MT 2-3 Monkey Visits the Poisonous Snakes

MT 2-3
Monkey Visits the Poisonous Snakes

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Monkey Visits the Poisonous Snakes

A swift death
was never their style,
the cobras, the vipers,
the adders and subtractors,
the bean counters and snatchers,
the diminutive dudes.

They prefer death
by blow-gun
their poison dart
injected through
hollowed fangs

or Chinese Water Torture,
the slow drip after drip
of poison inserted into ears
and veins, a drop at a time,
and slowly gathering …

… until their victim slows down,
ceases to struggle,
stands there, eyes open,
unable to move,
poisoned and paralysed.

Comment: with all the exciting things that are happening concerning my new poetry writing, I forgot all about my monkeys. It seems they have been bouncing up and down, fretting in their cages, bounding all over the ruined, broken-down temple, poor little blighters. Apparently, on their last visit to the rest of Bristol Zoo, they left the big snakes and decided to visit the little, poisonous ones. I guess they didn’t like them at all. Does anyone? I hope there are no ‘snakes in the grass’ near you, and I don’t mean grass snakes. And watch out for snake charmers, some of those snakes believe more in harm than charms.

PS Let me know if you want a voice text. I haven’t recorded this one yet.

Procrastination

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Procrastination
for my friend, Mr. Cake

It’s old age, I think:
I can manage
one thing a day,
depends on the weather,
then I forget,
then I remember,
but the weather isn’t right,
so I put it off again,
start a story,
write a poem,
the phone rings,
someone texts me,
there’s a knock on the door,
the crows in the garden
make me procrastinate,
(crass  Latin joke*),
then I remember
and feel sad,
and hair leaks from my head
like straw from a scarecrow,
and my teddy bear brain
turns to sawdust
when I scratch,
and what was I saying?
I guess I’ve forgotten,
I’ll sleep on it tonight,
and write again
tomorrow.

Note:
Crass Latin joke*
Cras is the Latin for tomorrow. Cras is also the sound, in Latin, that the crows make. Hence Pro-cras-tinate: to leave things for tomorrow, or to abandon them for tomorrow’s crows. The joke probably doesn’t belong in the poem, but darn, it’s my poem and I’m leaving it in there.

Comment:
This collection of thoughts started in a casual online exchange with my good friend, Mr. Cake. Sometimes words flow and it’s impossible to stop them. Sometimes, they hover like crows or croak at us from the tree tops where they sit ungraspable. My spellcheck tells me that’s not a word, but if it isn’t, it ought to be. Whatever: the world and its words are sometimes surreal and if you are interested in the surreal, then Mr. Cake’s blog is the place to be. Here’s the link. The site comes highly recommended. Click on it now and don’t procrastinate. Mr. Cake’s Blog.

Butterflies

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Butterflies

“Poetry gives permanence to the temporal forms of the self.”
Miguel de Unamuno.

That is what my writing is all about,
those temporal forms, fluttering and changing.
Butterflies, they live for a day or two,
perch and flourish, spread their wings,
excel for a moment, catch my attention,
then blown by a sudden gust of wind,
they tear their wings on a thorn
and perish in the blink of an eye.

Reborn in ditches, they cluster and gather,
congregate, black and yellow, on bees’ balm,
smother Cape Daisies and Black-eyed Susans.

Like shadows they shimmer, butterflies by day,
fireflies by night, terrestrial stars, lost, wandering,
floating in their forest firmament, hackmatack,
black oak, bird’s eye maple, silver birch, fir …

Impermanence surrounds us, dances beneath stars,
sings with robins, echoes the owl’s cry through woodlands,
poetry, the elemental soul, our words capturing nothing,
turning it into eternity, holding it for the briefest moment,
then letting it go. Island View, New Brunswick, Canada,
my home in the woods, my dialog with my place and time.

Monkey Temple

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Monkey Temple

The monkeys appear, as if by magic.
They tumble out of windows and doorways.
They clamber through the holes in the temple’s ruined roof.
They are quiet at first.
They inspect their surroundings.
They ogle the crowd gathering for the afternoon show.
They watch the watchers watching them.
They pulsate, for no reason at all, they pulsate, then ululate.
They jump up and down and swing from the temple’s roof.
They pontificate, gesticulate, and regurgitate.
They sit and sift for fleas.
They defecate and urinate.
They masticate cautiously.
They castigate and fornicate.
They ruminate. They masturbate.
They rush to the top of the temple
and on the uplifted faces of the crowd they ejaculate.

