Thursday Thoughts

I’ll have to think about this.

Thursday Thoughts
29 July 2021

Thursday is thought day, but what on earth am I thinking about? Well, yesterday I talked about open and closed imagery in poetry. I also talked about direct meaning and indirect meaning. So today’s thought is in Spanish and I have taken it from a poem of Federico García Lorca (1898-1936). “En la noche, platinoche, noche que noche nochera.” Sense and nonsense: what on earth does this mean? A literal translation gives us “in the night, silver-night, night which en-night-ens (more?) night”. Sense or nonsense? We shall find out. First, I would like you to read this article: https://moore.lib.unb.ca/Scholteach/platinoche.htm

Quite simply, the article discusses the difference between plain speech and poetic language. However, language has a tendency to simplify itself, to reduce itself downwards. Sentences become shorter. Ideas are simplified. Slogans replace thought. Emotion replaces reason. How and why this happens is a mystery, but I can assure you that it has happened throughout history. Just think of the breakdown from Classical Latin to Vulgar Latin to the various Romance Languages and Dialects that have replaced Latin in the areas where it used to be spoken. Break down, eliminate, simplify.

Thursday’s thoughts: why does this happen? How does it happen? Is it accidental? Is it deliberate? Should we follow meekly along and reduce our own thought and verbal processes? Should we just go gentle into that dark, but simplified, night? Should we resist? How can we resist? The answers to those questions will vary considerably. Each person who takes the time to read this will have a different set of reflections. That said, those answers are important, not just to each one of us as an individual, but also to us human beings as an inter-linked chain in society. All poets, all philosophers, all those who care about language, must reflect deeply on how they can preserve it, care for it, and make it mirror the depths, not of their own education, because not all of us privileged enough to be deeply educated, but our own intelligence. I have lived in places where people neither read nor write. It is so easy to dismiss them as ‘stupid’. I can assure you that they are not ‘stupid’ and to think of them is such is to ignore totally the oral tradition, the wisdom tradition, the cultural traditions from which these people come. We underestimate them at our peril.

What can we do? As poets, we can preserve the traditions and dignity of the depths of meaning, logical, emotional, sub-conscious, that is included in poetry. As writers, we can concentrate on using words with care and attention, of making our meaning clear, of elaborating our thoughts in such a way that others can follow them. As readers, we can look at inner structures, the deeper meaning of words, the emotional forces that try to persuade us, sometimes dishonestly, that this or that is best for us. As human beings we can extend our vocabularies, pay attention to words and their effects, and we can stand up for the linguistic and cultural traditions into which we were born, or in which we have chosen to live.

Now, always with your consent and permission, I will offer you the link to yesterday’s blog post https://rogermoorepoet.com/2021/07/28/22862/ Here you will find, if you choose to click on it, and it is always your choice, a discussion on meaning in language that will run parallel to this one.

Poetic Structures

Poetic Structures
Wednesday Workshop
21 July 2021

External Structures

            Roman Armies, men and words, were structured, highly structured. Poetic structure can take many forms: external structure, the sonnet, for example, with its 14 lines and its 4+4+3+3 verse form which can also be 4+4+4+2 or 5+5+4, or 5+4+5 or 2 x 7 or 3+3+3+3+2. I have experimented with all of these sonnet forms, and many more, at one stage or another in The Nature of Art. Milton Acorn, the Governor-General’s Poetry Award Winner for poetry, wrote a book called Jackpine Sonnets. His Jackpine Sonnets are wild and beautiful, growing this way and that, totally individual and out of shape, just like wind-swept jackpines of Tara Manor in St. Andrews on the East Coast of New Brunswick, Canada, where I penned some of these poems.

Internal Structures

            In the same way that poems can be given a formal structure, so can lines. Structure can be external, flowing from line to line in an unbroken sequence, or it can be internal, limited to each line. Some of my poems include stanzas where the individual line flows into the stanza and the result is an amalgamation of both the individual and the whole. Individual lines can be structured by syllable count, 10, 11, 12 or more per line. They can also be structured by stress, the stress of normal speech or the stress of forced rhythm. Structures can have Greek or Latin names, English ones too. Or it can be the structure of simple, everyday speech. Fray Luis de León, (1527-1591) wrote that he counted his syllables when he spoke and he wrote prose and poetry the same way he spoke. Syllables, a strange term nowadays, not understood by all. Try the ‘beat’ of music: “You can’t always get what you want” (Rolling Stones) or “All you need is love,” (Beatles). Simple really, but it is all too easy to complicate these concepts.

