Friday, November 20, 2009

See gulls fly

I didn't have a photo of an eagle, at least not one in focus enough to tell it was an eagle. Anyway, there are no eagles in New Zealand anymore.

You know when things aren't going to plan when you start a line with "I was going to..."

Well, managed to stave off that disaster. So, here's the thing, I was going to write a really interesting, stimulating, nay, I say veritable lyrical Officer and a Gentleman assault course for the mind, and I was going to tie that whole film thing (tenuous link for those of you reading between the lines) in and wow you all with my wit and...yeah, well look where that got me.

Well, what happened was, there was this dog. No, scrap that, there was this pack, big, hugemongously fearsome braying, barking, belching pack (if only the collective noun for dog began with a b) - heck, there was a back of belching beasts (why let stupid spelling rules spoil a quality bit of alliteration?)...and then I faffed about and read these and was more tickled by the degeneration of the comments thread than the jokes themselves and completely forgot what I was going to blog about.

And then, just like a flash of flashyness, I remembered: I was going to answer Steven's super duper questions from the comments in my last post about how do I write a poem and, specifically, how do I know it's a good one.

Remarkably it all ties in because the way I go about writing a poem is much the way I am going about writing this post: I think of something, I hear/read/see something and I think, that could work together, so I stick it together and something else pops into my head and then I go, wait, this is see? I make it up as I go along and sometimes I like it and sometimes I don't. The ones I don't like can, often after a period of solitary confinement (for them, not me) be redeemed with a little wordy personal trainer. The ones I do like I ask politely to wait in the green room and if we still get along after the show I invite them to dinner.

Here's one that's doing hard labour for being a crime against my potential for publication - hey, I'm not proud.

Cicadas 10/03/08

Won't get used to cicadas
breaking up the air with their
too loud noise, a cross between
electricity and clock.

Biting spiders will destroy
my quality of life whilst
flies continue to taunt me
with their filthy aerial

arrogance, refusing to
die when sprayed: insecticide
does not do as it says on
the tin. Won't get used to here.

Here's what I think is wrong with it (yes, the list is finite - just about). Firstly, it's too personal. Most of my poetry is personal, personal is not bad per se, but (I think) the poem must also speak to a wider audience, it must transcend the boundaries of the territory in which it was created. This p, p (nope, I can't even call it one), this aberration is still very much in the shadow underneath my own I.

Secondly, agh, forget it, it just doesn't move me enough to even want to dissect it. Which is odd, considering that it's written about a subject which causes me such a strong personal reaction, because this po, po - almost typed it (pooh) - doesn't get across any of the emotion or fear - any real feeling in fact.

Thirdly, hey, maybe I'm just over my phobia? Sadly, not: I have an earwig and a spider, and some as yet unidentified flying critter, in jars on the sill awaiting release, just like this bunch of worthless words. I may be able to turn them in to words worthy of an officer but they will never be....yeah, yeah, it was a tenuous link, remember? So here goes (making an ass of myself now): run - for the hills! (*Where the seagulls fly, on a mountain high, la, la, la!)


steven said...

so liza - thanks for this. when i write letters or blogs or just write, i let things roll and then reassemble, cut-and-paste looking for the embedded piece that lurks inside the mess that tumbled out. i look on anything written - anything (even letters of reference) as an opportunity to let whatever wishes to present itself to do so no matter how muddied up. so phrases, scraps of thought are gathered in my notebook and wait (sometimes patiently) to be dovetailed into something else and perhaps acquire a more worthy context. elevating even. fly seagull fly
in the sky. bye bye. steven!

Jim Murdoch said...

Actually I don't think the poem is particularly personal at all. It may be personal to you – which of our poems isn't personal to us? – but I can imagine hundreds of people who have emigrated to the Antipodes reading these lines and nodding their heads. I don't see anything here that's uniquely you. Where I think it's especially weak is that you can read it once and get it. Now, that's not necessarily bad and I'm all for accessible poetry, but when you read it a second and a third time (as I just have) there's nothing more; it's not an assault course, it's a stroll in a park, albeit a bug-filled park.

The thing is the raw emotion is still clearly present with you. What this poem lacks is imagery and yet your post has a very powerful image, the bugs in the jar on the windowsill so why don't I start you off and you see where it takes you:

        There are bugs in a jar on the sill:
        repulsion and pain and then death

Yes, I know they're all in separate jars but a) it mucks up the rhythm and b) it's a more powerful imagine having them all in a single jar. Please feel free to change anything – this is just a prompt – but I think you could do something with this.

Rachel Fenton said...

Hey Steven, or should that be Jonathan Livingston? Thanks for sharing your process, and thanks for the questions.

Jim, you're spot on about it being one dimensional - it's very flat and leaves the reader feeling much the same. Thanks for the prompt. I'll let it brew for a bit and see what happens. You're right, too, about the imagery: the bugs in jars are supposed to let me look closely at them and reduce my phobia but all that happens is I think some giant karma bug's going to get me in a jar! I release them feeling more scared than before! Need to get that accross in a poem!

Thanks for your comments: a promising start.

Thomas Taylor said...

