Poetry For Yourself

The Many Faces of Poetry 2

 

Poetry For Yourself

Poetry has an odd position in the hierarchy of creative media. It’s too personal and intense to be an instrument of mass exposure. How many famous poets are there? Five? Ten? Who comes to mind? Mary Oliver. Of course.

So why do you write poetry? Asking that question is like asking “Why do you fall in love?” You just do…because the love is in you, wanting to get out. It’s a way of falling in love with yourself. Having created something beautiful, you sit back and think…”Oh..did I do that? Where did it come from? Did I channel it from some ethereal spirit?” Sometimes the poems we write seem to belong to independent spirits. They are alien and strange.

face in space with stars

Ghost voices grow

like weaving spires in the corridor of the night.

Stalactites of moonlight,

they hum and fade

through the wake of other minds.

A sheet of star rain glinting light,

a mist of moon- heat lost from sight

these spectral hints emerge

from the night floor in the dark.

Silver waving plants recede forever

in a song of twinkling echoes.

Ghost voices, shadow worlds

arise and converse

while my sleep waits beyond the hills,

listening.

 

If I wrote that it would be evidence that I am certifiably nuts. It must be read carefully, like drinking a fabulous milkshake one mouthful at a time.  Poetry can be a vessel for deadly serious topics, or it can offer room for comedy.

Shit

There’s shit on my shoes;

cat shit, dog shit, I hope that’s all shit.

Every step I take I risk stepping in shit:

Is this not life? There’s nothing wrong with shit.

We need it, like we need bugs

to nourish with its noxious stink the most natural growth.

This poo is for you, it says, as I wipe it off my shoe

with futile hope of avoiding my hands, then washing

again and again. How often in a day do I inwardly exclaim,

“Shit!”?

More than I would admit.

My mind is full of bricks, pies and purges.

Cats, dogs, owls, horses, all shit. People shit,

the cosmos excretes Dark Matter on these very shoes

which I try so hard to keep clean. Many are obsessed

with the minuscule taint of e.coli. Why should I bother to say

“Relax, we are exposed to e.coli and far worse

every day. We are sturdy,

knocking off shits and bugs heroic, undaunted

by the invisible stools of imagination?”. Instead I spread this blessing:

“You must be crazy in whatever way you want.”

Not every disease is preventable, nor is every affliction brought on board

by the shit on our shoes. When you stroke the cat, the dog, the horse

your hands investigate bacteria, resist infection.

After all, shit is the most common thing in the world.

 

 

I’ll be honest. “Shit” is one of the best poems I’ve ever written.  I think. I always feel that way about my latest poem.  It’s got rhythm and it makes people laugh.  What’s better than that?

I know, I’m taking up a lot of space, and I think I’ve posed enough questions. No matter how personal a matter is poetry, its importance is immense. It is filled with our most private introspection. If others read it, so much the better. I didn’t write these things to live in the dark. Some day they may find an audience. Meanwhile, I offer them for the pleasure of a small number of readers who may enjoy them.


A Midwesterner by birth, Arthur Rosch migrated to the West Coast just in time to be a hippie but discovered that he was more connected to the Beatnik generation. He harkened back to an Old School world of jazz, poetry, painting and photography. In the Eighties he received Playboy Magazine’s Best Short Story Award for a comic view of a planet where there are six genders. The timing was not good.  His life was falling apart as he struggled with addiction and depression. He experienced the reality of the streets for more than a decade. Putting himself back together was the defining experience of his life. It wasn’t easy. It did, however, nurture his literary soul. He has a passion for astronomy, photography, history, psychology and the weird puzzle of human experience. He is currently a certified Seniors Peer Counselor in Sonoma County, California. Come visit his blogs and photo sites. www.artrosch.com and http://bit.ly/2uyxZbv


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Treme: David Simon’s Masterwork about New Orleans

Art's Visual Media Review

In early October, 2005 my partner and I were driving our new 38 foot motorhome from Ft. Lauderdale to Petaluma,CA.  It was going to be a four thousand mile drive on I-10, the southernmost of our nation’s interstate highway system.  As we drew into the outskirts of Pensacola we noted the ravaged condition of the trees, fences, billboard signs and the Interstate itself.  The campgrounds were jam packed.  We only found a site because someone had suffered a heart attack and was rushed to the hospital twenty minutes before we pulled into the Pensacola KOA. 

