Sunday, January 04, 2009

Reconfigured Bunny Feet

Recent discussions purporting to be about poetry have been nothing short of painful to read. I try to ignore it in the this too shall pass vein, but now that I'm 36 years old, I see this shit will never die.

I don't want to join the discussion. I find much of it at best annoying and the rest completely repulsive. So I'm recording my own discussion, right here, perfectly aware that it won't be considered to be the same level of discourse as others' cookie cutting paradigms. If I was a Christmas cookie, what shape would I be?

Delicious, that's what.

Poetry was born at the moment of consciousness as a mosaic. Nobody is quite sure who originally put together this original mosaic and whenever we're not sure who did something, we just say G(g)od(s). Sometime afterwards that mosaic was shattered into more pieces than you or I could ever count. One can try to take these pieces and reassemble a new mosaic. There's nothing wrong with doing that. In fact amazing creations can come from just a few pieces. But know that it will never include all the pieces, know that many pieces are elsewhere, carried away by the wind, on the backs of insects, some have been eaten by cats and cycled into sand dunes. Realize that the majority of the pieces have been done away by critics and poets themselves, the self-appointed categorizers -- those who deem what is inconsequential and to be swept away with the trash, what gets put on the mantle, what is shuffled away in a drawer, taken out only for holidays, regifted for someone they hardly know and aren't interested in getting to know.

So poets take some pieces, the pieces that they're most drawn to, not ever fully understanding how these pieces were previously used, their potential or what their role played in the original mosaic and earlier reassembled mosaics. It's not required that poets know this. Usually what they think they know is completely wrong. In some instances ignorance is preferable, one can make something new, occasionally making something really spectacular, when there are no pre-conceived ideas. Sometimes poets take what they created and smash it apart again or chuck them away completely taking a few different pieces that catch their eyes. Sometimes they go back to something discarded and try again. Occasionally a poet will be fishing, consumed by more pressing concerns than poetry when she catches a putrid minnow that she probably should throw back, but she's starving . . . probably because she's a poet. So she keeps it and upon gutting it unexpectedly finds a sparkly sliver of the mosaic. Maybe it takes years before she recognizes what is the sliver. If she's a ninny she'll think she herself discovered a new piece of poetry -- that her noticing created it. Maybe she'll name it after herself or her favorite NKOTB member. In this case she's not a ninny, she knows that this new piece is only new to her, and maybe her tribe, but it's existed far longer than either. She realizes that she has no idea how that sliver got in that fish's belly or where it was before or how it fit into the original mosaic. She knows (the) G(g)od(s) never intended a diagram, map or ranking system for POETRY.

This is where I'll write my aside, I'll number it for organizational purposes to help you follow along my complicated concept:

1. As a child I was given a rabbit's foot for luck. Kind of ghastly in hindsight, but I loved it. Even at 4 years old I knew I wasn't carrying around an entire rabbit, I knew it wasn't the soul or spirit of the rabbit, it was only the foot.

2. What I may not have realized was that the foot was reconfigured in certain ways, parts were removed, things were added, it was changed -- else it would have rotted -- nature would have taken its course. But somebody stopped nature and somebody decided a foot was a lucky thing to carry around, not the ears or the whiskers or the heart or the belly, but the foot. Then somebody decided a severed, chemically treated rabbit foot would be a great gift for a four year old girl -- and she was right!

3. Around the same time I found a dead rabbit in the yard.

4. I remember wanting to touch and pet it. I was extremely curious.

5. I also remember being told by my grandfather, quite sternly and in no uncertain terms, to get away from it, to NOT touch it, not even the feet. My grandfather took a shovel, put it into the trash and I assume trash collectors took it away and it eventually decomposed in a landfill.

6. Or maybe a hyena ate it. I don't really know, in fact, I can't even affirm that I'm remembering any of this right and I can't check with my grandfather

7. because he's dead and

8. there was no outside historian around to preserve the moment or explain where it fits into my consciousness.

