hammered at the intervention

I was hammered

at the intervention

drunk on a

bourbon bender

–walking in

at first light of day

into a

crowded room

crammed with the pious

the teetotalers,

the caffeine junkies

the newly saved

the members of the clergy

the neglected son

the vindictive daughter

the condescending,

next door stoop sitters

and

the supercilious shrew

from the paint store

who’d dropped in

to watch the mop up

to see the boss

meet his match

ungloved at last

there to see the

New Reality unveiled

when the old bastard

finally gets his

and to watch

(happily)

as he’s driven away

where Jim Beam

can’t find him

and when it is time

I clear my throat

and carefully construct

a most eloquent

rendition of the facts

at the end of which

I wish Russell well

in his recovery.

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Thursday thoughts on writing, falling and Julia Vinograd

The great poet, Julia Vinograd, the “Bubble-Lady” of Berkley, noted in an interview that was published last year, that writing poetry, when it works, “…is a lot like flying.” Because, when it doesn’t work, it is a “…lot like falling”. Ms Vinograd, who has been writing poetry since late 50’s, and is the author of no less than 59 books of verse, should certainly know something about the creative process involved in writing a poem. I am thinking of her words today as I peruse a folder on the hard drive of my laptop called poems_unfin. These poems are ones that I started but didn’t finish. They remain unfinished, not because I do not have the wherewithal to complete them, but because the process was becoming, as Ms Vinograd says, a lot like falling. Anyone who has written anything for public consumption (poem, short story, novel, blog post, etc.) knows the feeling, and when you are falling you know it.

Poetry projects, I think, are particularly vulnerable to rapid abandonment due to the very short runway they allow the author. The type of poems that I enjoy writing (and reading) are typically in the vicinity of 550 – 1300 words – and that is not a lot of room for error. Compared to say, a 30,000 word novella, a typical poem does allow you a lot of space to say what you want to say, so you’ve either got to say it quickly and say it very well, or just forget about it. Unlike novels, short stories, or even non-fiction work, there isn’t another chapter to distract you when your motivation drags.

It is worthwhile to note that there are a good many more poems in my poems_unfin folder that reside in my poems_COMPLETE folder. For this reason, often I find myself returning to my unfinished work and giving it another go, but I will be honest, usually it doesn’t work that way. Some poems must remain unwritten until the chemistry between subject and writer comes together and the poem takes flight. Sometimes, well most times really, that doesn’t happen.

So this is what I am thinking about this afternoon at EEOTPB. In addition to several poems that have made it into my poems_COMPLETE folder, I plan to post more about the writing process, and what mine is like, but more importantly I hope to hear from you, about you. I have communicated with some fine poets and writers since I have been blogging here and I’d like to know what makes it all come together for you. Is it a particular time of day, a certain chair, a certain pen, a laptop in the park, or an old Smith-Corona in the basement? Do you prefer classical music playing on the stereo (headphones, yes or no), jazz, kick ass rock, or maybe you prefer stone cold silence. How about drunk or sober (don’t laugh as many have tried both. For me the latter is the only way to go, but the great Charles Bukowski preferred the former, although he did confess to writing a few good poems while in the clutches of a ‘black hangover’).

In closing, I shall link to one of my favorite poems by Ms Vinograd here.

washed up

                        i

when i was about nine years old

I asked my old man

about a guy I saw on television

talking to Howard Cosell

He’s a washed up fighter

my old man said

he took so many punches

that it scrambled his brains

was he ever good? I asked

yeah, in the beginning he was good

but they pounded the crap out of him

so bad that he couldn’t win big fights

so he only took little fights

because he knew he could win them

but after awhile,

he couldn’t win those either

so he’d just go in the ring

and wait for the first punch to land

then he’d go down and kiss the mat

playing it safe, just like he was told to do

by the evil bastards who used him up

and when that didn’t work anymore

he quit being a fighter

and now all he has left is Vegas–

maybe some gambling joint will hire him

to pump palms at the door

or smoke cigars with East Coast mobsters

or show up at restaurant openings with strippers

 

ii

so I’m forty five years old

and I’m thinking about the fighter

and my old man, who’s been dead

for twenty three years

as I sit in front of the Olivetti portable typewriter

on the porch of the farmhouse

up in the Poconos

and Leah comes home

from work at the diner at 1:30AM

and asks how the writing is going

and I tell her

I haven’t written a line all day

nor did I write a line yesterday

or the day before that

and the rejection notice

that I received two weeks ago

is still attached to the door of the refrigerator

under the Carlsbad Caverns magnet

where I plan to leave it, until the next one comes

at which time it shall be removed

to join the assemblage of others

in the knife drawer in the kitchen

You think you’re washed up don’t you

she says to me, and I tell her that:

I have had too many blows to the head lately

so it may be time,

to notify Vegas, and let them know

I’m on the market.

nonsense Leah says,

you’re germaphobic

you’re allergic to smoke

and you’re going nowhere near

a restaurant opening.

 

the last poet in North America

I heard on the evening news
that the last remaining poet
in North America
had gone missing
after losing his key
and locking himself out
and they showed a shadowy
and unidentifiable figure
taken from a seventh floor vantage
— a tortured, lost soul
wandering at 3AM —
in the East Village
the poor penniless bastard
slumping along
with a messenger bag
slung over his left shoulder
presumably packed with
unfinished verse
his head presumably packed with
unfinished verse
not to mention deep concerns
for his cat, Winslow
his angelfish, Clyde
his three ex-wives
and his first edition copy
— of a volume of rhyming verse
by Sara Teasdale
but my friend Alicia says
I am being presumptuous
in assuming that the last poet
in North America is male
and that she is certain
that her friend Cali
a fine poet who is on
a year long sabbatical
in the Dominican Republic
who despises despotic rulers
and is a champion of human rights
and an author of neglected verse
is the last true poet in North America
and if she returns
(a matter up for discussion)
it will be on her terms.