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Tag: Poetry

December 4 2002

Initially, I took my first poetry class because I thought that poetry and prose were two completely different things, and I needed to explore my poetic side. But as the semester progressed I quickly discovered that they are imperatively inseparable. Poetry keeps prose fresh, healthy, and beautiful. I have compared some of my prose from before this semester and I already see its blandness. It is not that they are not particularly boring; they are just stunningly devoid of poetic description and language. Without this poetic element, my writings sound like a boring history teacher. It has enhanced my awareness of the necessity of beautiful language.

Without an aesthetic sense, things become routine and uninspired. Anyone who wonders why the Headwaters sculptures were placed in the courtyard of the English/Education buildings at Tech might have trouble understanding this simple premise. Some would say they “just don’t get it.” By surrounding ourselves with things that are aesthetically pleasing, we provide an environment for fresh and engaging ideas, something that is vital to a university campus. This is why our fine arts and literary departments are so critical.

Unfortunately, it seems function is more important than form in today’s society, and aesthetics often gets overlooked. One of the handiest things I learned that in first class was the boxed wine analogy. People will drink boxed wine because the function (getting tipsy) is more important than the form (enjoying the flavor). This is true for Hallmark cards, cheesy love poems, and television jingles. While some may have all the requirements to be classified as poetry, they are generally unimaginative and uninspired.

In the past few years I have devoured more books than in all the years preceding that. One author in particular, Carl Sagan, was not a poet, but the language he used and the topics he explored spoke to me on a very poetic level. After finishing most of his books, it became important to me to improve my vocabulary, even if I did not use it in everyday speech. To me, there is something aesthetically pleasing about using the precise word, regardless of how complex or rarely-used it is. Too often people use a word or phrase just cuz, when more apposite and evocative language can be found.

I am a firm believer that humor is a necessity in writing, even when the subject matter is serious. Pretension, no matter the genre of writing or the place in society, is completely overused in my opinion. I was involved in performing music for several years, and I witnessed a lot of pretension in that field. I do understand that being somewhat pretentious ensures the quality of certain things, but it still bothers me. After all, it does have to do with pretending. I believe the best way to lighten the mood of a poem is to throw a little wordplay or humorous metaphor in the middle of a strong phrase. In my poem Dog Spiel, there is a line that says, “Philosophists invent discussions,” which is essentially name-calling. So I follow it with, “with tautology, like how many angels in the eye of a needle.” I know that the actual phrase talks about angels on the head of a pin. But by not using that exact phrase, it is (intentionally) confusing and/or annoying. The idea is to lessen the chance that it might seem too presumptuous or insolent.

Aside from increased awareness of aesthetics, my musical upbringing has taught me to understand and appreciate rhythm. My first few attempts at poetry were structured around rhythm because I had not really learned much else. Unfortunately, unless you are willing to sound like you are writing a song, using pure rhythms in a poem is very distracting. The rigid sound of my earlier poems seemed too — well — like wine pumped into a box. Those poems used very little inventive language because I was too concerned with the rhythm. Looking back on them, it reminds me of what my father once told me about a rap song I played for him. He said, “Sure, it has a nice beat, and you can nod your head to it, but have you actually listened to the words?” I think that was one of the last times I ever heard a song and did not pay attention to the language being used.

Having said all that, abandoning rhythm is simply the opposite extreme. Part of what makes poetry beautiful is how it flows from the reader’s mouth, the breaks and emphases, the natural flow of spoken language as opposed to forced rhythm. One of the best things about rap music is the rapper’s ability to use language (content aside) and rhythm in an creative and engaging way. A vital part of my poetry writing process is to read my poetry to myself like a rapper. It helps me get a feel for the rhythm of the poem.