            We were in the zone of Hurricane Katrina’s wrath and the next four hundred miles would be like driving through a poorly kept secret.  Along the highway were big plywood signs done in red magic marker: FEMA, they said, and sometimes an arrow pointed the way down a dirt road.  These signs were emblematic of the slipshod management of a terrible disaster.  Imagine, plywood planks with red magic marker: this way to the internment camp of white trailers.

            Ahead of us lay New Orleans.  We saw the city only a few weeks after it was submerged and torn all to hell.  When we began watching the TV series Treme (trem-may), we had a visceral sense of connection to the experiences of the characters.

wendell

            TREME is producer/director David Simon’s series about post-Katrina New Orleans.  Simon is the creator of crime masterworks like HOMICIDE and THE WIRE.  TREME is something different.  It is a filmic mural that depicts conditions in a ravaged community.  Suspense is not what draws the viewer into the show.  It’s the characters that keep us watching.

           One of the major characters of the series is New Orleans itself. There is a depth of culture in this city that is unmatched by any other American city.  Treme is one of the neighborhoods in this town, an area where musicians live and form their community.  They play at one another’s gigs.  They do funerals, following  wheeled black carriages in stately slow-march.  They play at nightclubs where the patrons and musicians alike are having so much fun that it seems almost unreal, as if there can’t possibly be so much joy in this troubled world.  But there it is: real music, dancing, carrying-on and everyone is having a freaking great time. 

            There’s nothing strident about Simon’s portrait of New Orleans.  It’s a town trying to bounce back, but the bounce is a little flat.  People want to rebuild their homes but the promised insurance checks and subsidies keep getting lost in bureaucracy.  A man has spent  three years rebuilding his home with his own money and his own skills. Suddenly a city inspector appears and cuts off his water and power. “The City” wants to see the original deed on the property.  It’s a document whose origins go back two hundred years.  It’s lost in history, lost in the flood.  Can he PROVE that his family has occupied this parcel of land since 1824?

Photo by Art Rosch

Photo by Art Rosch

            He forgot a payoff to someone.  He’s lost track of the fifties and hundreds he’s hemorrhaged to fees and penalties.

            New Orleans has become a scene where politicians and developers gather like ghouls to create a theme park where there was once a city.  If they have things their way, it will be resurrected as NewOrleansLand or Cajun-O-Rama.  The citizens of New Orleans are fighting back.  They know their city will never be the same.  But the disaster has made them aware of themselves as an extended family.  There is something special about being a New Orleans native.  There’s a terminology, a language, a history and a lot of blood that goes into the making of a citizen of New Orleans. 

            TREME is strangely relaxing to watch.  Real-life characters like musicians  Carla Thomas, Kermit Ruffins and Allen Toussaint thread through the plot playing themselves, providing a sound track of amazing skill and vivacity.  TREME is loaded with top of the line music.

            “Let the good times roll”, or “Laissez le bon temps roulez” is the unofficial motto of Mardi Gras.  The good times may roll but a new motto is emerging from the frustrated natives of New Orleans.  

          I will paraphrase the words of Sofia, the sixteen year old daughter of  civil rights lawyer Toni Bernette, played by the fantastic Melissa Leo.  Every day Sofia retreats to her bedroom, closes the door, aims the laptop camera at her face and uploads to YouTube a monologue of rage and bitterness.

          “Fuck you, man, fuck you!” she says.  “If you’re not going to help us, at least don’t hinder us.  Just get the fuck out of our way!” THAT is the new motto of New Orleans.


A Midwesterner by birth, Arthur Rosch migrated to the West Coast just in time to be a hippie but discovered that he was more connected to the Beatnik generation. He harkened back to an Old School world of jazz, poetry, painting and photography. In the Eighties he received Playboy Magazine’s Best Short Story Award for a comic view of a planet where there are six genders. The timing was not good.  His life was falling apart as he struggled with addiction and depression. He experienced the reality of the streets for more than a decade. Putting himself back together was the defining experience of his life. It wasn’t easy. It did, however, nurture his literary soul. He has a passion for astronomy, photography, history, psychology and the weird puzzle of human experience. He is currently a certified Seniors Peer Counselor in Sonoma County, California. Come visit his blogs and photo sites. www.artrosch.com and http://bit.ly/2uyxZbv


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So You Think You Can Dance: Breaking New Ground

Art's Visual Media Review

“What’s wrong with kids today?”

            This lament has been uttered by every generation  since Adam and Eve discovered they were pregnant a second time.

            So….what IS wrong with kids these days?

