself.

      5. I came across Korean women writers for the first time when I visited either COEX Mall or the gift shop at Gyeongbokgung Palace (I can’t remember which)… when I bought a copy of Hai-soon Lee’s “The Poetic World of Classical Korean Women Writers”. Maybe COEX Mall, when the book first came out?

        Since then I have always loved the fact that it was the ginyeo writers who were the most “real”: confessional, anxious, filled with longing… while the noblewomen wrote about family affairs. Both groups were self-conscious… which is fecking fantastic when one want to make deep art, IMHO. Hooray for blossoms in the spring, but when the ginyeos really let loose, that was the good stuff:

        “Many are ruined men of letters who knew not the refined depth of my aspirations and took me for a wandering cloud…”.
        – Maichang Yi

  4. kvennarad says:

    I didn’t want to comment solely about the ‘great line’, but sometimes that really boosts a poem!

    1. Somebody got there before you haha. A poem need be solid but a good line can be the memorabilia people take away & turn over in their noggins as they go about things.

  5. I don’t know what it is, but a great line becomes a personal revolution. The poem may be great as a whole but certain lines become a part of one;s consciousness, like a Zen koan in which one seeks to sort out a great way of being because it is now unavoidable after reading the line. There is a kind of devastation to a great line, something that takes a part of you away to be replaced/healed.

    Okaji Sensei and DPM here have the same effect on me that the Picabia room at Centre Georges Pompidou (CGP: in Paris) had on me last time I was there. I walked into the room and it was all Picabia, including several of his assemblages and “machine” paintings (like “L’Infant carburateur” though I don;t remember that specific painting being there).Sitting in that room surrounded by Picabia’s work made me feel so gloriously less and less knowledgeable about art, in the sense that I felt like I was “learning” so much and feeling so much, I actually left feeling I knew less about art because my assumptions about him and Dadaism had been challenged.

    It was a strangely numinous feeling, and I felt cleansed of ignorance: challenged and ready to re-learn, ready to come back to the Center and see them again for a new start. So this lessening of myself became an enriching (not stupefying) act: returning to the streets of Paris to breathe more deeply, to “be” more fully… and what a great place to “be” with both the Louvre and CGP at hand.

    A Daniel Paul Marshall line “Picabia-s” me! 🙂

    1. Need to have a look at all this now. Will get on it when i’m at my computer.

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