Probably the cheesiest aspect of my aesthetic taste is the Easter egg idea. This is simply a hidden message, joke or reference placed in plain site but only intended for those who get it. The reason this is might be considered cheesy is because there is a fine line between crafty and tacky. You have to make sure the audience is vast enough to include a large percentage of people, yet exclusive enough to not lose its appeal. Virtually everything I write has at least one egg in it, and sometimes the writing is one big egg. For example, I wrote a poem this semester that did not make the final cut titled Sickle and Sword. The whole poem was based on a Stephen King book, The Stand. If you have not read the book, you will probably just think this is a dark and brooding poem. But, as my girlfriend easily noticed (because she had already read the book), it was full of references. The main character representing evil in The Stand was a character that had the initials R.F. For most of the book it stood for Randall Flagg, but it he actually had many names, all of which had the same initials. My poem is told from that character’s perspective, and in it he says, “I am the Raven with Furious eyes.” If you have read the book, you understand. If you have not, it hopefully does not distract from the meaning of the poem. This is a personal message to the reader that, if successful, lets them know you have shared a similar experience with them. It is aesthetically important to me to establish some kind of link with the audience.

The connectedness of all things is an idea that I draw from often because it constantly reminds me of the universal experiences we all have. The fact that we have the ability to understand how the cosmos in interconnected is one of the greatest products of our intelligence. Language is an expression of that intelligence, and as every mundane thing, has evolved into an art form. Our words come from our brains, created from the dust of dying suns. The fact that simple hydrogen atoms have become self-aware creatures is absolutely wondrous to me. This is the ultimate connectedness: matter creates intelligence creates language creates poetry about language, intelligence, and matter. If that’s not poetic, I obviously don’t get it.

November 26 2002

Trinity

In a time before Ground Zero meant something else,
After our cousins Einstein, Teller, and Oppenheimer,
In an empty desert guarded by squat mountains,
Humanity took its first step into another age
With the detonation of a bomb named Trinity.
We viewed the Opening from miles away,
As creatures with fragile bodies must do.
Even from so far, far away, adrenaline prepares us
For the danger that will never come.
Our bodies could detect our agitated, sweaty state
If our minds weren’t so busy trying to contemplate
The magnitude of the moment.

Energy erupts from its atomic prison,
Bound in place since essentially the Beginning.
A chain reaction of self-destruction
Bursts from the plutonium core;
Illuminating the world as the sun does the earth.
If we were able to witness firsthand
The face of the sun, or of God,
I’m sure it would look quite similar to this?
Heat and light, being one and the same
Travel at the same speed,
Touching everything with white-hot plasma.
Anything and all things susceptible to fire
Begins to burn immediately after detonation.
Before temperature has a chance to elevate,
A uniform sphere of thick, boiling pressure
Expands spectacularly and destroys apathetically.
Silencing desert life for miles in every direction
Then, and for years to come.
The great fire born from the blast consumes all air
Then expels its radioactive breath.
With no atmosphere to maintain pressure,
The sinister cloud of debris slowly turns on itself.
The aftermath migrates toward Ground Zero,
Creating a column that raises a sinister, glowing halo,
Like a demon on its way to Heaven.

No modern army, neither Axis nor Allied
Could withstand such a destructive wind.
And that, I believe, is exactly why it was built
The mistake to end all mistakes.

November 19 2002

Dog Spiel

In our schools and public places
The meme of submission minus reason perpetuates,
Replicates like bacteria in our sweet minds.
We live, some learn, and work ourselves to death,
But that was why we were created, wasn’t it?
So much needless and mindless discussion,
Of things that do and can change nothing.
Philosophists invent discussions, decorated with tautology,
Like how many angels on the tail of a needle.
Perhaps, they feel it gives credence to their creed,
Founding to their faith, like the Council of Clermont.
I have always wandered the spiritual hallways,
Lit by Dharma and Trinity, Brahman and Satori,
But they merely took me places I had not been.
The door my hands couldn’t open always intrigued me,
Summoned me, and a few times I even tried to break it down.
Until finally, one day, it quietly swung open,
And I saw myself grinning on the other side.

November 14 2002

The Gospel

God, protect me from your people,
With closed minds and blind third eyes.
Misinformation and half-truths
Are barely discernable from the lies.

I’ve felt your presence and your power,
My biology is impossible to deny.
But I do not fear to think these thoughts,
I’d rather know uncomfortable truths than reassuring lies.

I appreciate all you have done for me,
And all the gifts you have bestowed upon us.
So do not be shocked or surprised
If I use them to their full extent.

Please calm the nerves of your other admirers
With their holy armor helmets without a view.
Let them realize that varying opinions
Is part of your gift of graceful freewill.