           They feel as if they have no future.  The last few extant generations simply don’t.  Futures come in handy when you feel as though the world will be unrecognizable before you’ve grown up.  As a child of The Mushroom Cloud I know what that feels like, that amputation of the future. It made me really angry.  My friends and I were more likely to commit petty crimes and indulge in drugs.  Without a future, why bother?  Why work hard in school?  Why cultivate disciplines, interests, social connections?  The oceans are rising and will drown your block or your whole neighborhood.  The coolest animals will be extinct.  No elephants, no polar bears.  What kind of future is that?

Can't Dance

            Then I discovered a TV show called “So You Think You Can Dance”.  You can knock me over with what these kids are doing!  Their bodies must be INCREDIBLY strong and flexible.  These kids are doing the impossible!  Has the human race mutated?  Do we have extra joints, super-human muscle memory? Who ARE these people?

            They’re just kids.  Their secret is that they found a passion, something that interested them so much that they said “fuck it” to the absence of the future and decided to live for this thing called Dance.  It was better than being a thug.  Thugs are mean, WAY mean and being mean doesn’t feel very good.  Not as good as practicing B-moves, Krumping, flapping, sapping, tapping, robot-twitching, water-waving, learning your body’s capabilities and stretching them further, further, further!

            This is IT!  Sometimes it’s called ART.  Don’t be embarrassed by the word ART.  It’s cool to do ART.  It’s okay.  Even if it’s gay it doesn’t matter.  Nobody cares about gay any more.  You can be gay, you can change from man to woman or woman to man, nobody cares!  If you want to know where it is, where the cutting edge in creativity can be found these days you can see it on “So You Think You Can Dance”.  The judges aren’t scary.  They aren’t there to cut you down.  They want to show you The Future.  Word up, Bro.  There IS a future.  Nobody can stop it.  It takes some work.  Everything good takes work. Making a future is hard work.  It’s not like it used to be, when the Future was going to happen no matter what.  Now it takes a little faith and a lot of work, but it’s there: you… DO…Have…A…Future.  Do you want it to kick you in the nuts or do you want to dance with it?

            When has anyone given a shit about choreoraphy?  Are you kidding?  Corey-who?  Shazam!  Choreographers are the composers of Dance.  They arrange the time-space-music continuum in which Dance exists.  On the TV show they are not only given credit, they are like stars!  Now I know the work of Tice Diorio, Mia Michaels, Sonya Tayeh, “Nappytab”, Stacey Tookey and Travis Wall.  Choreographers come from the elder population of dancers.  They still dance but they are the keepers of the flame, the mentors of the seventeen through twenty two year old dancers who are living the dreams.

            I’m not sure there is any more difficult art form than what is now appearing as Dance.  It’s not enough to specialize.  You can’t be a ballroom dancer, a hip-hopper or a Broadway hoofer.  One of the messages of So You Think You Can Dance is that you must be trained in ALL the dance styles.  Choreographers wont’ hire you if you don’t know all the styles of dance. Choreographers are the Gate Keepers, the bosses, the ones who hire dancers.  Get tight with the choreographers who work at SYTYCD and you will be employed for years to come. In time, you will become a choreographer.

            The most amazing thing about the dance numbers on this show is their purity.  We’re not seeing arrangements for pop superstars.  We’re not seeing choreography for Taylor Swift or Michael Jackson (RIP).  These dance routines are created for the television audience.  For US!  Sometimes magic happens on that stage.  Those of you who watch the show know what I mean.  In more than a decade this show has lifted the art of Dance so that each season is more amazing than the last.  The mutations continue.  Evolution is visible year to year.  Dancers get more flexible, their muscle memories become more detailed, malleable, imprintable.  This happens in front of our eyes.  Sure, it’s a TV contest show aimed at a teenage demographic.  That’s how things work.  Consider the difference between the egregious karaoke of American Idol and the drama and high art of So You Think You Can Dance.  Big difference, yeah?

            Big big difference.

