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The Role of the Poet

Rereading and reexamining Tim Seibles's "An Open Letter," I'm caught by the line "What the hell happened to the notion of poet as town crier, rabble rouser, shaman, court jester, priestess, visionary, madman?" I'm wondering if, after attending a few open mikes, teaching a few classes and reading a few books from the library, poets haven't forgotten their responsibility. There seems to be an aesthetic of "clever" that permeates a lot of poetry today--poetry that says little, but works on some level as a joke or entertainment. While this may work to sell poems, and appeal to a wide audience, I'm wondering if it doesn't detract from the purpose of poetry as a whole. I'd like to urge poets to consider the responsibilities they have to their readers and to their communities as a whole, and challenge them to take up the mantles that Seibles calls for.

Town Crier

A town crier was an official court position in the 18th century. They were elaborately dressed men who would ring a bell in the town square, and make official proclamations from the court. They would also bring the news to the people, as the majority of the population was illiterate. The traditional cry of the town cryer was "Oyez!" which is the name of a literary journal out of Roosevelt University. Considering the social and cultural illiteracy that permeates our country, that so many get their news through 30 second sound bites between Top 40 hits on the radio and allow it to grow and fester through rumor, I'm wondering if more poets couldn't take up this mantle. Williams writes, "My heart rouses/thinking to bring you news/of something/that concerns you/and concerns many men. Look at/what passes for the new./You will not find it there but in/
despised poems./It is difficult/to get the news from poems/yet men die miserably every day/for lack/of what is found there." Where are the poems that men are dying for the lack of? Why aren't we writing these poems?


Rabble Rouser

A rabble rouser is one who excites or inflames a group of people into action, who appeals to the emotions and values of the group to spur them into acting. What is important about a rabble rouser is that they appeal to the EMOTION of the people via rhetoric, not the LOGIC of the people. Where are the poems and poets that are appealing to our emotions, that spur us into action? Where are the poems that challenge and usurp the ochlagogues that permeate our televisions and radios?

Shaman

A shaman is a religious figure that reaches altered states of consciousness through ritual to enter the spirit world. There, they deal with spirits, both good and bad, and channel these energies and messages back into this realm. Often these messages are those of healing or prosperity, the shaman having been asked to deal with a specific illness or malevolence plaguing an individual or the tribe in general. Our world is faced with so much suffering, so where are the poems of healing? Jerome Rothenberg's anthology, Technicians of the Sacred, is filled with poems from shamans. What can we, as poets, learn from these ancient texts?

Court Jester

Traditionally, there are two types of jesters or fools: the natural fool and the licensed fool. Natural fools were those who, through some illness or ailment, would act inappropriately. According to Allison Chaney, "The fool's status was one of privilege within a royal or noble household. His folly could be regarded as the raving of a madman but was often deemed to be divinely inspired. The 'natural' fool was touched by God." The licensed fools were trained individuals who were given leeway by their master to act in such a way. In the case of the licensed fool, their role was not merely entertainment, but one of critic. In either case, the jester operated outside of the bounds of society's rules and regulations, and their words were seen not as madness, but as wisdom. Often speaking in riddles, the fool criticized the prevailing social order and challenged status quo. So where are our poems that work as riddles to challenge and critique? How can we use divinely inspired madness to work outside the social order and challenge it's foundations?

Priestess

If the Court Jester can be seen as "The Fool," the first unumbered card of the major arcana, then the High Priestess is the third card, numbered as "2". She is seen as a visual representation of Shekhinah, or the female embodiment of the Divine. Interpretations vary, but often she represents a secret being revealed, often through wisdom, sound judgement or common sense, or even intuition. Where, then, are the poems that split open the secrets which are being kept, which reveal the truth through common sense and wisdom for the reader?