9. And even if there was a historian, he wouldn't have ascertained my motive for wanting to touch the rabbit, or I how I felt when I wasn't allowed. Would any of that even occurred to him? What value could he have ascribed it? It was important to me.

10. And there's somebody reading this right now who's thinking why the fuck is she regaling us with this stoooooopid tale about an idiot little girl who wanted to make friends with a bunny corpse? Some idiot little girl who lisped and didn't even know how to tie her shoe. An idiot little girl who onetime managed to get a quarter stuck in her mouth.

(End of numbers)

And that somebody will never see any value in my part of the mosaic, my pieces will never be on his mantle, his drawer or even regifted. In his house, my pieces will be quickly swept into the trash and taken to the landfill, mixing it up with the bunny guts. That's OK, nobody has a mantle or even an attic big enough to keep all the pieces of the mosaic. It was broken for a reason, so an individual could appreciate, dare I suggest digest it, which can only be done is small pieces. As long as this somebody has an awareness and consciousness of how tiny his mantle really is, there's no offense or insult. He speaks of his mantle, knowing it's his personal mantle.

So I'm a poet, and I read a fair bit of poetry, or at least I try -- and this discussion that I'm trying so hard to follow, when my brain isn't barfing into its cranium, rarely brings up any of the poets who have ever informed me. Am I uninformed? Am I a minor league poetry reader? When others (who I notice are rarely linked or responded to in this "conversation" say, hey, there's a lot of erasing happening here), I wonder if poems can be both erased and discarded at the same time. Can one be erased, but kept around or vice versa? Is there an island for misfit poems? Or are these limiting categories the tiny island and the misfits everywhere else? Why are these people tryiing reinvent or manage something like POETRY? What is their motivation, if not some form of cleaning up? What are they trying to tidy and straighten? If this process was for cataloguing purposes, wouldn't one enter every poem with the assumption that one knows nothing about it, open to the possibility it might be in a realm all its very own as opposed to figuring out how it fits in 2 or 3 or even 20 categories? Or that the poem fits within many realms or in a place we can't yet fathom? Show me the guy smarter than a poem. I have yet to meet him.

I had this dream last night. One can never exhaust the possible interpretations a dream offers. Kinda like a poem. Dreams are part of us and they're wiser than us. Kinda like poems. At first I interpreted this dream on a personal level, which I believe is a valid interpretation, but I read this dream as that and more. I won't share my interpretations with you, you can make your own:

I'm someplace that's part-way to hell -- a level before. It's a wasteland. I'm H.D. I came here voluntarily to help my once friend, Ezra Pound, do research. But things have changed. I want to leave but he controls this realm. I get his revolver and try to shoot him. The bullet heads straight for his chest, but an invisible force changes the bullet's path and it ricochets, almost hitting me. It's terrifying to know that he's invincible and so evil. We discuss the situation and I am resigned that I can't take him down. I make a comment that where we're at now is parallel to being in purgatory waiting to get into heaven. He's not amused by my observation.

I go back to my dorm room that I share with my boyfriend (who is also unhappy being in this part-way to hell realm). I tell him that we have to figure out a way to escape. Then a little girl comes in, it's Ezra's daughter. She and some other folks have just arrived in the realm to do research. She tells me that her father decided we can leave and go back into world. I know there's a catch, that we're only being sent back because it's time to play our roles in his plan -- which involves involuntary visions and prophecies. We have 30 minutes to pack everything, which we do hastily. I take a variety of rocks, including a bright red one. There are five stones that Chris says go together, but I'm not concerned about keeping them together. I'm in a rush to leave.

I'm back at home in my office. There's a bunch of books and texts -- some of which I don't want to put back in my library because they're Ezra's and so disturbingly twisted -- although I do want to keep the mystical stuff.


At 12:35 AM, Blogger Supervillainess said...

Don't you know that only men know the secrets to dividing poets into two (and only two groups) and spend lots of time figuring out the names for the two groups and who belongs in them? It's not really a game I love to play.
Love the HD versus Pound dream.

