I must qualify my participation; I am bringing forth poems already written but never posted publicly.
Once I believed that creative souls produce their most authentic work in a frenzy of inspiration. This is the modern myth of the Artist as oracle or prophet; a being so special she/he just has to get it out there in one inspired spasm. To alter or to edit the art is to make it less authentic; it is spasmodically delivered in finished form (rather like vomiting or excretion). But as I matured poetically and reconsidered things I moved away from this model. I realized that stream-of-consciousness dribbles, spurts, rants and visionary diatribes make for boring art. A different approach to poetry stresses craftsmanship, structure, and goes against the model of Artist as mystically-inspired Other. It is also message-oriented. I represent this second tendency.
I am not writing one-a-day for April in response to prompts. These are drafts I have been saving for National Poetry Month. I have been reworking, polishing, and finishing these poems for my readers. They have been faithfully and obsessively crafted.
Poetry is not words to be declaimed or sung. Poetry is words printed on a page, meant to be read in private, in contemplation, and in a place where sustained mental focus is possible. The voice of the poet is relatively unimportant; the explicit or implicit message of a poem is. Poetry is not about saying things in new ways or pushing the boundaries of language. The role of poetry is not to agitate for social change, although that may be an indirect secondary side-effect. Poetry is not convulsive unburdening of personal esthetic/emotional observations. Just because snow on a tree-limb looked beautiful to you, please don’t write a haiku about it. Poetry is not ephemeral or disposable. It must be composed of words which will endure long enough to be viable either short-term or long-term. Intentional obscurantism is the unpardonable poetic crime. Esoteric cryptography is not to be considered valid poetry. Ad jingles and Hallmark card verses constitute a more noble art than linguistic obfuscation. Say what you want to say poetically. Then work and re-work it.
Poetry is the most useless of arts and the most important. Why? Because it is difficult to commodify. But don’t fall for that drivel they taught you in school, “poetry is whatever you want it to be“. I call BS on that RIGHT NOW. Don’t just vomit it out there and make us clean it up. Dang. The hell wrong wit chu people? Poetry knows who you are and where you LIVE. Poetry is not playing around—those days are long over. Poetry kicked your English teacher’s cowardly ass and then spat on the semi-conscious twitching body before paying for everyone’s drinks and dancing her way out the emergency exit. What is poetry? I have NO IDEA, but Poetry knows. Problem is, that bitch won’t tell me. I still love her, though.
Our Left Coast sighs in a stupor of red
from evergreen coasts to the casting bed.
Hollywood’s big leagues deal their fatal blow;
vapid perspectives from stars in the know.
Glamour holds court: socialite solutions
when celebrities talk revolutions.
But red alone would bring our nation harm
cut loose from white and blue—and should alarm
the audience, who pay to see their plays
while questioning their wanton West-coast ways:
Designer-reds, a stain upon our land
where red with white and blue ought take a stand.
Such fluff from the stage set who roll in dough
is Hollyweird yeast—rising now to show
beautiful and swelling irrelevance
unaware of its insignificance:
Hypocrite pretenders all paid to act
in films where decent values are attacked.
Let us turn then from Thespis‘ leering smile
to lace up cleats and run the gridiron mile
where other plays get tossed in endless zones
as commentators rave in heightened tones
while fools raise fists—then take the well-payed knee,
their pigskin antics sold to you and me.
Thrust a fat mike before their muscled face.
Note well the dull reaction, low as base.
These tattooed thugs make vain attempt, through speech
multitudes of more thuggish fans to reach.
The sad attempt to use their words in vain
lacks clear interpretation. Yall nome sain ?
The musclebound elect, who toss a ball
(as if their silly game was all in all)
should stick to sports; decline to state their views
lest fans their spectacle no longer choose.
Thus stars of field and screen steal every show,
and cause our dying culture worlds of woe.