Comment: Clearly this is a simplification of what can be an intensely scientific and academic subject. We have only to think of the books of rhetoric, with their long lists of Greek names for the different syllables, long and short, and the different line lengths that run from Iambic Pentameter to Hymns Ancient and Modern. However, the purpose of these thoughts is to simplify and not to complicate. More important, perhaps, rhythm, in one form or another is akin to structure and many of us have an innate sense of verbal rhythm, whether we count our syllables on our fingers, as I do, or count them not, as is the modern trend in some poets. Think daisy petals: she loves me, she loves me not, I count them, I count them not. Yet still the rhythm is there and that, in many ways, is one of the key secrets of our unique poetic voices: we all speak and write in different fashions and that is one of the things that makes us unique.

Cave Paintings

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Cave Paintings
Cantabria

Who painted these pictures on the walls of night’s cave?
This grayish hand, fingers flexed, outlined in black soot,
that deer dancing, those bears, horses, bison, running?


Did they come from nowhere, plucked from nothing but
the artist’s memories of what he saw as the ice age faded
and heat and warmth returned to warm his world? Drawn
from life, without doubt. Unless these Neanderthals were
truly creating art from a literal vacuum with nothing new
invented since according to Picasso. And he should know.

Imagine them as sounds, as letters from distant relatives,
as colored vowels scored on the blocks of a child’s first
alphabet set. Sit and stare. Watch flames flitter over
sharp shapes. See life enter the drawings as flimsy
light flickers over the cave walls’ dips and bumps.

Once seen, never forgotten. Not just the paintings, but also
the clammy cave damp, the red hanky draped over a pocket torch
to imitate firelight, the drip of water, slow growth of limestone
deposits growing into stalagmite and stalactite. Such things
flit in and out of my mind like owls or bats, drop in on my sleep
wake me with predatory beaks and claws, calling for my skull’s shut
doors to open wide, to let them in, and to bring them back to life.

Comment: The picture comes from an ash-tray my parents bought at the Cuevas de Altamira, in Santillana del Mar (Cantabria, Santander as it was known then) in 1963. We visited many cave sites in Cantabria including Puente Viesgo, where we saw the sooty hands. Back then, the caves had only just been opened. At Altamira, a young lady came to greet us. We asked her if we might view the caves and she whistled loudly. Her husband came down from the fields where he was working. He took a large iron key from his pocket, opened a huge door set in the rock, and in we went. One light bulb illumined the inner chamber. Only a small segment had been dug out. We reclined on a rocky bank. He doused the electric light, took a torch from his pocket, and covered it with a red pocket handkerchief. He moved this back and forth to imitate firelight and immediately the whole wall came to life and the animals moved in the flickering light. Pure magic. Unforgettable. We were the only people there. Four of us. A few years later, you had to book an appointment and a place. Within six years, the caves were closed as the heat of human bodies raised the cave temperatures and caused the paintings to deteriorate. I was so fortunate, so privileged, to see those paintings in what was almost their pristine state. In 1991, I visited the facsimile of the caves built in Madrid. I paid my money, went in, sat down, and came out crying for all those things we had lost, for all that beauty that had been denied.

AWOL

AWOL

I never dreamed I would one day share the Red Room at KIRA with a portrait on the wall of Roger Writing in the Red Room at KIRA. It is a great honor to be here again and to be the first alumnus (June, 2017) invited back for a second stay (May-June, 2021). I will do my best to ensure that this stay is a successful one. I am honored to be the first returnee. I most certainly have no wish to be the last.

My desk is in its usual place by the window. To the right, on the wall above me, hangs my portrait. This is new, especially for me. The view from my working window has changed. The auditorium was just being constructed when I was here first (June, 2017). My companions from that first cohort of resident artists are here with me, in spirit. Ann, Carlos, Elise, and Ruby, the one who painted my likeness. My hope is that they too may sometime return.

The Tower on Minister’s Island is still visible above the trees. It has long kept me company and long may it continue to do so. Across the bay, behind the red tree on the left, Magic Rock and Holt’s Point can almost be seen. What beauty. What joy. Sitting here, at my desk, I review twelve days absent without leave, AWOL from Social Media and the Blog. Those Tiz-Woz days are hopefully over now. The bone scan was negative and showed no metastases. So that is a huge relief, though there may yet be some complications. There will be further testing, ad possibly some more medication. That lies in the future. This is the present. The sun is shining. I am here among friends. All’s right with the world.

Monet at Giverny

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Monet at Giverny

Day’s executioner stripes evening
across the sacrificed horizon.
In blood he was born, in earth
will he rest his flesh, turning it into bread.
Purple this imperial wine streaming with day’s
death, ruffling these troubled waters.

Green footprints, the lily pads.
A halo, this drowned man’s beard,
liquescent. Like the gods, he dreamed
he walked dry on water.
Stepping stones, these goldfish
flowering beneath this thin line of cloud.

Maples flash ruby thoughts that ripple
outwards, waves cast upon a liquid sky
towards what farther shores?

