Stories and poems

"The metaphoric image of 'orphan lines' is a contrivance of the detached onlooker to whom the verbal art of continuous correspondences remains aesthetically alien. Orphan lines in poetry of pervasive parallels are a contradiction in terms, since whatever the status of a line, all its structure and functions are indissolubly interlaced with the near and distant verbal environment, and the task of linguistic analysis is to disclose the levels of this coaction. When seen from the inside of the parallelistic system, the supposed orphanhood, like any other componential status, turns into a network of multifarious compelling affinities.'
Roman JAKOBSON, "Grammatical Parallelism and its Russian Facet", Language, 42/2, 1966, pp. 399-429, p. 428-429

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

A Certain Kind of Eden

Mid-december. I had started  a post about teaching children, which I do a lot. Maybe I will keep doing that when I am done. Progress has been slow, and the winter has come accompanied with its usual difficulties: I want to go really slow. This has not been helped by the fact that I haven't had a vacation in a while, and I need one. I am taking one, and I hope to come back to writing with renewed vigor, though for now, I can't stand it. Why did I decide to write a dissertation? I feel like it was a purely masochistic idea, fueled by a need to prove myself to someone, but I don't remember who. All I want to do is knit. I need a vacation, did I already say that?

I am enjoying reading a Hardy Boys mystery with one ten year old. He really likes it, though he doesn't understand everything and I have to explain to him the finer references to American history. The Hardy Boys were from New England, and that is where I am going in a few days. Maybe there will be some mystery to solve, involving my manuscript perhaps, an old library in New York, a stolen book. I think I would like to write children's fiction. It would be difficult to come up with all those details that keep the little reader reading, and I think I would want to get rid of stock figures like the fat friend who is trying to lose weight, the single and overly maternal aunt, the "drifter" (I had to explain that that was an old fashioned term for a homeless person). I like explaining the nineteen sixties vocabulary to my student. Today he asked me, "did they have electric boats then?" I answered him, "yes, I think so". I'd have to get better at writing dialogue. I am not even sure how to punctuate it. In the Hardy Boys series, I like the use of italics. Mostly it announces danger.

I shared the following poem with my poetry group with relative success. It's an odd poem, an old poem, but it describes pretty well how I feel during these darker days. My friends and readers were helpful about what to get rid of, how to rename it, what worked and what didn't. Mostly it did work, so I'm sharing it here too:

Wading the depth that was our eye to eye

I went to the market but there wasn't a market
I walked by the ocean but there wasn't a shore
I watched the sun rise but there wasn't a mountain
I saw the sun set from behind a closed door.

If walking and searching and seeing are chances
To find and not find, to lose and combine,
I'd rather be wading this edgeness of nothing
Then sitting at home dreaming twine and untwine.

And if tomorrow you can find me laughing
Don't take and don't mend, just circle the time
With your finger and gently do place me upon it
And turn me and twist me and find my right rhyme.

I went to the market but there wasn't a market
I woke up to darkness on a sandless shore
I climbed to the top but forgot that the mountain
Was downward bent feeling my heart's hidden core.

One reader said it was a ballad, a ballad to sing perhaps, though I am not sure what it's about. I feels like it comes from somewhere deep, somewhere I don't really know about, the place, perhaps where the poetry comes from, elsewhere. One of my readers, author of a captivating book, Little Venus, which I highly recommend, mentioned that I might like the poet Kay Ryan, recent poet laureate, because of her use of rhyme. And I do. I leave her with you, in this season, when, perhaps, we would all like to go back. 

A Certain Kind of Eden

It seems like you could, but
you can’t go back and pull
the roots and runners and replant.
It’s all too deep for that.
You’ve overprized intention,
have mistaken any bent you’re given
for control. You thought you chose
the bean and chose the soil.
You even thought you abandoned
one or two gardens. But those things
keep growing where we put them—
if we put them at all.
A certain kind of Eden holds us thrall.
Even the one vine that tendrils out alone
in time turns on its own impulse,
twisting back down its upward course
a strong and then a stronger rope,
the greenest saddest strongest
kind of hope.

Maybe that is what I need, a certain kind of green, a certain kind of hope.

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