Behind the scenes

What we start with and what we choose has an impact on what we end up with but there’s a lot of manoeuvring room in between.

In Toward a Blacker Ardour (Beautiful Outlaw, 2021) Phil Hall said, “I perk up as if revision were my only remaining trusted evidence of a future.”

Conceiving of a poem is 1%, composing another 10%, editing 80% and the rest publishing and finding people to read it. Percentages may vary.

Here’s an edited version of a poplar instagram post, second most likes of the first 50 posts followed by over 200 now.

as on Instagram

And here’s where the image started,

Or rather, that’s where it started recently, re-staging the radish in the fridge, circa 2011, that became the title poem of the collection the pet radish, shrunken.

The closer you get, with fewer distractions, the more you have a chance to isolate the key elements. What’s verbal vignette? Repetition? Is it repetition?

As with photography, finding the right vantage point for a poem is the art, not the information. The why behind the information matters. And the how.

Some people could narrate paint drying and I’d pay them. (But probably only once.)

Audience and writer overlap, the Venn diagram of viewpoints, inform who can hear whom. Maybe coming from a comparable place or headed towards a comparable place.

Who is the audience is less key than what is necessary to say and move past? And stay and hover around.

Anti-phobe day & poetics

It’s Anti-Hobit day. Anti-homophobia, Anti-Bi and Anti-Trans. Be aware of bias.

When you write, you write from l your place and personhood. Class or processing past places or examining where you are. It may be inner place, the over-caffeinated jumpiness of anxiety or the centred calm that shapes syntax and what accumulates.

The present leaks in: when downtown homeless people walked through my poems, in suburbs, squirrels. In the countryside trees. 

Calls, especially for haiku, like the primacy of name and city. but for 3/4 of my life I haven’t been in a city. 

The question presumes the rural away. It also presumes you are male and not stalked and want to occlude where you live. It’s more awareness of systemic bug than daily fear.

Knowing where someone lives is a power. I remember high school boys talking on the bus, scheming of what they’d do to the French teacher’s mailbox. One knew where she lived. Should I have warned her? Outted the general bully ringleader? They egged it and smashed it. She looked rattled.

When I lived downtown I had a food blog. I was invited to a friend’s friend’s birthday in a nearby building. Someone there greeted me by name. Have we met? 

No but it had to be you he said. He told me some things about myself. He explained, I was googling for restaurants, and came across your blog then looked you up online and followed it. One photo, he said, with a nice bokeh, showed that building over there in the background. From the angle I figured which one of two units on the corner you must live in. He then told me my unit number of my highrise. He stood legs akimbo ready for his sleuthing medal. I smiled wanly as my blood ran cold. My nostril may have twitched as I bolted to someone, anyone else at the party. I thought I was being careful.  

Keeping blinds closed because telescope dude pointed into our apartment and long-lensed. Why are people?

Non-binary & queer people can have public space feel

unsafe by people without boundaries. Males are also attacked. 

It’s more common for women than straight white cis men. Such a poet we billeted once went photo happy, photographing and posting our furniture and views. Probably 50 photos of our private space online. 

I’ve had 3 stalkers who also physically & sexually assaulted. That’s more common than some think.

One, after 15 years of no contact, tried emailing my public email address thus spring, a year after he last tried. Creepy. Shoo.

Never ask what’s the worst that can happen to a pessimist with ptsd and penchant for depression. 

And try to be kinder than you need to be.

Poetics Statement

poetics statement 2021

What am I trying to do? What am I trying to avoid? What do I value? 

what do I want to write? why? what matters? what do I want to read?

Is it still process not product? Whereas before I wanted to break systems of thought, habits and associations and what passed for sense, I was wracked by the false narratives surrounding me and therefore against the vehicle of narrative. I am no longer trying to distract and swim out of swamps of depression that would, stinkily, drown me.  I like the humbleness and the non-preciousness of what Phil Hall calls assemblage. Effectiveness depends on what you choose to assemble of course.

When I was eliciting response from prompts and search strings of corpus of notes, centos, scrabble, and random chance operations, I held that whatever appeals to you reveals a mind map without the humiliation of sharing. unique gems from the uniboob of unisex unicorn’s union at the university of Universal Flicker doesn’t exactly have all the oomph if could. It does have precision that meandering a woodland feeling clouds and grief doesn’t.

Poetry is a trauma response. Or it is doodles when between places. It is a way of coping or exploring. It is play as performance. It is humour. Poetry can cover both bases or hurt and joke. It is a way to get your head & hands around a ball that seems to mean and toss it towards others who might want to examine it. It is baseball being reinvented by mimes. 