Visionary

A visionary is one who has visions. Often these are visions of events to come, or the future. Mystical poets and prophets probably fall under the heading of "visionary." There is even a style of art called "visionary art" that purports to "transcend the physical world and portray a wider vision of awareness including spiritual or mystical themes, or is based in such experiences." If there can be such a thing as visionary art, then why not visionary poetry? In his poem "America," Allen Ginsberg writes " I have mystical visions and cosmic vibrations." Where are the poems of vision, of the future? Where are the poems that prophecy?

Madman

d. a. levy, in "The Cleveland Manifesto of Poetry," writes that poets should "create new myths, madness and mass from the contemporary waste of intellectual energy." Madness is associated with the insane, but how is that insanity defined? Folks with diseases--clinical depression, bi-polar disorder, anxiety disorder, schizophrenia, etc.--are all seen as unwell, mentally and emotionally, by the status quo. While we have visions of madmen struggling against their straitjackets, locked in padded cells and frothing at the mouth, all too often madness is simply seeing the world in a new or unique way, a way that challenges the status quo so thoroughly that it is seen as threatening. Where are the voices, then, that rise up from what levy sees as "the contemporary waste of intellectual energy" and, through their madness, bring about change for the reader?

It is no longer enough to be safe. Is is no longer enough to be cute or clever. Readers thirst for a poetry that will revitalize and rejuvenate them, not merely fill them for the moment. We poets can no longer be stand up comedians, entertaining our readers with the literary equivalent of Twinkies. We can no longer gaze at our navels and expect that the drudgery of our lives will be so profound as to shake a reader from their own drudgery. We must be better before we fade into oblivion completely.
As a reminder, the deadline for Eye to the Telescope is only two days away. There have been very few submissions, so I encourage everybody to check out the call and start writing. http://eyetothetelescope.com/submit.html

SOULJA BOY HAT/ BASEBALL CAP

SOULJA BOY HAT/ BASEBALL CAP

"And flame
is the mind, the wet hands
mark on strange islands
of warmth.”
-Amiri Baraka


• Yarn Content: 100% Cotton
• Color: Red And Yellow

CARE INSTRUCTIONS:
Hand wash cold and lay flat to dry.
Photo: SOULJA BOY HAT/ BASEBALL CAP"And flameis the mind, the wet handsmark on strange islandsof warmth.”-Amiri Baraka• Yarn Content: 100% Cotton• Color: Red And YellowCARE INSTRUCTIONS:Hand wash cold and lay flat to dry.

Purchase here.

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ALPACA BLEND SLOUCHY HAT

ALPACA BLEND SLOUCHY HAT

"Her sky-high softness is such that if a newborn is placed on her back, he will not feel a bone of the animal.”
-Gabriela Mistral

PLEASE NOTE: This yarn does contain wool, so if you're irritated by or allergic to wool, I wouldn't recommend purchasing this item.

• Yarn Content: 55% Alpaca / 30% Acrylic /15% Wool
• Color: Blue and Black

Alpaca has been shown to be three times warmer than sheep wool. This bulky, slouchy hat is perfect for warm winter months.

CARE INSTRUCTIONS:
Hand wash cold and lay flat to dry.
Photo: ALPACA BLEND SLOUCHY HAT"Her sky-high softness is such that if a newborn is placed on her back, he will not feel a bone of the animal.”-Gabriela MistralPLEASE NOTE: This yarn does contain wool, so if you"re irritated by or allergic to wool, I wouldn"t recommend purchasing this item.• Yarn Content: 55% Alpaca / 30% Acrylic /15% Wool• Color: Blue and BlackAlpaca has been shown to be three times warmer than sheep wool. This bulky, slouchy hat is perfect for warm winter months.CARE INSTRUCTIONS:Hand wash cold and lay flat to dry.
Purchase here.

Tags:

SLOUCHY HAT / BERET

SLOUCHY HAT / BERET

"WHERE ships of purple gently toss
On seas of daffodil.”
-Emily Dickinson

PLEASE NOTE: This yarn does contain wool, so if you're irritated by or allergic to wool, I wouldn't recommend purchasing this item.

