Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Bad Poetry

earth air fire water
Originally uploaded by Seeking Tao

I’ve been writing what I call “Bad Poetry.” It started as an effort to conserve the one-liners that spontaneously arise in my constantly chattering mind – those snippets that suddenly stop me in my tracks and momentarily stun me into Silence.

Like the time my partner called from the distant kitchen, “There’s a cricket in the teapot.”
Or the other morning as I dragged myself outside for a cup of coffee only to be amazed by the sunrise and I heard the comment, “God doesn’t know it’s a Monday.”

To me these moments are brief epiphanies that invite poems I have never finished. And so recently I sought to remedy that. Thing is the Moment has long passed and I am left to write the poem itself from a very ordinary state. I went with the appellation, Bad Poetry, kind of an excuse and apology. Though, I do discover that the slow reworking of the lines day after day does begin to shift my brain until it begins to function differently. I begin to feel the original expansiveness that the first line stirred.

There’s a cricket in the teapot –
decrying kitchen accident
her intent was never poetry
though linguistic ambiguity
encourages the paring down
as one might peel an apple
until she could not help herself
until delight became intolerable
until with thumb and forefinger
she placed the phrase... there
right beside the cup.

Presentation, presentation,
she whispered

OK, bad poetry. But, I enjoyed it.
In fact, I have long forgotten bits of bad poems scattered through computer files and scraps of paper tucked away which I find from time to time. It was in this context that a few day as ago, while sorting though old stock trading notebooks (a whole other life and story) my eyes fell upon a folded paper stuck in a notebook pocket. There in my own hand once deliberately set upon the page and now totally forgotten were these words:

To have watched from one of your patios
the ancient stars
from the bench of shadow…

Whoa! No recollection of doing this at all. What an awkward line! What was I thinking? What patios? I don’t know no “patios.” So I started from the top and read slowly once again. My displeasure with the first few lines settled a bit after a few repetitions. I let them off with a "well, OK" as I began to catch the rhythm and could continue on. I began to like each line more and more:

To have watched from one of your patios
the ancient stars
from the bench of shadow to have watched
those scattered lights
that my ignorance has learned no names for
nor their place in constellations,
to have heard the note of water
in the cistern
known the scent of jasmine and honeysuckle,
the silence of the sleeping bird,
the arch of the entrance, the damp
these things perhaps are the poem.
Jorge Luis Borges

This wasn’t my poem! My brain shook itself like some loose jowl dog shaking drool in all directions. And then I was laughing and understood.
It was a real poem, by a real poet. And it was a keeper.

At the bottom of the page I had written:
It is the poem, it is the Silence
of our Self and wanting to come home.

And now I am wondering if maybe the journey would go easier if I didn’t prejudge and label from the start my efforts as “bad poetry.” Not that a discerning eye isn’t necessary – but how quickly discernment becomes merely critical, or worse cynical, or even worse, worse sophisticated.

What we need is simply an eye that notices.
An eye that is awake.
An ear that really hears.
So I’m sticking with the poetry. I’m betting Life will hurt less.