Wisteria blesses him with its curly blue locks.
Narcissus, he clads himself in an abyss of lilies,
imperial, his reflection, and imperiled.
Slowly he slides to sleep, merging into his dream:
a vaulted cathedral, his earthbound ribs,
the blood space immaculate.

His lily pond turns into a fallen mirror,
shattering as it ripples in the breeze.
Shards of clouds flare like flames. Fractured
fish, red and gold, shelter beneath white lilies.

Night and day, sun and moon, leapfrog
over tranquil water. Something always survives:
sepia tints, old photos, dreaming on and on.

Click on the link below to peruse my books for sale.

Books for Sale

Not on my watch!

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Not on My Watch!

The black-and-white cat
sits in the window and watches
the ginger cat that lounges on the porch
and watches the five deer
that stand in the woods at the garden’s foot
and watch the neighbor’s little dog
that watches the raccoon
that disdainfully removes the garbage can lid
and fishes out the food, scattering
paper and wrappers and cans
as four crows sit in the tree and watch
the wind as it whistles the papers
round and round in a windmill
that wraps itself round the feet
of another neighbor who is watching
the raccoon with open-eyes
as a seagull flies above him
and bombs him from above,
damn seagulls, and the bird poop
falls right on my neighbor’s watch face
and he cries out
“Oh no, not on my watch!”

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Books for Sale

Comment: The photo shows the Omega watch that my father gave me for my 21st birthday. I am wearing it now, together with the bracelet that my four year old granddaughter, his great-grand-daughter, gave me for my birthday two years ago. Four generations in one photograph. Unbelievable.

Rainbow Return

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Rainbow Return

I opened the car door
and he ran across the parking lot
and jumped into the back seat.

“Where have you been?” I asked.
He thumped his great tail, sniffed,
and licked my hand.

As we drove home, he thrust his head
between the seats and placed his paw upon my shoulder.
Then he licked my ear and the side of my face.

I pulled into the garage and let him out of the car.
He raced to the end of the drive, surveyed the neighborhood,
and drilled an invisible pee into the snow.

I whistled, and he ran back to the door,
whimpering and scratching, impatient.
I held the door open and he bounded in.
“You’re back home now,” I told him.

He ran to the cat’s bowl and lapped some water,
scoffed her kibble, and lay down in his usual place.
At night, he lies beside me in bed,
a fluffy spoon carved into my body’s curve.

In the morning, he walks through the kitchen
and doesn’t make a sound.
The cat senses he’s there and bristles and hisses
at rainbow motes dancing in the sun.

He’s sitting beside me now,
head on my knee, as I type these words,
one-handed, because I’m scratching him
in his favorite spot just behind his ear.

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On Being Welsh

rogermoorepoet

On Being Welsh
in a land ruled by the English

On Being Welsh
in a land ruled by the English

is available at the following links:

https://www.amazon.ca/dp/9388319842

https://www.amazon.com/dp/9388319842

A shortened version of this manuscript was awarded first place in the David Adams Richards Awards for a prose manuscript by the Writers’ Federation of New Brunswick, 2020.

Individual stories have been published in Anti-Lang (M. T. Head), West Coast Short Story Slam (Teeth), and on commuterlit.com (Remembrance Day).

Individual stories have won awards as follows: Butterflies (Honorable Mention, Atlantic Short Story Competition, Writers’ Federation of Nova Scotia), Auntie Gladys (Finalist, Wordfeast NB, Postcard Stories), Message in a Bottle (Honorable Mention, WFNB Creative Non-Fiction), The Key (Finalist, CBC Short Story Competition), Letting Go (First Place, WFNB Douglas Kyle Memorial, short story).

I would like to thank Lucinda Flemer, Primum Mobile, the first mover, who brought together the KIRA artists and turned…

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Spring

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Spring

Slow going
this snow going,
but at least
it isn’t snowing.

Snow forecast
on the weather show,
but we all know
it cannot last,
now the equinox
is past.

With a roll of drums
Easter comes,
but friends and family
stay away.

So all alone
and safe at home
we’ll spend
our Easter day.

Everybody understands
how often we must
wash our hands.

Don’t go unmasked,
even when asked,
and all our friends
must safely stay
at least six feet away.

Comment: I just received this poem as a memory on Facebook. Interesting. I remember writing it, online, a year ago today, and what a fun time I had. Here’s the link to the video. I loved being involved in the creative experience. It was my first poetry video. I do hope you like it.

A Fragile Thread

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A Fragile Thread

The sword of Damocles
hangs above your head
supported by a fragile thread.

Scissor-tailed birds around you fly
and Fate’s sharp knife is standing by
to sever your thread and watch you die.

If you’re up to your shoulders in tragedies
whatever you do, don’t drop to your knees,
for if you do you’ll surely drown
and that sword will bring you down.

If the sword falls you mustn’t grieve:
for we’re all bound by the webs we weave.
Our lives are shaped by what we believe,
and also by what we build and leave.

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