       

A Midwesterner by birth, Arthur Rosch migrated to the West Coast just in time to be a hippie but discovered that he was more connected to the Beatnik generation. He harkened back to an Old School world of jazz, poetry, painting and photography. In the Eighties he received Playboy Magazine’s Best Short Story Award for a comic view of a planet where there are six genders. The timing was not good.  His life was falling apart as he struggled with addiction and depression. He experienced the reality of the streets for more than a decade. Putting himself back together was the defining experience of his life. It wasn’t easy. It did, however, nurture his literary soul. He has a passion for astronomy, photography, history, psychology and the weird puzzle of human experience. He is currently a certified Seniors Peer Counselor in Sonoma County, California. Come visit his blogs and photo sites. www.artrosch.com and http://bit.ly/2uyxZbv


 

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Modern Poetry: Confusion

The Many Faces of Poetry 2

Modern poetry presents us with many problems. Like: the problem of understanding it. There are no rules to poetry, not any more, not for a century at least. I subscribe to some literary magazines on the internet. I get most of my poetry from The Rumpus and Across The Margin. These literary mags function as curators and critics. Who is there to tell us when something is good in poetry? Are there reviews of poetry? Sure there are! Does anyone read them? I do, out of curiosity. Just as I read poetry that’s being reviewed, out of curiosity and because they are appearing in magazines that I trust. Their very appearance is a critical acclaim. It’s in Rumpus, so it must be good. Etc.

allen gberg

It really gets down to taste and patience. Poetry is “OUT” in pop culture. It takes too long, requires too much commitment. I haven’t encountered a contemporary poet who inspires me to be a fan, to glue myself to his or her output with enthusiasm.

Other than myself. I’m a big fan of myself. A BIG fan.

When we were in high school we had Poetry Gods. We had e.e.cummings, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, T.S. Eliot, okay, yes, Allen Ginsberg. We had a Movement, we had the Beats and then Hippies. Am I out of touch? Let me know, will you?

Still, poetry thrives. It’s a bigger world, with more people, more poets.

Then there’s SLAM POETRY! The high culture equivalent of hip hop. I don’t know anything about SLAM POETRY except that it’s great fun, the audience is fully involved, the passions are up front, IT’S ALIVE IT’S ALIVE! Go to Youtube and search out Slam poetry and there you have it. The world of performance speech, it has no rules but one: tell a story, suck in the audience. If you don’t you will experience a gloomy traumatic humiliation that you’ll never want to repeat unless you combine the attributes of martyr with poet (not a bad combo, really) and you’re in it for the long haul, you’re there to perfect your art no matter what the price.

Youtube threw up a slam poet named Jesse Parent. The poem he spoke was called “To The Boys Who Will One Day Date My Daughter”. Then, boom! I was off on a delightful two hour marathon of enjoying slam poetry and the only reason it resolved at two hours was because my butt hurt from sitting so long in my malignant chair.

Guess what? The world has changed. I’m old enough to enjoy the backward/shrinking/reverse view of looking through the wrong end of a telescope. e.e. cummings? Allen Ginsberg? Are they hip-hoppers? What do they do?

“You’ve never heard ‘Howl’?”

“Is that a song?”

“No. Probably the most famous poem of modern times.”

“What? Like ‘Niggas In Paris’?”

“Niggas in…uhhhh, I don’t….”

“Daddy! Kanye and Jay-Z.”

I’m already confused. This began as an essay about poetry. “Well, Kanye’s pretty much destroyed himself, and Jay-Z, okay, I can handle Jay-Z, gotta give him some respect.”

“Listen, I’ll make a deal with you. I’ll listen to ‘Howl’ if you’ll listen to ‘Niggas in Paris.”

“Deal. But…let me warn you. Ginsberg wasn’t much of an orator…”

(Ginsberg reads: I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness etc etc). He sounds as if he’s been drinking Robitussin for two weeks and just took a snort of cocaine to get through the reading. After listening to Jesse Parent for half an hour the desultory delivery of Ginsburg is pathetic. I listen to the words of the poem. I know it’s a classic. I like it. I’m ambivalent about it. It sounds old fashioned. But maybe that’s just poor Allen’s delivery.

Yes. The world has changed.

 

A Midwesterner by birth, Arthur Rosch migrated to the West Coast just in time to be a hippie but discovered that he was more connected to the Beatnik generation. He harkened back to an Old School world of jazz, poetry, painting and photography. In the Eighties he received Playboy Magazine’s Best Short Story Award for a comic view of a planet where there are six genders. The timing was not good.  His life was falling apart as he struggled with addiction and depression. He experienced the reality of the streets for more than a decade. Putting himself back together was the defining experience of his life. It wasn’t easy. It did, however, nurture his literary soul. He has a passion for astronomy, photography, history, psychology and the weird puzzle of human experience. He is currently a certified Seniors Peer Counselor in Sonoma County, California. Come visit his blogs and photo sites. www.artrosch.com and http://bit.ly/2uyxZbv


Want to be sure not to miss any of Art’s The Many Faces of Poetry segments? Subscribe to Writing to be Read for e-mail notifications whenever new content is posted or follow WtbR on WordPress.