Assure your children that it is acceptable
To completely ignore your divine providence.
Teach them the lesson they should have known,
Of peace, love, and unconditional tolerance.

November 12 2002

Out of Palce

I was not in my right mind, I think.
While on vacation in Constantinople,
I thought I found a nice local café
Where I could snuggle up with a dry martini.
I thought I’d found a cozy place,
But discovered my mistake too late.
I sat down at a round table, with only one chair,
And then my surroundings began opening up to me.
My waiter smiled fiercely and cheerily took my order,
While something in his eyes suddenly filled my head
With thoughts that would make Oliver Stone cringe.
I should have left after discovering the hair in my chowder,
But I shove improper sanitation to the backburner.
When I notice a row of Armani suits, stuffed with grumpy folks.
Their presence only becomes clear when I see that they sit,
Before rows of arcade games with buckets of change.
The air alive with the cha-ching of antique slots and bling-bling of video poker.
At first, I thought it was the silent droning of the neon that turned on me,
But the walls are actually covered with familiar colors;
Hues from my childhood that I had forgotten until just that moment.
That palace looked like Roger Rabbit had a fit with a can of paint,
Then beat all the folks here with the brush that made him.
Building to a mild panic, I glanced in another booth,
Where a young boy blew out dozens of candles
Arranged like post-war headstones
On a cemetery that tastes an awful lot like red velvet.
In a fit of fearful bravery, I moseyed quickly out of there,
But not before leaving the waiter a tip:
“Get out of this place.”

November 5 2002

Information is important to Life, and Earth is positively rippling with both.
Quasi-intelligent beings that never see the light of day live on inside us,
While mindless molecular machines copy our biological biography
With the guided precision of a skilled craftsman.

All living creatures store libraries of information in their genes,
But many beings are graced by the presence of a brain.
It slowly developed, layer upon layer,
modern primate upon
transitional mammal upon
ancient reptile upon
primordial stem.
In the shadowy, wrinkled valleys of the cerebral cortex,
An incredible bit of magic takes place,
When a collection of simple matter
Suddenly achieves consciousness.

This unsightly mass of soft gray tissue is the platform
From which all thinking creatures launch.
It is the facilitator of all we have created,
From spears to gods, from civilizations to rockets.

We may have been once been limited to sounds and words to relay our experiences,
But fortunately we have been given artists and authors to do that for us.
Of all the creations of humanity, writing is par excellence.
People from all over the world and throughout history reach out to us.
The voice of someone, perhaps long dead, speaks directly to us;
One of the greatest genuine magic tricks.

Our family, if we turn to the dusty, ancient pages of prehistory,
Began simply and humbly in the oceans of a cooling rock in some insignificant space.
Our self-replicating ancestors multiplied and diversified
Until there came a lucky group, eventually to become rat-like creatures who,
After avoiding the dinosaurs, ascended to the trees, and the primates were born.
Some of them grew tired of swinging in the forests, and climbed down again,
Freeing their hands, and expanding their minds.
With rapidly evolving abilities, they domesticated fire, and then each other.
Then they invented writing and other arts, war, and eventually medicine.
Our technology has given us the ability to write, sing, paint, kill and heal.

The Milky Way could be home to countless thinking beings,
I often wonder what it is they know, and what they can know.
In this vast, strange sea of cold, empty space, can their wisdom reach us?
Unfortunately, when we choose to venture spaceward,
Our arrival will be preceded by centuries of Earthling transmissions,
A few actively sent, but most passively broadcast by our media.
Fortunately, our messages will probably be indecipherable,
But, at the very least, they will recognize the signal as being of intelligent origin,
So we must continue to at least try, because it is the persistence of memory.

November 4 2002

Before the Sun rose and set in the sky of Earth,
A giant blue-green rock spun lazily around its star.
Then a being, mostly calling itself Man,
Gave names to these gods of the ground and sky.

Our solitary sun floats with its family of planets.
A grain of sand in a beach too massive to exist on Earth.
It may feel like the north and south poles are a world away,
But they are the same place on a cosmic scale.

At night, stars fill the skies with glittering glowing furnaces,
Patterns form and we are helpless to resist seeing pictures.
Our minds are encouraged by our nature to draw pictures
Of dogs and dippers, warriors and women.
We place what is important here on Earth up with the gods,
A reference point for cousin Rorschach, perhaps.
The thumbprint of our sky reveals our place in the Cosmos,
As it would if we visited a place completely alien to us.

