April 26, 2010
One of the fundamental questions that keeps reappearing in my head is what makes a poem yours? As I feel poetry to be one of the most emotionally volatile of art forms, particularly in writing, this question always leads me to wonder how personal to make it as a writer. Too much emotion, and the piece becomes so much a pat of you that you cannot share it without fear of rejection, of ever able to edit to find the poem’s full potential. However, with not enough emotion, readers cannot find a connection with the piece and the poet can easily lose the passion to work with it until the end. So how much is right? I’ve been writing for long enough not to take criticism personally anymore, so poetry has been a good outlet for me to discuss issues very personal to me. That being said, I’d like to try some pieces that were more abstract, but it’s difficult to work with personal pieces in a small college setting when most of the people know you on some personal level and would rather focus on how non-fictional or fictional the pieces are rather than their artistic merit. I think it is definitely up the discretion of the poet to decide how much is just enough emotion, but it is important for any artist to get a bit of a thick skin when working with emotional topics, but without the ability to open up, art will never become art.
Does it even have to be your story to make it good? When I write poetry, I always feel like I’m giving it away to the audience when it is complete, and thus it no longer holds the same personal connection with me that it once did. Maybe this is one of the reasons I like to write about ugly situations – once I can make them beautiful I can let them go. Strangely, I could never do this with long works of fiction; I get so connected to my characters, I have a hard time letting go. So maybe that’s simply it? What makes a poem yours is the ability to make something ugly, or even just real, into something beautiful to a mass audience. I think it’s very important to distinguish that claiming a piece of art as your own is not the same as not making it connectible for a wider audience. Because ultimately art is meant to evokes some sort of emotion, or create beauty where there was none before.
March 15, 2010
(Published in All Rights Reserved Literary Magazine, 2007)
Come find me when the sun has set and the stars faintly dust the skies. As the bustle of everyday chaos and the mulling of voices dies down – slowly, to a faint whisper, then disappears, leaving nothing but nature and the simplicity of darkness. I emerge, crouching between the purity of the empty page, waiting eagerly for the drip of ink. I am invincible, invisible, in an inverted world of a white darkness and black stars. With nightfall, I can only exist in this space, accompanied by words and imagination and dreams and memories.
The hours turn slowly; allowing my time to watch, listen to your dreams – mixed thoroughly with your desires and recollections – as you whisper to me. Rain begins to fall on my blank page, slowly at first, black drops splashing and running around me in designs of words and sentences. The rain is more violent now; it pounds my head in the rhythm of my rapid heartbeat. Then onto my shoulders and outstretched arms. No longer black and white, colors emerge from the cloud of ideas above me. Iridescent, they drip from my hair, trickling down my forehead, stinging my eyes, and tracing a shimmering line down my neck to pool in the hollow of my collarbone. Soaking my clothes. Radiant blues and hues of green contrast with the bright yellow of the midmorning sun. The page is transformed into a tranquil ocean. Away from people. See them? They are far off, unimportant to this story. Your story. There you are, in the water now, bathing gracefully in the salty shades of the page. Swimming, swimming, invisible.
Feel the waves on your shoulders. An electrifying sensation that will linger long after the moment has passed. In a fleeting second, you sensed a connection. You became part of the water – part of something larger, deeper than your mind could comprehend. I feel it too, brushing my fingers over another completed page. Knowing when I return again to the chaos of the sun that the satisfaction will follow me. It will fade eventually, when you had to stop and exhale. Your breath shakes the page, remodels words in new forms. Some will disappear, evaporate, chased away by the wind of reason. They’ll try to creep back in at later times, silent and unnoticed. As you drift away again, that charge reemerges. The ritual will repeat itself, as history so often does.
I laugh, exhilarated, careful not to wake you, peaceful and unknowing to my frenzied exuberance in the immersion of words. The sound echoes, reverberating in the empty spaces of the paper, hungry to be filled with more words. It harmonizes with a constant heartbeat, the rise and fall of your chest, and the scrawl of pen on paper. The music is rough, simple, and yet elegant. It compliments the colors in different fashioning of beats. There is no score, no tempo, no refrain. Only pure sound. Beauty. It keeps me from losing my grounding completely, from disappearing into passion and imagination, wrapped snug in a velvet blanket of memories.
I taste the words as they fall. Sour, like a ripe lemon pleading to be plucked from a tree, then chuckling at your naïve confusion as you take a bite. The next drop is sweet, but fait, like a memory of cotton candy at a fair last attended many years passed. You won a contest that year, didn’t you? A youth’s poem – vague, incomplete and unpolished but nonetheless your poem. You don’t even like cotton candy, but on this particular year, it tasted particularly sweet. The scent of pride and victory stuck to your fingers long after the synthetic sugar had disappeared.
I can smell the wet ink as it dries. Like overnight summer rain and the succeeding morning mist that saturates everything, making the grass cool and inviting in the warmth of the rising sun. Soothing as you watch and listen as the world awakens, yawning and shaking and begging for its several more minutes of solitude. But you are well awake, and you study each aspect of the dawn. Like coffee, too hot to drink but tantalizing you with its aroma. Drank in musty, dim-lit coffee shops at midnight, with friends, poetry reading, guitars, and card games. Like the scent of his cologne – all of them you’ve ever known – and dulled into the universal scent of men. Like pine trees, the crunch of twigs and a thin layer of ice under a clear February night. The crackle of a roaring fire that warms beyond aching limb and muscle and bone. Deeper into your core than you ever thought possible. As I write, this is the scent of history.
The sun is beginning to rise, and the clouds begin to dissipate. The last words are hurried, outrunning the impending sunshine that seeps into the windows and under the door. My heart slows and my breathing deepens. And you awaken. Take my place in the world; manage the maze of city streets and watch emotion, politics and destruction. Race against pressure. When you have had your fill, return to me by night. Let passion reign. Watch me sing and dance on a blank page, fulfilled with your memories and dreams and hopes and despair. Watch your history, my history, unfold on the empty page as the process repeats again.