 

 


Friday Night Lights: Bingeworthy TV

By Arthur Rosch

 

 Art's Visual Media Review

 

            FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS isn’t about Texas high school football.

            It’s about Texas high school football.

            I admit to writing this stupid/cutesy opening and I don’t even have a good reason for it. I suppose it expresses my surprise. I expected a sports drama. I anticipated a series about a scrappy low-ranked team overcoming its difficulties and moving on to the semi-finals and then the finals and then…..you know the story.It’s been done to death. Underdog Triumphs Despite Impossible Odds.

            Peter Berg’s masterwork about Americans at their best and their worst is way beyond football scoreboards. The game dramas we’re given, the playoffs and championships, are almost footnotes. Do they win or lose the nationals? Yay! Boohoo! Oh well…the story moves on.

            In case you haven’t heard, Texans have a local football culture like no other. Its passions fill in the great empty spaces of the land. It entertains, it distracts, it involves, it sucks people into its politics, it’s a tornado and it leaves nothing untouched.

            It’s serious. The aristocracy of star players have perks beyond belief. They are scouted by major college teams and the NFL looms in the background for a few talented athletes. The perks have to be within the bounds, so to speak. There’s no buying and selling of games and players (or, at least, there’d better not be). This adherence to the strictures of amateurism doesn’t preclude assigning a virtual harem to the stars, the quarterback, the tight end, the wide receiver and so forth. These guys stride the halls of school like gods.

            FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS isn’t about Texas high school football because it’s really about character, relationships and community.

            The true star of this drama is a relationship. The marriage of Eric and Tami Taylor is the spine of this narrative’s skeleton. It’s the beating heart at the center of the town of Dillon, Texas. Without the marriage of Eric and Tami, there is no story. Actors Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton play their parts with such natural grace that their marriage should receive an Emmy. It is one of the great marriages in television history.

            Eric is the new Head Coach of the Dillon Panthers. Tammy is the high school counselor. Their marriage is subject to pressures that would crush most commitments. If Eric and Tammy can survive this alchemist’s crucible, they will be peerless. They will be jewels.

            If they can’t, they’ll be another sad divorce that leaves behind a shattered family. Their daughter Julie is at that age just before she starts to rebel and roll her eyes. We need to wait until Season Three for the foot-stomping, eye rolling and the whole alphabet of gestures of teenage contempt for adult restrictions. Meanwhile, she’s a nice cute kid with a training bra.

            Eric and Tammy have tough jobs. If you think coaching high school football is small time stuff, think again. This is Texas. Eric needs all the qualities of a drill sergeant, a general, a shrink, a priest and a politician. He has to raise his voice and deliver a fifteen minute harangue to a team of wall-sized athletes until they are reduced to terrified little lumps of jelly, quivering on the locker room floor. Or he can put his arm around a confused, demoralized quarterback, pull the boy’s head onto his shoulder and choose the right words to unleash a deluge of tears. He must puncture the macho armor of these arrogant teen prima donnas and make them, FORCE them, to live in the real world where they are not God’s gift to women and football. Creating better athletes is secondary to creating better people.

            All across the country, the name of Eric Taylor is being discussed. He’s a young, new coach, he’s just emerging and he’s the man to watch. He may be next year’s High School Coach Of The Year. He’s at the beginning of a career that may some day take him to the Super Bowl.

            Eric is, by nature, a man of few words. At home, he’s a firm but gentle presence who doesn’t make a lot of noise. He’s busy. He’s working, watching playback of games, evaluating his own calls and his players’ moves. He works ALL the time. He lives football. His wife understands this, she has grasped it from the very beginning of their marriage and rather than pout and grow disillusioned, she creates her own life. She uses her own strengths and interests to engage the world. She’s a high school guidance counselor. This makes her the equivalent of a prison warden and The Great White Hunter on an African Safari. She is stimulated by challenge. She is one of those goddess mothers full of lush strength, red-maned, sexy and very tough.

            What makes a marriage between two such powerful people function so well?

            Honesty keeps the marriage strong. Tami and Eric are always honest with one another. Even when they lie, they’re honest about lying. Neither is afraid to admit being wrong about an issue. They support one another with unbreakable consistency. If they have a fight, they cut through the bullshit, find the central issue, and look for compromise. They don’t resort to yelling and name calling.

