solar powered anticipation machine (moireach) wrote,
solar powered anticipation machine
moireach

This is plenty. This is more than enough.

I just wrote a ridiculous and unnecessarily long email about poetry to an undergraduate professor and it's so rare that I write anything lately that's not work-related, I thought perhaps I should save it somewhere for posterity.  (Also: POETRY!  Oh yeah!  That's that thing I love!)


[Context: We were discussing a quote from the philosopher Theodor Adorno, who said “Writing poetry after Auschwitz is barbaric.”  These are poems that I think are doing interesting things in light of that quote, figuring out how to address atrocities in the changed consciousness of the latter half of the twentieth century.]

From Geoffrey Hill -- two Holocaust poems:

These poems both also bring in the idea of persona (see other confessional poets too: Sylvia Plath, John Berryman, Robert Lowell); inventing a self to dialogue with or explore horrors.

Carolyn Forche is known for coining the term poetry of witness, about writing that focuses on documenting and confronting atrocities.  She spent time in El Salvador during the civil war, which is what a lot of her poetry focuses on, including The Colonel.  You can read some of what she's said about poetry of witness here: I really like the end of the second piece (from where it begins "This is a poetry that presents the American reader with an interesting interpretive problem.")  She also has a great anthology,  Against Forgetting: Twentieth-Century Poetry of Witness.

One interesting thing to consider: there were people writing poems about war and tragedies long before Adorno or Carolyn Forche came along.  What separates them from the post-Auschwitz era?  And from the idea of the poetry of witness?  (It may be that there’s not a real difference.  This is something I'm still mulling over.)

Some other poems that I mentally put in the same category, finding new ways to engage with the nightmarish:


  • Tortures, Wislawa Szymborska - Polish; Eastern European poets have a LOT of insight into the ugliness of political ideology intersecting with poetry in the wrong ways


  • A Brief for the Defense, Jack Gilbert - this has a bit of problematic (colonial?) imagery in it, but I think he's one of the absolute master poets of the 20th century

On a completely related note, it's almost the end of January which means it's almost April which means NATIONAL POETRY MONTHAPALOOZA and guys, GUYS, this is going to be my TENTH FUCKING YEAR doing this thing.  I want to do something special to celebrate.  But I don't know what.  E-extra emails linking to some of this huge, glorious backlog from all the past years?  .... something else?  GIVE ME IDEAS.

Tags: ars poetica, napomo
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Some kind of... Found poetry write in thing where all your readers create a sestina together??
OOH, sestinas!! My best beloveds.
I'm not sure what you should do, but I thought I would mention a couple of things: In 2005, my grandmother was in the hospital. I was staying in her apartment in JP, making twice-daily trips to see her, and writing nightly updates to the rest of the family with what the doctors told me. I felt so alone there, staying in her apartment without her, and I was so afraid that she would never come back. My grandmother was the adult I looked up to most in the world. You posted What the Living Do, and I remember sitting on my little fold-away cot in the entryway, reading it out loud over and over. That poem will always mean that for me now.

Later that year, I fell in love. It was long distance, at least at first, and we had to find our own ways to feel close. I recorded myself reading The Benjamin Franklin of Monogamy, which I also discovered through you, and sent it to her. I was so nervous: I think I re-recorded it at least ten times trying to get it right. Afterwards, she told me she could hear my breathing, like I was really right there. That image, of her sitting in the dark with headphones on, listening for my breath between the lines, remains one of the most erotic things I can imagine. In the intervening nine years we became a couple and then we became not a couple and finally we became friends, but I will never in my life walk through the drizzle of Portland without reminiscing.

When I first came to Iceland, I was depressed and alone and unsure of where I was going in the world. But it was April, and the daily poems helped. I found myself going back through the archives and reading a few to myself each day. I particularly remember Entry, by Lisa Sewell becoming a kind of mantra. " Make me brave enough; to see my life as one more version of the human"

I have never loved anyone without sending them at least one poem from your archives.
This is hands down the best LJ comment I've ever received. Gonna save it forever. (Is there any connection like loving the same piece of writing? I don't think so.) I don't even know what to say. Except thank you thank you. (And it's been way too long since I read that Lisa Sewell poem.)

Also now I'm thinking of William Carlos Williams:

My heart rouses
thinking to bring you news
of something
that concerns you
and concerns many men. Look at
what passes for the new.
You will not find it there but in
despised poems.
It is difficult
to get the news from poems
yet men die miserably every day
for lack
of what is found there.
NAPOMOOOOO! Gawd, M., I am knee-deep in my thesis/manuscript now & veering back & forth between being wildly sick of it, all of it, but then I remember to go to my shelf (or your archives!) & just fucking read a beautiful poem & it all becomes lovely again. Poetry! That heartbreaker.

Also, love this small canon of witness poetry. Ooooof.
I have a new habit I'm trying to make myself keep, which is READ A POEM EVERY DAY because it makes life better in every way. So thanks for reminding me!!
This is wonderful. The worst part of delicious going under was that I lost track of your poetry bookmarks, though on the other hand I am spoiler free for April :) LOVE your April poems, and I love introducing people to the mailing list. There's nothing like it.

Uhoh -- should I or should I not tell you they're now over here?? https://pinboard.in/u:moireach/t:poems

Thank you thank you thank youuuuuu!
What timing! I just recently read Daphne Gottlieb's "No Poetry After Auschwitz" (I got 15 Ways to Stay Alive for Christmas, it's fantastic).

Also: The ever-delightful Hannah Gamble feels it's necessary to approach "heavy" topics in poetry with a certain amount of lightness. I don't know if I've managed to internalize that in my own writing, but that article is something I think about a lot.

Also also: Ten years! Wow! I think I've only been on board since 2007, but I've got all of them archived in Gmail, and I not-infrequently take advantage of that when I'm looking for a piece I know you've sent out. (I have no ideas for the anniversary, but I will let you know if I come up with anything. :D)
Oh man, thank you for those links!! So relevant!