Monthly Archives: February 2019

Monday’s Verse 2/19/2019

Dear readers,

yesterday was the birthday of Audre Lorde (1934-1992), "black, lesbian, mother, warrior, poet," in her own words. Inside and outside poetry, she affected this world she walked through. What strength! You might look at coal->diamond as a metaphor of same. -ed.

COAL

I

Is the total black, being spoken

From the earth’s inside.

There are many kinds of open.

How a diamond comes into a knot of flame

How a sound comes into a word, coloured

By who pays what for speaking.

Some words are open

Like a diamond on glass windows

Singing out within the crash of passing sun

Then there are words like stapled wagers

In a perforated book—buy and sign and tear apart—

And come whatever wills all chances

The stub remains

An ill-pulled tooth with a ragged edge.

Some words live in my throat

Breeding like adders. Others know sun

Seeking like gypsies over my tongue

To explode through my lips

Like young sparrows bursting from shell.

Some words

Bedevil me.

Love is a word another kind of open—

As a diamond comes into a knot of flame

I am black because I come from the earth’s inside

Take my word for jewel in your open light.

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Monday’s Verse 2/11/2019

Readers:

Welcome to Valentine’s week! In lieu of a Thursday, 2/14 posting (though this forum did get its name from the "Thursday’s Verse" feature in my undergrad rag), we’ll just get you started off right, especially given the titular relevance of today’s featured poem.

Diane Wakoski (b. 1937) has been a vital voice in the ongoing conversation of American poetry for 50 years. For the past several decades she’s been teaching at MSU, where she is now Distinguished University Professor. She has said that when she began writing poetry in the 1950s (fully in the Beat mode), the New Criticism was ascendant in poetry analysis, and that she found it liberating. No longer did she have to compare herself with Wordsworth, or compete with Athena, King Arthur, and Oedipus as she created her voices. "I could invent Diane as a persona — there was no stigma to writing in first person. This was as liberating as free verse itself." And look at what she’s done with that voice and in that format (free verse).

The below poem is one we’ve read dozens of times, annually. It’s in free verse but also tightly structured. One of things I love about it is the leaps between outlandish, surreal images and very concrete, visceral imagery that ties the concerns of the emotions to the physicality of the human body. And of course we’ve talked before–probably annually–about its skilled use of repetition. One could almost say incantation. How have other readers’ relationships with this poem changed over the years? I’m sure I found it daunting at first, but comforting now. It’s an old friend I always treasure my time with, even if only every mid-February. Have a good week, -ed.

BLUE MONDAY

Blue of the heaps of beads poured into her breasts

and clacking together in her elbows;

blue of the silk

that covers lily-town at night;

blue of her teeth

that bite cold toast

and shatter on the streets;

blue of the dyed flower petals with gold stamens

hanging like tongues

over the fence of her dress

at the opera/opals clasped under her lips

and the moon breaking over her head a

gush of blood-red lizards.

Blue Monday. Monday at 3:00 and

Monday at 5. Monday at 7:30 and

Monday at 10:00. Monday passed under the rippling

California fountain. Monday alone

a shark in the cold blue waters.

You are dead: wound round like a paisley shawl.

I cannot shake you out of the sheets. Your name

is still wedged in every corner of the sofa.

Monday is the first of the week,

and I think of you all week.

I beg Monday not to come

so that I will not think of you

all week.

You paint my body blue. On the balcony

in the softy muddy night, you paint me

with bat wings and the crystal

the crystal

the crystal

the crystal in your arm cuts away

the night, folds back ebony whale skin

and my face, the blue of new rifles,

and my neck, the blue of Egypt,

and my breasts, the blue of sand,

and my arms, bass-blue,

and my stomach, arsenic;

there is electricity dripping from me like cream;

there is love dripping from me I cannot use—like acacia or

jacaranda—fallen blue and gold flowers, crushed into the street.

Love passed me in a blue business suit

and fedora.

His glass cane, hollow and filled with

sharks and whales …

He wore black

patent leather shoes

and had a mustache. His hair was so black

it was almost blue.

“Love,” I said.

“I beg your pardon,” he said.

“Mr. Love,” I said.

“I beg your pardon,” he said.

So I saw there was no use bothering him on the street

Love passed me on the street in a blue

business suit. He was a banker

I could tell.

So blue trains rush by in my sleep.

Blue herons fly overhead.

Blue paint cracks in my

arteries and sends titanium

floating into my bones.

Blue liquid pours down

my poisoned throat and blue veins

rip open my breast. Blue daggers tip

and are juggled on my palms.

Blue death lives in my fingernails.

If I could sing one last song

with water bubbling through my lips

I would sing with my throat torn open,

the blue jugular spouting that black shadow pulse,

and on my lips

I would balance volcanic rock

emptied out of my veins. At last

my children strained out

of my body. At last my blood

solidified and tumbling into the ocean.

It is blue.

It is blue.

It is blue.

-1969

Monday’s Verse 2/4/2019

Dear readers,

a while back on my (paltry) Twitter feed, I saw a poet who’s been featured here before claim a new form… I tucked it away for a future date, and today is the future. We read Jericho Brown’s "Trojan" in November, when it was brand-spanking new, prompting one Portland reader to respond, "That right there is a really good poem."

And the form he announced around that time is the "duplex." I was hoping we could engage in some literary reverse-engineering, and try to figure out the rubric. People have been contacting Mr. Brown asking for the rules, and he asks for their email via DM so he can send them… that’s an option, too, but… we can do this, right? There’s also a really cute message from a student saying Help!, I have a sonnet due tomorrow but I only have these rules for the duplex… to which Mr. Brown replies, Well, a duplex is a sonnet! So there’s at least a couple of our rules…

To me, at first glance, I’m seeing kind of a mash-up of villanelle & sonnet. Maybe seeing two side-by-side will help. Do you think the two below share the same street number? -ed.

DUPLEX

A poem is a gesture toward home.
It makes dark demands I call my own.

Memory makes demands darker than my own:
My last love drove a burgundy car.

My first love drove a burgundy car.
He was fast and awful, tall as my father.

Steadfast and awful, tall as my father
Hit hard as a hailstorm. He’d leave marks.

Light rain hits easy but leaves its own mark
Like the sound of a mother weeping again.

Like the sound of my mother weeping again.
No sound beating ends where it began.

None of the beaten end up how we began.
A poem is a gesture toward home.

DUPLEX (I begin with love)

I begin with love, hoping to end there.
I don’t want to leave a messy corpse.

I don’t want to leave a messy corpse
Full of medicines that turn in the sun.

Some of my medicines turn in the sun.
Some of us don’t need hell to be good.

Those who need least, need hell to be good.
What are the symptoms of your sickness?

Here is one symptom of my sickness:
Men who love me are men who miss me.

Men who leave me are men who miss me
In the dream where I am an island.

In the dream where I am an island,
I grow green with hope. I’d like to end there.