            There are times when an irresistible opportunity appears before Eric or Tami. The problem is, accepting the opportunity would require changes in the marriage or the family lifestyle.   One of them, Eric or Tami, is going to have to make a sacrifice. Who is willing to see a lifetime dream fade away? Who is wise enough to see that opportunity does NOT come only once in a lifetime?

            The town of Dillon, Texas is neither large nor small. It’s like a town with a hundred thousand people that has been absorbed into the suburban sprawl of Houston or Dallas. It has an identity. Much of that identity is drawn from the supremacy of the Dillon Panthers.

            The power brokers, the mayor, the oil moguls and the owner of the Cadillac dealership are Panther alumni and sit on the board of the Booster’s Association.They know which strings to pull, how to schedule games to the advantage of the team, how to acquire players from other teams who might be Panther-killers if they’re not brought into the fold. They’re the guys who play dirty, behind the curtain. A little pressure, maybe some mild blackmail; it gets the job done and the team is none the wiser.

            It’s amazing how much of the human condition can be collected into a single file cabinet with the same labeled situations. There are aimless kids on drugs, there are abandoned old people, cheating husbands, bankrupt businessmen, pregnant cheerleaders, corrupt officials, natural disasters, infatuated teenagers going suicidal over a romantic setback….all these potholes in the road of life are much the same, no matter where you go.

            The things that can’t be pigeonholed, that can’t be stuck in a file, are the lineaments of character. Which one of these people can overcome the temptation to shirk? Which one can step up and make an effort to change?

            I ask, because I think Friday Night Lights is a narrative about that power in human beings, that ability to see their own trouble and solve the problem, and then move forward. There will be another problem, and another. No matter. By the time Season Three begins, even the people we learned to hate have become different, better. They are tougher, yet softer. They have something that we all wish we had: a supportive community.

            I was amazed, over and over again, at the way the people of Dillon turn to one another. Coach Taylor’s door is always open. If the phone rings at three in the morning, he will answer it. “I’ll be right there,” he says, sliding out of bed and looking for his pants. If some sopping wet weeping teenager having a crisis knocks on someone’s door, there will be a soft place to fall. A motherly hand is extended: “Why come on in, sugar, you look awful, and you’re just SOPPING wet! What can I do for you?”

            In my dreams I live in a place like that. Dillon is special because Southern Hospitality is not only real but it includes everyone and it understands that shame is the enemy of communication. As a community, Dillon expands its definition of humanity and grows like an amoeba to absorb shame so that being ashamed is not shameful. Lying about the cause of the shame, THAT’S shameful, so it’s better to unburden the heart, to come clean and let someone help you, someone with a wiser mind like Eric or Tami Taylor, or a hundred other people. What’s sad is that this town is a television fiction but it gives me hope. If someone can imagine such a place, someone can create it in the real world.

 

A Midwesterner by birth, Arthur Rosch migrated to the West Coast just in time to be a hippie but discovered that he was more connected to the Beatnik generation. He harkened back to an Old School world of jazz, poetry, painting and photography. In the Eighties he received Playboy Magazine’s Best Short Story Award for a comic view of a planet where there are six genders. The timing was not good.  His life was falling apart as he struggled with addiction and depression. He experienced the reality of the streets for more than a decade. Putting himself back together was the defining experience of his life. It wasn’t easy. It did, however, nurture his literary soul. He has a passion for astronomy, photography, history, psychology and the weird puzzle of human experience. He is currently a certified Seniors Peer Counselor in Sonoma County, California. Come visit his blogs and photo sites. www.artrosch.com and http://bit.ly/2uyxZbv


Want to be sure not to miss any of “Art’s Visual Media Reviews”? Subscribe to Writing to be Read for e-mail notifications whenever new content is posted or follow WtbR on WordPress.

           

 


Poetry And Word Play

The Many Faces of Poetry 2

 

May 29 2019

 

 

My poems are always stimulated by the first line. The line appears in my head. I know it’s a poem, so I write the rest of it, then and there. I make a few tweaks, and I’m finished. Poetry is not an elaborate process for me. It just happens. I would be interested to hear how other poets go about writing, how their experience may differ from mine.

I was reading through the book that I regard as my “Collected Works”. It consists of poems that I considered worthy of putting down on paper or computer. The earliest poem goes back to 1965 and is a verbal commentary on a passage of music by John Coltrane:

 

The beast of the cosmos staggers,

wounded by the weapon

of its own life.