Eons after our distant descendants have lived and died,
Our skies will appear wholly different from the one we know today.
The concreteness of the constellations is merely an illusion,
As our short life-spans makes it impossible to watch this movie.

Even at the speed of God, light still takes its time
Traversing distances that He understands better than We.
When these ancient rays make their final destination,
We see them as they were before history existed.

The fountain of youth can be found at high speeds,
When time slows, though you’d be too busy to notice.
A long journey like that would necessarily be one-way,
For those who are left behind will have aged and died before you return.

Cousin Albert would say, if he could, that is,
That there is nothing special about your perspective except you.
Viewing the universe depends on your observation,
But every place is as good as every other place.

Sometimes relativity is Greek to me, and sometimes it’s written in Grecian.
But it is a great fantasy, exploring worlds that never were.

November 2 2002

Ethereal lights in the sky, unexplainable phenomena,
And alleged astronauts older than any nation
Lead many to believe we’re inundated with uninvited guests.
Though I wish it were so, it probably just isn’t true.

It could be that we have not been discovered,
And our xenophobia causes us to see lights in the sky.
Besides, if a race of alien beings did arrive one night,
What could we do to stop them?

Our predisposition to fear the unknown is something that
We share with our Earthling cousins, as part of our biology.
Our fears are usually unfounded, but that doesn’t mean they’re not real,
And a universal experience for intelligent Earthlings.
Our guilty consciences project our own backwardness upon us
And we assume that different necessarily means threatening.

Cousins Kepler and Newton, among many others, revealed to us
Laws that make a criminal out of no one.

Virtually endless bands of light can be devoted to communication.
Light’s spectrum is wider than our eyes can detect,
Radio is just an abysmally deep red, too dark for our eyes.

If an alien society discovered part of the spectrum,
Could they not understand them all?
There could be at this moment, a creature very different from us,
Peering into their night sky, looking at a point of light we call the Sun.
Does it occur to them that there may be another living being?
For them, is it such ridiculous conjecture?

If we are to communicate with beings from around the Cosmos,
We must be sure to listen rather than speak.
They are probably more advanced than we,
Acquired much more knowledge and infinitely much more wisdom.

Several times, we have almost destroyed ourselves,
Who is to say that we have indefinitely escaped that fate?
If self-destruction is the galactic norm, we may have no one to talk to
Except for one another. And that is something we do poorly.

Is it a sad thing that we put money into something called a Destroyer,
When at the same time we fund things like the Voyager probes.
The fruits of a battleship are sour and poisonous
But the search for life in not unfounded.

October 29 2002

Hey Babe

I’ll read this note aloud to you now,
So you can laugh at me later.
It won’t take long, so don’t interrupt,
In fact, it’s halfway over.
Come cruise with me onboard the Eclipse,
And bake the bread of knowledge.
I learned today of the coelacanth,
Heresy, it seems, is taught in college.

October 22 2002

After breakfast, in my silly slippers and cotton pajamas,
I shuffled out into the cold of morning to retrieve my mail.
Among the coupons I’ll never use and advertisements I’ll never read,
Was a letter with a smiley face where the return address should have been.

Starting to shiver slightly, I opened it,
And though my nose was retreating from its duties in the cold,
Artificial coconut spewed from the envelope
And nostalgia dropped twenty bucks in my pocket.

I find the letter to be from an old high school buddy,
With his trademark talent for observing the obvious, he writes,
“Here’s a picture of me when I was younger.”
And I think, aren’t they all? Boy, it’s cold.

Working my way through the wordy letter,
I felt like I was trying to finish a cough drop.
At first it seemed interesting and personal,
But it quickly became sugar-coated medicine.

Still standing half-dressed, and beginning to freeze completely,
And having to read lines like, “carefully layered, haphazardly tousled,
And loaded with sex appeal,”
It became increasingly hard to maintain my interest

Eventually, my teeth began to chatter,
And after reading, “create the illusion of having broad shoulders
By developing those muscles,”
I lost interest.

Maybe because the letter had no personal meaning,
Or maybe because it was cold outside.
Or maybe it was the pajamas.

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