The Many Faces of Poetry: Where Does Poetry Come From?

The Many Faces of Poetry 2

Where Does Poetry Come From?

I keep inquiring into the nature of poetry: where does it come from? It’s a question that opens a lot of introspection into the nature of literature itself. Poetry is the ultimate ancestor of literature. There was the spoken word, the saga, told around fires surrounded by rapt listeners. Poetry came from the telling of heroic stories. Beowulf, the Eddas, the Greek epics, the Chaldean cycles. We’ve come a long way from the spoken word, the recitals that spawned the invention of text itself. People cared enough about the preservation of their cultural history that they made the effort to write it down. Ancient stories survived the eons, so that we still have them, we still can read The Odyssey or learn about the trials of Gilgamesh. In truth these long recitals are almost unbearable in the real world but they are like artifacts in museums. We have them. We can reach into their labyrinths and return with answers to questions that we must always ask. Why are we here? What are we doing?

Poetry is the literary equivalent of cave drawing. Mankind, many thousands of years ago, felt the impulse to make an artistic statement, whether it be for a ritual gathering of game animals or to praise the gods for their benevolence. We are still, when we write poetry, drawing on cave walls. We are traveling backward in time to re-enact the original creative impulse. What came first, I wonder? Did poetic recitation pre-date the drawing on cave walls. Or did they come at the same time? I wonder what anthropologist will research that question and tell us about the history of art. All of this speculation is to invoke the origin of Art itself. Poetry has changed with the human race. We are not the same people who told and re-told The Odyssey. We are modern people with a modern poetry, a poetry that has become more free as we re-invent the structures of literature.

We must ask another important question, one that I will address in a later essay. What does poetry do? We must break this down into two parts. What does it do for the poet? What does it do for its audience?

The poet writes to express his or her state of being. It may be emotional, intellectual or both. A poet, however, usually needs fire to lure an audience, so poetry begins in the emotions, where the fire lives. There are three things that literature needs to provide in order to attract an audience: information, inspiration, and entertainment. Who will listen to poetry if it’s not entertaining? Many are the yawns I’ve seen at poetry readings, glances at the wristwatch, restless fidgeting. Entertain us, poet! Or go home, get off the stage.

I’m rushed this month. We’re moving into a house, a beautiful house!


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 Many Faces of Poetry: The Poetry Book

 

The Many Faces of Poetry 2

 

I keep a volume of poetry. It’s my book, it contains all the poems that have survived fifty years of writing poetry. There are two hundred fifty six pages in this book. It contains some twenty seven thousand words. These aren’t all the poems I’ve written. Not even close. They’re the poems that have SURVIVED to take up residence in this book called, simply, Collected Poems. If I could have avoided loss through theft and mischief, I would probably have a book of collected poems at least a thousand pages long. But I did lose these hundreds of pages. They were stolen, they were lost, they were even held hostage for cocaine and heroin. They were burned in front of me. I’ve lived a colorful and dangerous life.

Glory fremontViv

Sometimes I leaf through this book, evaluating and enjoying. “Oh this is good,” I tell myself. Or, “this really sucks”, or “mmm, maybe”. Everyone’s work exists on a continuum. My continuum has a couple of occupants that stay at the top, always. Probably my very favorite poem is titled, “Prophet”. Here it is.

 

Prophet

Oh lord, oh lord,

what has befallen me?

That which I hoped to make straight

becomes more twisted.

That which I should understand

only becomes more strange.

How did I land on this unexpected shore?

What am I to make of the walking wreck of myself?

I can still think, still work,

still speak in poems

in the sleepless time of the night.

It is a mixed gift, this life, it is hard

to feel so completely lost

in complexity I don’t know how I made.

I wanted to be a radiance

but I am more like a garbage can

tipped by a starving animal in predawn hours.

I pick myself up,

I sweep my contents

into a tidy pile,

but each time I think to rest,

I am again overturned.

I speak to you, o lord,

like the wounded Jew,

like the baffled bloodied prophet,

like the broken fated sage.

I take help from any quarter,

even those with dangerous denizens.

I take comfort with the scorpion,

I sleep with diseases,

I’m astonished that I’ve survived.

Oh lord, what has befallen me?

You see, I have nothing but questions.

It could be much worse, I freely admit.

It could be much better,

I ruefully entreat.

Pieces of me have gone numb.

Whole continents of my psyche are submerged,

drowned, forgotten.

I am the world I have made.

I am a man, dreadfully incomplete,

unwilling to meet the terror,

reluctant to behold the fire,

shrinking always from the worst case,

taking the hand of any wiser being,

like a lost child who needs to be led home.

I shall try now to snatch a bit of sleep

from the bottom of the night’s cup.

I’m glad we had this little talk.

I thank you, awkwardly,

like one who has opened the wrong gift

at the wrong party.

Oh, is this for ME?

I’m not quite sure it fits,

I’m not sure how to use it.

I’ve broken it a little

but it still works. See?

I’ve tried, I’ve hopped on one foot,

I’ve danced insanely.

I’m still here,

waiting for your soft voice

to bring me peace.

 

What have I done in this poem? I’ve confessed to god that I’ve screwed up my life. I’ve cried out to heaven in my stunned incomprehension: what happened to me? I wanted to be a saint and I wound up being a demon. I have understood that in this world the ground is never steady under my feet. I’m always being blind-sided, rear-ended, fender-bended, slipping up, falling flat, missing a step, losing the beat, having four flats and forgetting the spare at home. I have grasped the existential paradox of living in the world. I am praying to accept it and find the strength to move forward. So…Where does that leave me?