• Yarn Content: 80% Cotton/20% Merino Wool
• Color: Dark Purple / Grape

CARE INSTRUCTIONS:
Hand wash cold and lay flat to dry.
Photo: SLOUCHY HAT / BERET "WHERE ships of purple gently toss On seas of daffodil.” -Emily Dickinson PLEASE NOTE: This yarn does contain wool, so if you're irritated by or allergic to wool, I wouldn't recommend purchasing this item. • Yarn Content: 80% Cotton/20% Merino Wool • Color: Dark Purple / Grape CARE INSTRUCTIONS: Hand wash cold and lay flat to dry.
Photo: SLOUCHY HAT / BERET"WHERE ships of purple gently tossOn seas of daffodil.”-Emily DickinsonPLEASE NOTE: This yarn does contain wool, so if you"re irritated by or allergic to wool, I wouldn"t recommend purchasing this item.• Yarn Content: 80% Cotton/20% Merino Wool• Color: Dark Purple / GrapeCARE INSTRUCTIONS:Hand wash cold and lay flat to dry.

Puchase here.

Tags:

NECK WARMER SCARF/BUTTONED COWL

"You will become foam on the crest of the waves.”
-Hans Christian Andersen

PLEASE NOTE: This yarn does contain wool, so if you're irritated by or allergic to wool, I wouldn't recommend purchasing this item.

• Yarn Content: 100% Wool
• Approximate Length: 18 inches
• Approximate Width: 6 inches
• Color: Variegated blues and grays with silver toggle buttons.

CARE INSTRUCTIONS:
Hand wash cold and lay flat to dry.
Photo: NECK WARMER SCARF/BUTTONED COWL"You will become foam on the crest of the waves.”-Hans Christian AndersenPLEASE NOTE: This yarn does contain wool, so if you"re irritated by or allergic to wool, I wouldn"t recommend purchasing this item.• Yarn Content: 100% Wool• Approximate Length: 18 inches• Approximate Width: 6 inches• Color: Variegated blues and grays with silver toggle buttons.CARE INSTRUCTIONS:Hand wash cold and lay flat to dry.

Puchase here.

New Hat

Here is a new hat I made. I'm trying to think of a poem or story for it to be named after. The colors are my son's team colors. His team name is The Bees, so I was thinking Innishfree or Plath's Beehives, but neither of those seem right. Innishfree would be the same colors, but more tweed based, I think.

Anyway, more projects are coming. I've been away too long.

Hat1
Hat2

If you're interested in buying this hat, let me know, and we can set something up. As you can see, it fits an adult head.

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Some thoughts after an open mike...

In the beginning of his book, Buffalo Head Solos, Tim Seibles writes the following:

AN OPEN LETTER


Read "An Open Letter" by Tim SeiblesCollapse )

– Tim Seibles
February 28, 2004


In 2011, the following things happened:

A brief recap of 2011Collapse )
In 2012, the following things have happened, are happening or will happen:

  • A fire in a Honduran prison kills more than 250 inmates, starting a call for reforms in that country
  • French Election
  • Mexican General Election
  • Egyptian Presidential Election
  • The United States General Election
So, my question is, if one accepts Seibles' arguments, that "Writing poems in SUV-America can feel like fiddling amidst catastrophe, but if one must fiddle shouldn’t one play that thing till it smokes?", then what poems have you written about these events or others that have happened? How are you, as a poet, writing poems that are not " in cahoots with the nightmare" and how are you getting them into the hands of the public?

Metaphors, Part 1

For some, the metaphor (a large title with includes not only traditional metaphor, but also simile and juxtaposition), is one of the defining qualities of poetry. Indeed, if one accuses or champions a prose writer or being "poetic," one of the first things they look at is the use of metaphor.

