Postcard from Island Gulag #669A

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Hi all !

Having a great time here in post-modern poetry.
We’ve been on the island since Sylvia Plath croaked in ’63.
It’s been a bit smoggy and verbose   incoherent   gratuitously cryptic, but the prison-guards are super-nice and they let us write Haiku once in a while. There’s this MFA creative-writing place just up the road from the gulag, it’s really charming. They publish a chapbook that 4 people on the island read. They also host workshops, like How to Find Your Authentic Voice and Pushing Language Beyond the Boundaries. Last night we saw some non-identity-politics-driven verse in the nearby wilderness reserve. It had beautiful plumage and made totally weird sounds. (Hey Dylan, you’re remembering to feed my muse, right? Don’t let her out after 5 since she might stay out all night. She does NOT like the free-verse abstract work. Feed her the structured message-oriented stuff to the right of the literary-elite class. Thanks ☺ ) Anyway, we’re trapped on this island so if you find someway to get us off, do your best.
PLEEZ tell the editorial prison-guards that we are working on our English Lit degrees. And send the Maya Angelou and Adrienne Rich books soon !!!!!

Love,
Rita Dove’s Bookshelf

PROMPT:   draft a prose poem
in the form/style of a postcard

 

 

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What Poetry Is (n’t)

Due to erroneous Modernist and Postmodernist assumptions,
we must define poetry in terms of negatives.

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.

WRITE ON

The Long March through Art

I am re-posting previous work during March.
Since 2014, I’ve published 30 original poems
for National Poetry Writing Month every April.

You can read more by clicking the NaPoWriMo widgets to the right

 

Dada Dethroned

golden-calf

Rebellion, for too long the status quo,
is, in our day, a predictable show.
Antichrist irony, absurdity
shockingly daring incongruity
no longer shock the bourgeoisie, you know . . .

Alone in the temple of glass with a rock,
you’re out of traditional symbols to mock.
Surrealists did it much better than you—
and it meant a lot more in ’32.

You chew your cud on the cattle-wagon
overused shock-tacticsmoo !—now draggin’
or herding aboard the iconoclast train
lowing through boxcars your bovine refrain:
to, um, make people think . . .”  Oh Lord, how uncouth.
Nihilist narcissus—tell me, what’s Truth?
Must creative always be subversive?
I discern, in your frenzied discursive,
a dull and predictable lack of life.
While you brandish that plastic butter knife
I  seem to note, in your constant thrust,
dearth of artistic ability.  Must
bohemian acolytes (some yawning)
ever be deer in the headlights, fawning
before the ironic gesture? It’s sad;
the bitter is sweet but the art is bad. . . .

They circle hors d’oeuvres on opening night
like moths around white wine in candlelight,
cerebrating in a modernist void:
contemporary aesthetes, overjoyed
to know once more that life has no meaning;
the planet is doomed; that kings are queening;
that chic just arrived, escorting philosophy
(Forgive us, Duchamp, for all this monstrosity).

I long for Hudson River School sunsets
Old Dutch Masters, religious art, portraits,
Red, green, or black propaganda-art?  NO 
The view does not merit the price of the show.
I’m dada-ed to death, beyond the surreal.
Conceptual gimmicks have failed to conceal
your want of ability, values, and faith
In the book you despise it is written: “thus saith
the fool in his heart: that there is no God . . .”

You: Postmodern Art—to the firing squad!

Dada Firing Squad

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Anti-Convulsive Therapy

Beauty will be convulsive
or will not be at all.

André Breton, Nadja

 

While some ephemeral forms of art may be so, true poetry is neither convulsive nor spasmodic. Sneezing is spasmodic. Epilepsy is convulsive. Orgasms are convulsive and spasmodic. Birth and Death are often spasmodic and convulsive.  But poetry, REAL poetry must never be considered such.

How can mere protoplasmic/organic shuddering be mistaken for poetry.? How can linguistic implosions and semantic expulsions be confused with well-ordered and considerately-crafted coherence? Apollo shines a light by which huntresses kill prey—while Dionysos falls off his donkey and vomits. Can impulsive voidings of incoherent language be entertained as creative writing with any actual value? Is an involuntary regurgitation of verbiage to be as seriously considered as a well-structured  utterance? If so, then an adolescent doodle in the margin is as worthy of celebration as the Mona Lisa. Pinball is Poetry and abrasive noise is Music. It logically follows that all things are as valuable (and as worthless) as all other things in a nihilistic universe.

If readers become accustomed to convulsive vomitings in the name of poetry, coherent writing will finally appear alien and unworthy of note.

Is spasmodic frenzy inherently holy (in an artistic context) or is it nothing more than glorified twitching of the autonomic nervous system? Much modernist and most post-modernist poetry is not only dull, but destined to failure, while traditional conservative coherence represents the current counterculture and will endure the test of time.