Dancing like a madman in broken shoes.

There’s a line in this poem that catches me and catches me and catches me, stunning in its ferocity. “I take comfort with the scorpion, I sleep with diseases”. It refers to the insane risks that I took during a certain period of my life. I wound my way through a world of poisoned needles. Yet I survived. I have little doubt that poetry helped me to survive.


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 Many Faces Of Poetry: The Lost Poems

The Many Faces of Poetry 2

 

In the 90s I lived in Marin County, in the San Geronimo Valley. The Valley is something like heaven. It’s undeveloped land full of hiking trails, hills and valleys, winding roads and custom built wooden houses. It has its own culture. The San Geronimo Valley Cultural Center is a meeting hall and multi-purpose space where events can happen. Some of the Center’s regular features are readings of poetry. It’s a frequent venue for local bands. I participated in a lot of the Cultural Center’s events. I appeared frequently for poetry readings.  I assembled my band, “The Cryptic Research Orkestra” and played songs like “Barking Platypus At Midnight”.

It’s gratifying to be known, to have a small following of people who will show up because my name is on the flyer that is pasted up and down Sir Francis Drake Boulevard.

On this night my “peeps” were there, all the fans who knew that I might provide the unexpected, or do something funny, play drums or read poetry.

My poetry first finds expression in one of my black notebooks. These are bound books of clean pages, two hundred pages per volume. I purchase them at book stores or online. My closet is home for a dozen of these volumes. I keep the latest two or three books in my top drawer, so that I can read from them at live shows. Eventually I type my poems into the computer and add them to my master volume.

When it was my turn to read I carried one of the volumes onto the stage while I put the other two behind me, behind my drum set. Then I did my thing: I read. I entertained, enchanted, lala lalala, I sprouted wings and floated to the ceiling. When the mushrooms began to wear off I realized that I had read a single poem of eight lines. It had seemed like twenty minutes. Don’t perform on psychedelics. It promotes delusions and confusions. Anyway, I had a spare fifteen or twenty minutes left, so I turned to claim one of my other books. I saw a tall furtive figure creeping off the stage with my two notebooks in hand. “Hey!” I yelled and he took off on lanky legs, flying like an antelope. I ran in pursuit but when I got through the door there was no sign of him.

Why would anyone want to steal my books of poetry? Was this a case of lunacy, over -the- top fan-dom, both, or neither? Was the thief going to read my poems and claim them as his own? I would never know. I spent days musing on the nature of my loss. I hadn’t computerized those books yet. My memory was inadequate. I knew there were some really good poems in the books. One of them was a game I played with time, space and words. The words occupied strategic parts of the page. The poem began in the upper left corner and said, “From which Point Of View” then it dropped to the middle of the page and said “Ever Shifting”, then dropped to the left bottom corner, said “Changing” and that’s all I could remember of how I structured this marvelous statement about the ephemeral nature of reality.

I had lost all those poems. Shit. I felt hollow in my belly, like I was hungry, but it was more like a mist of needle-like molecules of loss. Emptiness. Helplessness. I could never get back those poems. From that moment forward I vowed to make back ups. And I said goodbye to two or three years of excellent poetic momentum, my precious “middle period”, before I got old and detached from the world. Before I could see the world as a toy or board game or a scratchy reel of film from the twenties. Because…that’s what the world is, isn’t it? A game? A farce? A fraud.

A test of love, of strength, a breeding house of character. The world is so many things that as I age I appreciate senility…I mean, how much crap can a mind contain, anyway? This is why the memory folds like an origami and seemingly disconnected concepts join up in new ways. Origami. Poetry. Aha! I remember! My “from which point of view” poem was supposed to be folded up, then opened in a strict sequence. But I’ll never reconstruct that. It’s gone.

 

Here’s one that’s not gone.

 

I talk to the world

 

I know, I know,

you’re wondering what

it all is,

why it’s so damned

complicated

and why you can’t just

settle down

and make it good

why it’s so freaking hard

to work out

so impossible

to solve

why there’s no answer: no,

not even an answer,

just a way

to be

that isn’t painful

shameful

embarrassing

mistaken

poorly conceived

broken

half hearted

out of tune….

I know, I know…

What the hell is it?

What started it to go this way

and not some other

way,

some way deeper,

more satisfying

more noble

than the squalid human consequences

of being here

with all this motherstuff

fatherstuff,

bad uncle

mean neighbor

bullying enemy

conniving stranger

evil intentions

ugly ideas.

What is it that made our world

so crazy

that to get a drink of water

means murder

to own a house

to dig a well

to marry a total stranger

means ten generations

of violent feud

what happened

to human beings

how did we miss everything

so completely

why aren’t we quiet enough

thoughtful enough

to see a hundred fifty shades

of color

in a sunset cloud

why are we so noisy

so sloppy and clumsy

why do we breathe all wrong,

BREATHE ALL WRONG

what does it take

to be right with the world?

Look in the eyes of your baby.

Remember what you see.

Try very hard to remember

look in the eyes

of your lover

remember what you see

remember love

and its intricate rich depth,

DON’T FORGET!

Aaaah!

It’s so easy to forget

it takes but a heart beat

were we talking about love?

I don’t remember.

There was something that confused me,

bothered me,

I forgot

and now, see,

what happens?

Now, see?

 

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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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


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.

 

 

 


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.

 

 


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


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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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


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