It'll be interesting to see where you take this poem, Rachel. Let the internet be your jar and the verse your wee beastie (though don't let it bug you).

Andrea said...

There are really no rules as far as poetry is concerned anything can be a poem - a list, a selection of random words so I think that you need have no fear of using the p word!

I also look forward to you sharing the results of this one if you so desire.

Rachel Fenton said...

Thanks, Andrea. I'd better get my p cap on then and start hotch potching something together.

Anonymous said...

I think that Jim is quite right in identifying the characterised experience as a lot more universal than you're allowing. But I'd say that the poem IS personalised in its selection of language, but that therein lies a shortcoming: I feel that your priority is more with linguistic effect and structural form than transmission of experience. It's as if you've stopped short in the place where metaphor, simile and phrasing are brewed and you've sprung the poem too soon. And, in advance of the poem's proper initial gestation, you've decided that you want three four-verse stanzas. Contrary to the guiding principles of architecture, you need to arrange the furniture before you build the house!

All entirely subjective assessment on my part, Rachel, arising from the way I work. So, arguably, pretty much irrelevant! My poems go through several drafts and it's sometimes several years, before I'll grudgingly leave them alone. Which process creates problems all of its own!

Anyway, I hope you won't mind my observations, which I note have turned into a lecture rather than a comment. Sorry about that - once a teacher...

Donna Hosie said...

My state's writing group recently held a poetry festival and the entire issue of this month's writing magazine was devoted to poetry. So whilst the publisher's may not be buying it, there is still plenty of interest in writing it.

Rachel Fenton said...

All your comments are really accurate, Dick, and I appreciate you taking the time to be so thorough. I dunno, in all honesty, why I split it into stanzas, other than I was going through a stanza phase!?

It is literally as the poem came out and then I went YUCK and put it aside and hoped it might mature a bit before a second draft. I wrote other things which sprung from it and around its edges but I haven't tackled IT - until now! I am sometimes all about the structure and I ruin many a good bit of emotion by clipping its wings and putting it in a really innovative container which is essentially still a box!

Thanks for your comments, Sir! Can I go to my next lesson now? ;)

Rachel Fenton said...

Just another thought, Dick - although you're right about the poem suffering from too much "linguistic effect" it isn't my priority, insomuch as my linguistic shanannigans come out (usually) without my being consciously aware of them, not until a re-read at least. And then I have this battle with loving linguistic trickery and being happy that it just pops out, and then having to hack myself out of a poem so that I can see it without the language getting in the way. That takes me some time. So, yes and no with that point.

I'm liking this critiquing - maybe I should post all my poems? Second thoughts....haven't got that much time on my hands!

Rachel Fenton said...

Hey, Donna, you snook in there! But what about the interest in reading it!!?? Haha!

Ross Brighton said...

Hi Rachael - Just though I'd leave a thought or two (just jumped to this through the discussion on Andrea's (Rainbow Notebook) blog. And not necessarily on the poem....
re: "i was going to..." -ness, have you read Charles Olson's "3rd letter of Georges, unwritten"? It's a poem about a poem that might have been. V. interesting take on that kind of thing (aside from being generally amazing).

Re personalism etx, and process - 1. there's nothing wrong with such, unless rather than writing a personal poem, you're writing what *you think a personal poem should be* (regardless of whether it's (supposedly) taboo or not).
2. What I do when i end up with something that I may think is too in that way, i h\just destroy it - take words and associate them, cut it up Burroughs style, rearange the poem (or mysenses a la Rimbaud) - feel free to experiment (though that's my primary mode - if it's not you're thing, that's fine. I'm not one of those holier-than-though writers who criticises others for not doing what I do).
Some experiments that are fun (and they should always be that) are here:

Thomas Taylor said...

Rachel, make of this what you will, but I have just nominated you for no less than two blogging awards. Follow the link to find out more, but don't feel obliged to accept either of them.


Rachel Fenton said...

Thomas, I just realised I still haven't replied to your first comment - apologies! I have since released the three on death row and have a new beastie doing solitary! I will check out your link ASAP! Thankyou.

Hey, Ross, nice of you to hop over. Andrea always has such interesting stuff on her blog and I always come away feeling like a complete dunce! Which I am, haha! And wanting to get down to the library!

I don't think I have read that, but I will look it up because I like things which start out as seeming nonsense but which create their own logic and end up being really wonderful and clever. Olsen sounds right up my street. Thank you. Just a thought: have you checked out Jim's blog? He also has some off the beaten track stuff, might be of interest. :)

Anonymous said...

I followed your link about the comedians and the comments must have really degenerated because they've been closed! I feel cheated! You are very brave to keep bugs on the window sill, I can't tackle my spider phobia in such a head on manner.

Rachel Fenton said...

Oh dear, Penny - I have to say, though, I could see it going that way! Some people get such a bee in their bonnets on those comments threads!

I wouldn't recommend the bugs treatment plan - it clearly doesn't work! Looking at them in a jar does not kill the fear of having them surprise you by scuttling over you at preternatural speed! Spiders are best not tackled head on, in any case :)
Thank you, Penny!