Poetry can self-traumatize or give time and space for gaining more deep and wide perspective. it can be witness. It can be wetness. it can be whiteness that needs to be called to account. 

What dives my poetics now? I want to connect. I want to embrace my weirdness and translate it enough to be meaningful to others. I want a space, as ever, where I can process the overload of signals. 

I don’t want to read poetry that dwells in its sadness and grief. I want to read and make a poetry that is a mandala of everything. Room for tenderness and bitterness, fear and jubilation and bad puns.

I want my poetry to be succinct, and unfolding, whether direct and short, or oblique, such as the way, Ross Gay’s Be Holding: A Poem is a book that loops around the experience of being Black in America, dissecting in fractions of seconds implications, kneading it, incorporating in more flour, kneading. 

In The Haiku Life: What We Learned as Editors of Frogpond by Michele Root-Bernstein and Francine Banwarth (Modern Haiku Press, 2017), the editors concluded that the best haiku had LIFE in their syllables. L for language that surprises. I for imagery that is fresh. F for form that functions and E for elusiveness that engages the imagination.

Not a bad metric for any poetry. I want to read what I have not already read. I want to write what seems to matter. I want to discern with poetry, find core things of this new core of where I am now. I want to admit my inner workings and move and change. 

What use if poetry if it has no effect? I don’t mean effect like being on the tongues of the people like Mariah Carey or Jagged Little Pill or Mao’s red book. 

I want to write to not hide, to amplify what people should know. I want to fall short of my ideals so I can see how to do better. I want to see new angles. (Examine in the round, again see Ross Gay.)

Although my ego is reduced by being bodychecked by the mint that died (who can kill mint? It’s as tough as waterbears!) I want to engage with other poets, reading and reflecting on what they learned, their techniques secondarily. I want to have 5 more trade poetry collections published and a selected. Mostly I want to stay in the game, not being jaded, but excited to where time moves but I am lost in it again.

I want the act of doing. The cat is rightly sure, people doing things is more interesting than sitting at a computer. She also is a firm advocate of naps. Sensible enough since poetry is extremes, but also grounding balance. It is movement between,

Poetry is cleaning the fridge when a block of cheese drops to the fastest, happiest, most stubborn dog and deciding you need to go after what is yours even if someone else has claimed it first. It’s yours to snag back.

How to zero in on what is compelling precisely. Feeling for the charge. And poking away, giving time to see what shakes out.

Books read

90. Initial Response: An A-􏰀Z of haiku moments by Maeve OInitial Response :An A-􏰀Z of haiku moments by Maeve O’􏰁􏰁Sullivan (Alba Publishing, 2011) is a coherent collection, with the structure allowing bite-sized units of poems. I was curious about her writing since she has a new collection from Alba coming so wanted to check it out. I have a terrible time keeping track of books, whether digital or physical. I’ll quote this when I turn up my copy again.

91. The Book on the Book Shelves by Henry Petroski (Vintage, 1999) is obsessively detailed. It is far more than your imagined one could know about shelves or ways to store folios, papyrus, or bound trade books. It is a trivia-hounds dream really. Skip the first chapter tho, where he expounds on what a book is as if to aliens unfamiliar, and throw in some sizist randomness.

92. Act Your Age, Eve Brown by Talia Hibbert (Harper Collins, 2021). Loved the first book and this switch to the youngest sister didn’t disappoint. The wit and language is sumptuous. The first book delved into disability and spoons. This third navigates two people with autism learning to cherish, and coming of age even if nearly 30. The real talk and opening up with one another is lovely. I expect a spin-off book with Mont’s twin sisters seeking love, or maybe one around Mont. They are all lovely characters. And Mont does know of Gigi so maybe there’s a hook for a story there somehow. I like how it articulated how one interpreted the other was defensive or nervous and how to respond to not pressure. I like how the characters all have each other’s backs. It was good comedy too.

93. Take a Hint, Dani Brown by Talia Hibbert (Harper Collins, 2020) opens with queer witches praying for a sex buddy. The witchcraft didn’t stay along for the ride but the whole navigates strategies for depression. There’s queerness, a bi main character, but her happily ever after is with a guy. On the other hand there’s a proud big academic Black woman and a muslim arab sports guy. It wasn’t as tightly written or as complex as the other two. The support of family I wish were expanded a little more with fewer repetitions of the word dick and it’s more repetitions of the word fuck than my previous cumulative life total.