Saturday, September 28, 2013

A mixed bag

This was part of my assignment this week for class. We were to read some excerpts from "The Poet's Companion, " by Kim Addonizio and Dorianne Laux, and then quote portions of the excerpts, with our comments following. Enjoy. Or don't. 
“Images may be literal: the red kitchen chair in a dim corner of the room; the gritty wet sand under her bare feet.  Or they may be figurative, departing from the actual and stating or implying a comparison: the chair, red and shiny as fingernail polish; the armies of sand grains advancing across the wood floor of the beach house.”

I am grateful to learn that there is a defined difference in images. At the same time, however, I am stretched to the breaking point as I search for words to describe what I see in my mind’s eye—memories and images tensed, ready to explode.  All too often, I cannot find the words I need or want, and I am paralyzed with frustration, sinking into despair to express what fills my soul or overwhelms my mind with a flood of beauty, joy, or sentimentality.

“We all have our favorite sense.  If you ask several people to describe coffee, one person might describe its smell, another its color, another its taste or the sound of beans being ground.  Poets need to keep all five senses—and possibly a few more—on continual alert, ready to translate the world through their bodies, to reinvent it in language.”

I did some stupid things as a kid. Growing up in the country, it was not uncommon to be called upon to bury roadkill in the woods, especially cats and skunks. I did not consider myself to be a hick or bumpkin; no overalls and bare feet for me, although I often chewed on timothy hay. Still, when an especially large relative of Pepe le Pew was the victim of vehicular-assisted suicide on the road near my house one day, my friends and I engaged in a game of dodge-car, daring one another to kneel down by the deceased to sniff it. Boys are known for doing gross things, probing beyond society’s bounds of acceptable behavior. I won the dare; I put my nose on the polecat and caught a full whiff of its ode-de-get-away-from-me. The prize? I received the privilege of carrying the dead creature to the woods with a shovel and giving it a proper send-off, complete with “a few words”. “Good-bye, Stinky, we hardly knew ya. Thanks for not spraying us on the porch the other night when we brought the cat food in.”

“The more you practice with imagery—recording it in as much vivid detail as you can—the more likely it is that your poetry will become an experience for the reader, rather than simply talk about an experience.”

This is the challenge, is it not? This is the brick wall that I hit so frequently, as mentioned above. You want me to be expressive, descriptive, image-invoking? Let me speak! Let me showwant to make you laughI want you to experiencejoy with me. want you to delight in the brilliance of the sun bursting through dark clouds behind me on my morning commute, spilling glorious golden beams over the empty, gray road, onto the violent hues of red and orange of the forests around me, the lush green fields quivering with excitement for the advent of day.  

Man, have I got a lot to learn, or what?

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