Friday, March 10, 2006

The grace of memory

Listening to: Charles Mingus, Mingus in Europe

You can blame Mamacita. I insisted that I cannot write poetry and she insisted that what I write is poetry.

We got into this a couple weeks ago and she made the mistake of asking me to send some examples of my "poetry". Her second mistake was insisting that my poetry was... um, "poetic" and that led to her third mistake - inspiring me to write more.

Blame her, you're stuck with this schlock:

Two hundred, five hundred, a thousand years ago,
the poorest of the poor murdered their babies,
and fed the fresh corpses to their hungry dogs,
without a second thought or fear of damnation;
Hell was an abstraction and with another mouth
to feed, and immediate needs not entirely met,
it was impossible to imagine any place worse than
the eternal toil between birth and death; Hell
was a luxury for those who could afford to think.

Our memories are miniscule, hermetic, locked in
tiny boxes seperated from the past, our history.
Beneath our path are countless forgotten bones,
rattling silent, wherever we walk, lost in thought.

Yet still, we claim,
We know everything.

It's up to you to give Mamacita her just desserts...

Afterthought: It occurred to me that this could be interpreted as an exercise in supreme self-indulgence: "Check out my mad skillz," or some other cutesey-pie ploy. Nothing could be further from the truth. I think this poem is CRAP and I'm relying on you, dear readers, to tell me where I go wrong, what's lacking or what's too much. What I know about poetry would fit into an eye-dropper (with room left for a hefty dose of dramamine) and I'd love some direction, criticism, and back-handed brutality. Any comments would be appreciated (and just might save your life).


Mamacita said...

Just desserts? Can't I have a medium-rare steak first?

Mayden said...

Dude! It's totally a Bad Religion song!!!

Shari said...

Just from my very subjective opinion (I might know even less than you about poetry, so I just go with my instincts)...

It's a little too much like broken-up prose. There needs to be a much less matter-of-fact tone about it to be "poetic". Some examples of what I mean:

"the poorest of the poor murdered their babies,
and fed the fresh corpses to their hungry dogs,"

For me, it might have more impact if some more decoration was used in the language... something like:

"the poorest of the poor drowned hungry babies,
Left their fresh corpses for starving dogs,"

... because, with poetry, (and this COULD just be bunk, I'm sorry if it is), you're not so much iterating fact as you are imparting imagery and evoking feeling. You want them to read it and FEEL, horribly, the desperation of the situation.

The first time I read the second and third (and even fourth) line, I thought you were saying that people wanted dogs more than their children... and didn't think twice about killing them. I had to read it again to see that it was meant to mean they often felt there was no other choice. Thus, I would not say "their" dogs. Also, removing possessive language from "babies" helps show the distance they might have felt.

I think people, especially in a hunger/desperation situation, would usually feel a lot of anguish, so I would not use "second thought", and find some other words to express that morality (hell) was not thought about or feared.

One last point, I'm not sure what the message was. It started out saying Hell (or at least the idea of it) was meaningless to people who are pretty much already living it, and then it kind of ended up on a "we never learn" note. But I often miss things, and am definitely not an expert, so take what you can use and discard the rest!

Mayden said...

Ok. Seriously. I agree with Shari in the feeling of disjointedness (word?). Comparisons don't work and the overall piece doesn't evoke any feeling at all because the feeling is of this non-correlation. But, I have to say, I know so little about poetry it is measured in the negative, so I can't say what I mean. But poetry moves me. This didn't.