Ideally, a metaphor has two parts, a tenor and a vehicle. The tenor is the thing being discussed, and the vehicle is the object of comparison. Now, a metaphor usually is considered a direct comparison, i.e., "All men are pigs," while a simile is considered an indirect comparison, "All men are like pigs," and a juxtaposition is a forced comparison, where men and pigs would be placed so close to each other as to draw a comparison. Also, one must consider descriptive metaphors, i.e., "Men root around in the slop of their troughs, waddling on four cloven hooves, their tusks piercing the mud of their styes..." where the description implies a pig without actually saying "pig". But this is the stuff of Intro to Poetry courses, readily available in any textbook.

That being said, how exactly does a metaphor work? Most would argue that the vehicle should expose or open one's perception about the tenor. However, there are those who would argue that the vehicle also serves to limit or focus the tenor, exploring only particular aspects of the tenor which the poet wants to expose.

The questions I pose to readers:

1) What is your favorite metaphor, from poetry, prose, film, speech, music, etc.
2) How do you think that metaphor works?


I'll give an example that makes me seethe in jealousy every time I hear it:

"The Mississippi Delta was shining like a national guitar."

This simile, from Paul Simon's "Graceland" is beautiful on many levels. First off, the tenor is rich with musical implication--blues, rock and roll, jazz, gospel, etc. The fact that the title of this song is "Graceland," with all of it's Elvis connotations, as well as religious connotations, compiles more layers of implication and depth onto the tenor. Then, Simon uses a strong verb--shining (connotations of light, sunrise or sunset, brilliance, etc.)--and a musical vehicle to strengthen and open up those musical and religious connotations. The guitar is an instrument, which is played. What does it mean, therefore, for a guitar to not sing or make music, but to shine? What sort of music carries that connotation of light, and how does it stem from or relate to the Mississippi Delta? Again, both the secular and religious music of the American South is brought into play, as well as the influence of all that music on Elvis Presley. Listening to the full song, one realizes that "Graceland" itself becomes a vehicle, and leaves Memphis and becomes literally a land of grace, and possibly redemption, for the speaker.


So, what is your favorite metaphor and how does it work?

Dwarf Stars by genre

I've been asked to divvy up the most recent Dwarf Stars by genre, with the accusation that it seemed to "horror" heavy. So, for starters, going through the table of contents, this is how I see Dwarf Stars 2011 broken up by genre:

Scifi:
“Solo missions, I do all I can” • Camille Alexander
“stargazing” • Aurora Antonovic
Ghost/Machine • Shelly Bryant
“butterfly” • Beate Conrad
“in zero gravity” • LeRoy Gorman
“deforested planet” • LeRoy Gorman
“Comet“ • Julie Bloss KelseyIn the Hydroponic Garden Aboard Survey Station E319 … Terri Leigh Relf
“the house software” • dan smith
Haute Couture • Matt S
“eleven minutes” • J. E. Stanley

Horror:
“in the mouth” • Roberta Beary
“I pause a moment” • Dawn Bruce
“red wheat” • C. William Hinderliter
“spatters of blood” • Geoffrey A. Landis
“returning” • Ann K. Schwader
They Held My Heart • Jenny Schwartz
“your view” • J. E. Stanley
Howard d'oeuvres • Stephen M. Wilson
“October” • Peter Yovu


Fantasy:
Ceres • Karen Berry
“snakes and ladders …” • Helen Buckingham
The Wailing Well • Peg Duthie
Sleeping Beauty's Court • K. S. Hardy
“gingerbread house” • Carolyn M. Hinderliter
Bluebeard's Grandmother • Sandra KasturiTrickster Weather • Deborah P Kolodji
Walrus • Rose Lemberg
On Stopping for Directions • Wendy Rathbone
Tapping the Vine • Sonia Taaffe

Now, that being said, there are a lot of crossovers in these poems, and one could argue that "dark fantasy" is a form of horror, or that post-apocalyptic scifi is a form of horror, which may be where the debate is coming from. However, one could easily argue that some of the "horror" pieces are more gothic or "weird" and thus more fantastic, so there is a lot of leeway here. But anyway, those are my initial divisions.

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