Monkey Temple is the first poem of the book of the same name. It serves as a Prologue. Below is my oral presentation of this poem.

 

On Reading

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(Today’s photo: Cherry … she was a very obedient dog and always listened carefully. Sometimes she actually obeyed.)

On Reading

Yesterday, I posted an audio of me reading Monkey Presses Delete. I received some e-mails about this reading and realized that reading into the microphone, alone, without an audience, had crated a ‘new voice version’ of the poem. I thought about it overnight and came to the conclusion that my public readings are dictated by two things: (1) my own mood and (2) audience reception. Audience reception is, in itself, a double thing (a) how they perceive me before I even open my mouth (especially if I am an unknown quantity to them) and (b) how they perceive me as I use my performing and reading skills to manipulate them. And no, I am not a passive reader of my poetry, but a very aware and active one.

So, I rethought my relationship to Monkey Presses Delete, and re-recorded it this morning. The second reading is very different, as you will hear. Virtually the same poem, virtually the same poet, but a very, very different reading. I will be very interested to read and / or hear your comments on these two audio variations.

Monkey Presses Delete
(Take 2, Monday, 11 June 2018)

Wednesday Workshop: Codification

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Codification
Wednesday Workshop
30 May 2018

For me, it is vital to see how others read and interpret my work … what comes across, what doesn’t, how things are understood and read, sometimes in the same way, sometimes in different ways. It is always easy to pick out some favorite phrases. However, deciphering, interpreting, and then reacting to, a poem’s inner code, is a very different matter.

I love the cut and thrust of dialog … I was at our Tuesday night writing group meeting last night from 7-9:30 pm and we had a great time, back and forth across the table pecking, like wild birds perched on a literary feeder, at each others’ texts. My own texts are thickly layered and highly codified and I have become very interested in the theory of literary codification.

My own ideas are a development of those of Northrop Frye as he expressed them in The Great Code. When we lose our common code, to what extent do we need to explain a private one? This is of great import to Frye’s studies on William Blake, perhaps (in spite of his seeming simplicity in certain poems) one of the most difficult of English poets.

Perhaps the answer lies in Karl Jung’s theories on the racial subconscious: that we all share deep, (human) racial symbols that transcend words and often appear as symbols and images. If this is true, then we communicate, at a non-speech level, through metaphor and symbol, and that is more powerful and outreaching than linear language, however well and clearly codified it may be.

This emphasis on symbol, image, and metaphor leads us, of course, into surrealism, free writing, concrete poetry, sound poetry, and all those efforts to abandon the linear and reach into the subconscious roots of ‘that which binds us together as human beings’ … in my humanistic theories, to find the links that behind is more productive than the reinforce the fears and misbeliefs that separate. Alas, not everyone thinks that way in the literary world, and private codes can easily be used as wedges to force people apart.

We need codes, preferably codes that we can share. The question is, how explicit would we be, as writers, in explaining those codes? How closely should we imitate the writing codes of other people?

The eternal mystery of Aladdin’s Lamp: “New codes for old.” And don’t forget the magic words “Open Sesame.”

Ah, the joys of codification.

Commentary
This is my first post for some time, ten days in fact, 20 May. No excuses other than other commitments: to the WFNB, to my online poetry course, to my physical writing workshops, to my own creative condition … I am creating furiously at present. Codification is something that has interested me for some time: the Biblical Code, The Western Tradition, Courtly Love, the Icy Fires of Petrarchism, Romanticism,  Impressionism, Expressionsim, Surrealism. Modernism, Post-Modernism … the -isms, once started, are apparently endless. All of these -isms spiral round the ideas of verbal codes. In codification, I would like to start a discussion on what these codes are, how they affect us, what do they mean, especially when they can be so totally personal. By all means, join the discussion: what do you mean by codes? How do you use them? How do you interpret the codes of other people?

Downsizing

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Downsizing

a double sword
this clearing out
of odds and ends

the library diminishing
book by book
so many memories
slipped between the covers
dust-bound now
yet springing so quickly
back to life

sorrowful not sweet
these multiple partings
from people I will never see again
save in my dreams

I think of book burnings
so many heroes
going up in flames
fire their beginnings
fire their ends

fire the means of forging
the Omega and Alpha
of the book world
that surrounds us

fire encircling us
death’s bone fires
consuming us
outside and in