At 10:28 AM, Blogger Annandale Dream Gazette said...

Reb -- Wow, what a post. I don't completely go along with the mosaic idea. The rabbit's foot part was great; that's what I understood the best. I think everyone's motivation for discussing these things is not perverse -- and probably there are as many reasons for partaking as there are partakers.

May I include the dream part in the Dream Gazette? I'll link it to this post, too, if that's okay.

Supervillainess (I know it's Jeannine but I'm not sure I know how to spell your name right) -- that conversation has been most definitely male-dominated, but it doesn't have to be, as Reb has sort of proven here. Women have just receded into the silent background too long, don't you think? Plus, many of the men who are talking are complaining about the binary that you don't like, too.

It's also interesting, to me anyway, how lots of the strong female voices (I'm thinking of Reb & Anne Boyer here, who Reb linked to; haven't read Barbara Jane's post yet) post their ideas on their own blogs, rather than jumping into the discussion. Reb says their discussions are annoying and/or repulsive. My guess is that Anne feels the chance of being heard in those discussions is futile (this is totally a guess --how could I know, really). But I keep wishing that women could & would somehow break into this arena. I think it would do an enormous amount of good.

At 12:47 PM, Blogger Reb said...

Lynn, you're right, there have been a number of men criticizing the binary idea, but I haven't come across many (any?) women agreeing with it. I don't think women are "receding" into the background, I see the non-participation (or participation on their own terms) as a very clear statement. The discussion excludes more than it includes -- that's one of the more off-putting aspects of it. If your house only has urinals and I have to bring along my own pot to squat in, guess what, I'm lunching elsewhere.

And you know you always have permission to repost any dreams I share here.

At 2:26 PM, Blogger Shann Palmer said...

Great post- I do like what you say though I want to ponder it a little more. of course, I have to do some stuff and probably will get distracted and forget but we'll see.

I would caution you to never give Gideon a rabbit's foot, unless you promise to never give him a real rabbit.


At 8:04 PM, Blogger Collin Kelley said...

Thanks for this, Reb. I just don't think I can stand to read one more blog post about the relevance of poets, which "school" they belong to, etc. Those kinds of articles and blog posts are nothing but circle jerks and do nothing to further poetry. That's why, whenever I'm drawn into one -- and one of my resolutions is not to be anymore -- is to stop talking about poetry and actually write some fucking poetry that moves me. Ooops...I almost got ranty there.

At 3:04 PM, Blogger Barbara Jane Reyes said...

Chunky post, Reb. Thanks for it. My oversimplified answer is that I agree with you, and refer back to my original response when this whole thing started making me feel like a stupid little girl in the ring with some big men who didn't want to acknowledge that they could pummel the hell outta me: poetry exists in the plural. Or is that poetries exist in the plural. I also want to acknowledge what you've said re: taking the discussions into our own spaces, how this is not a concession to the bullying male body interested only in assimilating us into their rigid categories. I like that there is resistance to be had in this claiming of our own spaces where we can talk about poetries being wondrous animals, mosaics as you say.

At 4:01 PM, Blogger Reb said...

Our own spaces, honoring our own truths, are the only places where this work is going get done -- it's not defeat, its where its supposed to happen. I feel like I spent my entire 20's being assimilated and pressured to conform, think and act in a way that was so alien and wrong. My reading suffered. My thinking suffered. My feeling suffered. My poems suffered. That's behind me now. There's no benefit for me to participate on the assimilators' terms. They don't have anything I want.

Thanks to everyone who commented here.

At 8:52 AM, Blogger Whimsy said...

A prof of mine once said: "There are two kind of people, those who dichotomize and those who don't".

At 8:49 PM, Blogger the unreliable narrator said...

Yes! from the chemically preserved feet to the dream to the ensuing acknowledgments of laddishness in the "conversation." Really I am left with only one pressing question:

But how did they get the quarter OUT?!?


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