 

You may find this piece to be incomprehensible. Yet there it is, surviving in my book for more than fifty years. A piece that I love for its vivid image of a wildly animate universe, suffering through the changes that nature brings, accepting that life and death are intertwined. Stars live and die, galaxies too, even whole universes must come and must go. Coltrane played a long screaming guttural tone, a note suffused with paradox, with agony and triumph, and it captured my imagination.  I kept returning to it, listening, and wondering, “Did I really hear that?”  I did.

Out of curiosity, and to locate more fuel for this essay, I just googled “Poetry +Word Play” and I got a poem by Marianne Moore, a much-honored poet who is often associated with T.S.Eliot and e.e.cummings. This poem says a lot, so take your time.

 

Poetry

I, too, dislike it: there are things that are important beyond
all this fiddle.
Reading it, however, with a perfect contempt for it, one
discovers that there is in
it after all, a place for the genuine.
Hands that can grasp, eyes
that can dilate, hair that can rise
if it must, these things are important not because a

high-sounding interpretation can be put upon them but because
they are
useful; when they become so derivative as to become
unintelligible, the
same thing may be said for all of us—that we
do not admire what
we cannot understand. The bat,
holding on upside down or in quest of something to

eat, elephants pushing, a wild horse taking a roll, a tireless
wolf under
a tree, the immovable critic twinkling his skin like a horse
that feels a flea, the base-
ball fan, the statistician—case after case
could be cited did
one wish it; nor is it valid
to discriminate against “business documents and

school-books”; all these phenomena are important. One must
make a distinction
however: when dragged into prominence by half poets,
the result is not poetry,
nor till the autocrats among us can be
“literalists of
the imagination”—above
insolence and triviality and can present

for inspection, imaginary gardens with real toads in them,
shall we have
it. In the meantime, if you demand on the one hand, in defiance
of their opinion—
the raw material of poetry in
all its rawness, and
that which is on the other hand,
genuine, then you are interested in poetry.

 

I regard this as a magnificent poem. The subject is Poetry, and the play with words is so subtle and precise that we barely perceive it in the flow of the piece. She gives us a recipe for what is required for a collection of words to be a poem. She closes with the final ingredient, “Imaginary gardens with real toads in them.” She equates being a poet with being a magician. I can’t argue with that. I should put this poem on a T-shirt.

Here are two poems that play with words, poems that emerged from me as always, virtually without thought.

 

Wholes

2003

 

There is no part of you

that is not a whole.

There is no hole in you

that is not part of you,

whole and alive.

There is no whole without holes,

no healing without wounds

no making without

unmaking

that which is a whole,

to begin again,

be born, again, whole.

What crying is this,

in the hole, in the hurt,

yearning to be whole?

Leave yourself alone,

quiet, make everything work

for you, everything,

the base and the noble,

the useless and the crucial,

whole is what is, resting in the center

of the hole.

 

Jonah

 

The moment is the whale

that swallowed Jonah

deep inside the body

where the juices reside.

The whale swallowed the moment

deep inside Jonah

deep inside.

Jonah swallowed the whale’s moment

inside the deeps

the deeps inside

the deep’s inside.

 

Thank you once again for your attention. Let’s put this essay in the “hmmm” pile and move forward.

 

A Midwesterner by birth, Arthur Rosch migrated to the West Coast just in time to be a hippie but discovered that he was more connected to the Beatnik generation. He harkened back to an Old School world of jazz, poetry, painting and photography. In the Eighties he received Playboy Magazine’s Best Short Story Award for a comic view of a planet where there are six genders. The timing was not good.  His life was falling apart as he struggled with addiction and depression. He experienced the reality of the streets for more than a decade. Putting himself back together was the defining experience of his life. It wasn’t easy. It did, however, nurture his literary soul. He has a passion for astronomy, photography, history, psychology and the weird puzzle of human experience. He is currently a certified Seniors Peer Counselor in Sonoma County, California. Come visit his blogs and photo sites. www.artrosch.com and http://bit.ly/2uyxZbv


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The Confusing Faces Of Poetry

The Many Faces of Poetry 2

I struggle with such questions as “What is poetry?” Or “Why is poetry?” I don’t HAVE to struggle; it seems like a waste of energy, except that any honest inquiry into the nature of important things is…well, important. Yesterday I read three poems in a prestigious literary magazine. They were written by a prestigious lady who is a professor at a prestigious school. I’d better take these seriously, I thought. They have the imprimatur of critical acclaim. They’re supposed to be good.

