Thursday, January 22, 2009

I am a fan of short poems.

I like short poems. I read short poems. I write short poems. I will of course plod through a long poem, but I warn you, I will flip ahead to see exactly how long I have to read it for. Do I have a short attention span? Yes. But I think that most writers of longer poems do too. I don't speak so much for the book length poem, more the longer than one or two pages poem. Most of these... tend to wander around a lot, and then wander around too much. It is not a terribly bad thing, just my own personal observation fueling my own personal preference. These longer poems will touch on too many things, their metaphors will break down, their language falls out of key, the power of the piece is dispersed throughout it, watered down, thinned out. A well crafted short poem packs a punch. I guess I like it hard. Punch me, please.

I often ask the mister for inspiration. I tell him to pick an animal. Then I write a poem about the animal. It started as a self-imposed forced-inspiration exercise I used in university for a form poetry class, inspired by a couple brilliant pieces written in an earlier class (Tiger, Okapi), but this technique became the basis for my advanced poetry class's final project (A+ material), and I've stuck with it ever since. These are all shorter poems, usually just a page long, that use intense diction, extended metaphors, and often constrained meter and form to find, explore, and define the animal's created myth or niche. I love them. I've got a ton of them now, and while a few found homes in my university's literary magazine, a million of them are still wandering the postal system. And more keep coming.

I love to craft language. I don't need to write a moving poem that is personal to me or someone else. I don't need to feel touched by emotion or memory within my own poetry. For beginning writers, that's often their biggest mistake. When I've worked on a poem whose language I've molded every step of the way, but whose content I don't necessarily feel attached too in any way, I can still tell when it's done because it resonates for me, without having to illicit anything. I can read it again and again, and the mental tone it produces is right on key, and it vibrates my being. It sounds really cheesy, but, it's why I love my work, it brings an almost physical pleasure to have created a good, sometimes a damn good, poem. When I sit down to write, I always open the last poem written that I felt was finished, to read it again and know the power I can create. Maybe it's a reminder that I have it in me. Maybe I'm just my own biggest fan.

There are two ways a reader can enjoy a poem. It can be a carefully and superbly crafted poem about anything, where the language, form, metaphor, etc remains right on key, producing a resonance within the reader. Or it can be a well crafted piece on a subject, location, event, etc that illicits within the reader a profound connection to an emotion or memory, and I think maybe these are the poems that grow in length, trying through more, rather than more concise, language to reach their reader... I need to write an essay on this stuff, I'm very deep.

I just finished a poem. Fox. And I just read it over again. I am my own biggest fan; it's like I punch myself in the face.

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