Me vs Poetry

I always reckoned that, if it came down to it, I could totally take poetry out. I mean, seriously, as much as one can respect poetry’s mind, poise and philosophies, it has to be observed that it wears glasses and is a little weedy. So I figure I’d totally kick it’s ass.

Which, sadly, in a fight or flight kind of way, is a normal response to a thing that one fundamentally doesn’t understand. Which I don’t, though I’ve tried. Just kind of figured it was one of those things… my wiring or something.

Anyway, recently I’ve ventured into the domain of poetry under the scrupulous and benevolent gaze of One Who Knows and have been surprised at the delight of it. The impact and the strength of it. I certainly couldn’t claim any particular knowledge or understanding, having only read from two particular authors, but I seem to have been talked through the door and into a comfy chair. There’s a power to it I wasn’t expecting, a concentration by way of dilution that leverages meaning, both personal and from the poet, through no intention of my own. While I remain baffled, I’m suddenly curious about it in ways I never was and couldn’t fake.

Poetry doesn’t box, it does one of those weird martial arts from the elevated, remote mountainous regions of Asia, where Mums & Dads pass on to their children the secret of extracting, using just their left earlobe and breathing techniques, people’s appendix through their elbow. I have a friend who spent many years learning a thing called Zen Do Kai – it’s one of those martial arts that takes the most violent parts of other martial arts and, through a process of dehydration and using the hot wash cycle, concentrates them into an evolutionary beast that would terrify anyone with the brain kinetics fast enough to appreciate what just happened to them. This friend of mine, Broad of Shoulder, used to come around and say things like, ‘Dude, I’ve gotta show you this move, it’s awesome. Try and punch me really hard in the face.” And, after some false starts and argument, I would. Because I’m stupid. The next thing I knew I would be face down on the carpet with his foot on the back of my neck and my right arm at a distinctly uncomfortable angle, wondering what the fuck just happened.

Poetry has a result like that.  In that you end up on the ground, staring at the ceiling, wondering how the fuck you ended up there. There are two basic forms of martial arts, as I understand: hard forms and soft forms. Hard forms are all about the application of force, direct and precise, while soft forms are about the redistribution of the force, the redirection and absorption of it. The soft form is strangely intimate. Poetry is kind of like that, a soft form. It’s pretty cool. And totally preferable to Broad of Shoulder’s process. I mean, staring at the ceiling unexpectedly can be fun but the process of getting there really makes a difference.

So I’ll get back to you about that ass kicking.


5 responses to “Me vs Poetry

  1. Limonello, that is very funny. I’d never thought of reading poetry as an epic struggle!

    Reading bad poetry is like being mugged with a wet souffle. Reading good poetry can get you all turned about and helpless to resist, but in a good way.

    Who are the poets you’ve been reading?

    • Yuck. What do they do with the souffle?
      I’ve started out on Raymond Carver (I really like his short stories so that seemed sensible when suggested) and Billy Collins, because, in poet speak, he’s the freakin’ man. But I wandered down to the library during my lunch today and picked up a book by Carol Ann Duffy who, going by the first 3 poems, is just awesome.
      Limonello. I really like that.

  2. so I had a great come-back along the lines of “google for ‘fucking poems’ (sans quotes) and we’re the #1 result” except I did some fact checking and today we’re down spots 2 to #3.

    we’re #1 for ‘poems fucking’ though…

  3. I would like to see you write some poetry. Or rather, I’d like to read some poetry you have written – though if your process is anything like this post, maybe either could be entertaining.
    You may find Neil Gaiman’s Smoke and Mirrors interesting. He blurs the line between prose and poetry artfully.


    & Robert Pinsky (try

    & Michelle Tea & Simon Armitage & Mark Haddon (yes, of dead dog fame) & Stevie Smith

    and many cups of tea

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