Saturday, December 15, 2018

tiny machines, long distances

When I first set out to writing poems with any sort of seriousness at 19 or so, I was mostly clueless as to contemporary poetry and really sort of clueless on how anyone went about it. I had all these ideas, political and social that I shoe-horned into short, skinny, really bad poems.  Later I was really good at Emily Dickinson-style rhyming. By the time I was finishing up my undergrad years and beginning grad school for Lit, I had left much of that behind and was banging out much better quality things--mostly centered around theme and allusion. They were not horrible, but not terribly good wither, but they managed to win me a couple college poetry awards, and eventually, my very first publication in 1999.  I got better, more personal, but crafting a poem still seemed like an arduous thing, with a beginning germ of a thought or a concept and then hours of work trying to make that happen and not suck so much. It continued like this well though the construction of most of the fever almanac poems.

In 2004 or so things began to change.  I started the press.  I began to work visually with collage.  The poems changed too, as I began shifting the way I wrote.  There was errata, which involved my own language woven within the tapestry of existing victorian language an text.  There was more collage-like use of language and imagery. Things got stranger--more accidental--less wrought.  Or maybe a different kind of wrought.  Through much of the work of in the bird museum and into pretty much all the books published to date, there was much more play and experimentation that made writing so much more pleasurable than it had been in those earlier years. Fragment and collage, interwoven found texts, all of which made writing this glorious experiment that no doubt spurred me on. The only exception I can think of is the james franco series, which gathered their own steam in a strange way.

It's only in the last year or so that I have felt another shift, this one still moored in that same experiment, but more led by sounds than before.  I am not a scanner, and have never been, but I've often loved most that work with works materially with not only image or language but with sound. There is also the tension between poems as a read-entity on the page, and the poem as an auditory-entity read outloud.  Over the years sometimes I got good results occasionally, but often they were unintentional, or at best, sort of a result of composing work while reading it aloud.

In the last year or so, I've been composing led more by sound than by image.  It's hard to describe.  The difference between the two.  The ways in which the images, which used to collect and  scatter themselves on the page are now being pulled by their sounds from a hat.  Or maybe, not that at all and that they spring fully formed, not as pretty things, but noisy things.  Perhaps a more concrete way to describe it is to say that I spend less time with my notebook or words and images while actually writing the poem, feeding the poem bits and scraps, and more time letting the poem rev itself like a tiny machine.   And sometimes it can go for miles on it's own momentum and doesn't need anything to fuel it.  It might be why I've been writing so much and so often.  Definitely composing the first way I was writing was arduous and slow, the second was swifter and more playful, a bit more regular.  Now it's like I can struggle to get a couple lines going, but once I have them, the poem can go long distances before running out of steam.  Entire projects can go a good distance before having to stop for gas.

Maybe it's just the sort of efficiency that comes from writing a lot.  Or maybe having been writing for so long.  But I hope it keeps going...

No comments: