Invitation to a Voyage
Là, tout n’est qu’ordre et beauté,
Luxe, calme et volupté.
— Charles Baudelaire
There all is order and beauty,
Luxury, peace, and pleasure.
I was talk to the lovely TJ from TJLubrano about 2 weekends ago. She had some great posts where she talked about her painting process and painting in general. It was nice to hear about about her craft and how she approaches it, from an ideological point of view as well as from a technical point of view. She is the inspiration for this series where I am going to share with you my own history, thoughts and evolution as a dude writing poetry. Also it would give me an opportunity to ruminate out-loud on the craft of writing poetry.
As this will be the opening post to this series I wanted to get some things out of the way. It has been my dream to be a writer – that is to contribute something more than my excrement to this earth that may last long after everyone has forgotten how devilishly handsome I looked in my prime. I want to get to the point where I can live off my writing. As crazy as this sound, other people have done it and I feel that I can do it too. With that being said, I just want to say, that my views about poetry here apply to me only and aren’t a judgement on what you do or don’t do.
Le Poète est semblable au prince des nuées
Qui hante la tempête et se rit de l’archer;
Exilé sur le sol au milieu des huées,
Ses ailes de géant l’empêchent de marcher.
— Charles Baudelaire
The poet resembles this prince of cloud and sky
Who frequents the tempest and laughs at the bowman;
When exiled on the earth, the butt of hoots and jeers,
His giant wings prevent him from walking.
“I hate poetry! Well what passes for poetry nowadays.”
The novel has supplanted poetry as the most popular literary media. No one I’ve met is going off to write the next great American Poetry collection, the next great novel though everyone wants to do that. Everyone now is a poet:
- This girl I met at the bar who contracted genital herpes from the love of her life, she is a poet
- This guy who folds turtlenecks at the GAP he is a poet
- Every third hipster I meet, after enough pabst Blue Ribbon is a poet.
- This white guy with dreads wearing traditional Indian Clothes with tattoos of snakes and flowers asking me for money to save the whales, he is a poet.
I understand that everyone write poetry for their own reasons: some do it because it is cathartic, some because it’s a fun past-time, some people just use the title poet to add a some mysterious air to their lives. One guy shared with me a poem he wrote about how this girl sucked him off in the back of a record shop. After hearing how her lack of gag reflexes as displayed in the back of the record shop confirmed to him the non-existence of God I was done with the genre and never wanted to read it, or hear about it. This guy, I should add, was also obsessed with Jim Morrison, who wrote the following lines:
Cling to cunts & cocks
We got our final vision
Columbus’ groin got
filled w/ green death
(I touched her thigh
& death smiled)
By poetry I mean what I read in literary magazines. If you get published by the Atlantic or Harpers I have certain expectations,
Almost finished Starting
After about a good 10 -12 years of reading intensely reading poetry, as well as everything else I did, an deciding to compose in English and what my individual voice and approach was. I sought out a mentor. A published poet who I really liked who could really iron out my rough spots and direct me a little bit. See before at about years 1-6 I felt that I didn’t have much life experience, or rather my own life experience was too strange to be shared. years 6 -10 I felt that as I was getting relatable life experience. I had great ideas but execution was off. My mentor guided me and still does.
This is taken from an email sent me:
Your felicity with language is really marvelous… almost Proustian! I am fascinated by these three poems, and think of them really as three parts of a longer series… moving through language, in and out of landscapes, real and mental… [ insert personal stuff ] I love these poems, and would like to see more, previous and later to these…
The poems he is referring to are a part of a collection I have been growing with working on for a good 3-4 years now. I’m hoping I can publish at least a chapbook by the end of year.
Beginning to understand Craft
There are two rules I have been acquainted with time and time again. I have recapitulated them in my own words:
The first rule of writing anything I was taught was that to be a great writer one has to be a great reader; to write great poetry one has to really read and study the great poets.
“I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library.”
– Jorge Luis Borges, “Poema de los Dones”
I have sat with each of the following poets in an attempt to understand the technical aspects of poetry: Baudelaire, Mallarme, Valery, Verlaine, Rimbaud, Villion, de Musset, de Vigny, Hugo, Lamartine, Robert Frost, Langston Hughes, Neruda, Vicente, Jimenez, Garcia Lorca, WS Merwin, Cummings Borges, Rumi, Hafiz, Araqi Shabistari, Tagore, Synder, Transtromer, Robert Bly, Maya Angelou and others. I read them in French, English and Spanish, I look at diction imagery, assonance, meter, word play aka Jeux de mot, narrative voice, the portray of time, evocation of movement, analogy, literary allusions, musicality, story telling.
Poetry isn’t just ejaculating emotions onto paper.
Poetry is not a turning loose of emotion, but an escape from emotion; it is not the expression of personality, but an escape from personality. But, of course, only those who have personality and emotions know what it means to want to escape from these things.
T. S. Eliot, “Tradition and the Individual Talent“, II (The Sacred Wood, 1922)
No one cares about your feelings. What they care about is how you explore your feelings in the context of the everyday realities and harshness of living. If you do it in a way so as to bring them back to a shared experience that unites us and grounds us all then your poems will be loved. I find that what make a song Great makes a poem great: it appeals to your deep understanding of self, It allows you to to look back on the past and appreciate the subtlety etc
Check this out in Coleridge’s Biographia Literaria he says that Wordworth’s goal or aim in writing poetry was: to give charm of novelty to things of every day, and excite a feeling analogous to the supernatural, by awakening the mind’s attentions from the lethargy of custom, directing it to the loveliness and wonders of the world before us.”. This doesnt encapsulate the entirety of my ethos but this is very important to my growth and evolution as a poet.
Before I get to all my own stuff, like my process, elements of style, my ethos my aim etc. I want to talk a few things, like how to read a poem, Poems I have liked, popular forms of poetry etc. . If you have any suggestions please lemme know :-) Ill be happy to incorporate this in to this series.