I read the three poems several times. They are contemporary poetry. They have rhythm without rhyme. They are abstract. They are boring as hell. In order to run a quality check, to ensure that it wasn’t just me, quietly going insane, I referred to some poets that I love. I read some Lorca, and then Charles Bukowski. Okay, okay, it’s not just me. The latter poets wrote great poetry. I can sense THE PERSON inside these poems. I know who, where is Bukowsky, what he’s thinking. Lorca, even translated from Spanish, had poetry full of blood, I mean “Blaaahhhdd”, okay?

globes 2

Poetry has always been the bastard child of my prose work. It’s the long prose, the novels, that challenge me. Poetry’s easy. I write a poem, like that! boom, done. A few corrections the next day. Trim it a little. I can go years without writing a poem. This month I’ve struck a seam, I’m writing poems. My poetry is ME, it penetrates to the core of myself and exposes my sense of failure, confusion, ambivalence. Sometimes it’s mystic, it’s pure celebration of what I know is GOD but I don’t want to preach.

These  poems were written in the last ten days. I got pleasure in writing them, and more pleasure reading them. The second poem is among the best I have.  It’s one of “those”.

 

It Don’t Rub Off

More and more each day

my life looks like a stage set.

Props

my green rubber key chain,

the white bowl from which

I eat Cheerios .

More and more it looks less real;

it’s nothing like I wanted, not at all.

It’s more like a joke that’s on me, the opposite

of my desires. It waits to see

if I’ll laugh. I do; I laugh. It’s so silly, wanting,

but it can’t be helped. Wanting is like breathing

or waiting

while something giant hurtles towards me

too far away to sense

but it’s coming.

And I need it.

I’m in no hurry to see through things;

they control the pace.

Who I am

is not a mistake. I came here for an exercise

a knowledge that slips through my fingers.

One day my hand will close around it.

My car is banged up

my knees hurt.

I’m poor but never broke.

My broke friends know

that I’ll pay them for work on my car

or my house.

I carry some of their Stupid for a while.

It don’t rub off.

I always think I’m injured but I’m not:

except that life is injury, an obscure pathway

through a forest full of thrilling birds

and venomous snakes.

Is this real?

Yeah, I guess so.

For now.

 

Shit

There’s shit on my shoes;

cat shit, dog shit, I hope that’s all shit.

Every step I take I risk stepping in shit:

Is this not life? There’s nothing wrong with shit.

Like bugs, we need shit, desperately

to nourish with its stink the most unlikely growth.

This poo is for you, it says, as I wipe it off my shoe

foolishly trying to keep it from my hands, then washing

again and again. How often in a day do I inwardly exclaim,

“Shit!”? More than I would admit. My mind is full of bricks, pies and purges.

Cats, dogs, owls, horses, all shit. People shit,

the universe shits on these very shoes

which I try so hard to keep clean. Many are obsessed

with the microscopic haunt of e.coli. I don’t bother to say

“Relax, we intermix with e.coli and far worse

every day, we are sturdy,

knocking off shits right and left, undaunted

by the invisible spores of imagination”. Instead I give this benediction:

“You must be crazy in whatever way you want.”

Not every disease is preventable, nor is every affliction brought on board

by the shit on our shoes. Every time you stroke the cat, the dog, the horse

your hands investigate bacteria, resist infection.

After all, shit is the most common thing in the world.



A Midwesterner by birth, Arthur Rosch migrated to the West Coast just in time to be a hippie but discovered that he was more connected to the Beatnik generation. He hearkened back to an Old School world of jazz, poetry, painting and photography. In the Eighties he received Playboy Magazine’s Best Short Story Award for a comic view of a planet where there are six genders. The timing was not good.  His life was falling apart as he struggled with addiction and depression. He experienced the reality of the streets for more than a decade. Putting himself back together was the defining experience of his life. It wasn’t easy. It did, however, nurture his literary soul. He has a passion for astronomy, photography, history, psychology and the weird puzzle of human experience. He is currently a certified Seniors Peer Counselor in Sonoma County, California. Come visit his blogs and photo sites. www.artrosch.com and http://bit.ly/2uyxZbv


Want to be sure not to miss any of Art’s The Many Faces of Poetry segments? Subscribe to Writing to be Read for e-mail notifications whenever new content is posted or follow WtbR on WordPress.