domingo, 25 de enero de 2009

A Poem about Poems

(Things that Look Abandoned, (Vietnam, 06))

This poem won first place in the Inter Board Poetry Competition and the judge at the time was
David Kirby.

Here is the poem and David Kirby's comments.

A Poem That Thinks It Has Joined a Circus by Liz Gallagher

A handkerchief is not an emotional hold-all.
A cup of tea does not eradicate all-smothering sensations.
A hands-on approach is not the same as a hand-on-a-shoulder
willing a chin to lift and an upper lip to stiffen.
A forehead resting on fingers does not imply that the grains
of sand in an hourglass have filtered through.
A set of eyes staring into space is not an indictment that the sun
came crashing down in the middle of the night.
A sigh that causes trembling and wobbly knees should be
henceforth and without warning trapped in a bell jar and retrained
to come out tinkling ivories with every gasp.
A poem trying to turn a sad feeling on its head does not constitute
a real poem, it is a can-can poem dancing on a pin-head
and walking a tight-rope with arms pressed tightly by its sides.

David Kirby's Comments:

While some critics will tell you that movies about movies or plays about plays are self-involved and decadent, sometimes I feel as though poems about poems are the only ones worth writing. Why? Because, at the moment of "getting it," and this applies to the moment of reading the poem as well as writing it, there is no more electric charge than that which comes with seeing a poem strut its stuff. Of course, part of the poem's and the poet's and the reader's achievement is that none of these three essential elements of the artistic experience knows exactly how that experience works. Just as the tightrope walker has to wobble on the wire, so the poem has to shake and tremble in order to startle and amaze as much as this one does.

* I know that writing poems about poems or about writing is sometimes a no-go area for writers. I have to admit that I do have a stock of poems about this very theme...not sure why I am or maybe was prone to doing so...these poems aren't going to be in the book though, so this post is a sort of 'sorry for abandoning' you poems-about-writing poems...but there you go... : )

What are your thoughts on 'writing about writing'? Have you written any poems or short stories on writing? Do you think it is a case of being too 'decadent' or 'self-involved'? : )

8 comentarios:

  1. Not writing poems about poems/poetry/writing...another of the stupid 'rules' that get put about by the poetry experts (and then they all do it themselves anyway!). I'm just reading a great book by Don Paterson....filled with words about writers and writing.

    I have a whole section on my website called 'writing'. No-one has to read any of the poems in that section but there they are should anyone be interested. Mostly they help me sort out ideas about writing and associated areas in my own head and if I get a good poem out of it then hurray for that (double bonus). If not...nobody's hurt and I've moved on another step.

    In poetry some people just love telling other people what to do! Sad buggers.


  2. I remember seeing this poem before - Stinging Fly or elsewhere? You must have been pleased with DK's comments on the poem. Have you read 'Don't Ask Me What I Mean?' It's a book full of poets' introductions to their books of poetry with all sorts of poets in it. I love dipping in and out of it. I wonder is it the same as the book Rachel's reading...?

    I think the reason why poems about writing can be tricky for people is because they are self-referential; a small circle wherein you examine what writing means, or doesn't mean. That doesn't always translate well for the reader - some think of it as the writing equivalent of navel gazing - which is allowed, don't get me wrong - but it can become a case of ever-decreasing circles if not dealt with by the right hands. But your cracker poem above is not in that class - it is amazing :)

  3. But is it a small circle? More and more people are writing something (poems, stories, screenplays, life stories...). Sometimes it feels like all the world's a writer...or maybe half the world at least.

    But I know what you mean Barbara. Poems about poems/writing can seem too self-referential. In the end I think perhaps it's more to with whether you like the writing of that particular poet though. If you like them writing about oranges, sex and/or the colour of the sky chances are you'll like them writing about poems too (and ditto if you don't...).

  4. Rachel, until I was putting poems together for the book I didn't realise I had written so many poems about 'writing'...maybe 10 or so...but I guess it's natural to want to write about something that means something to you...I've always tried to have them humorous though and not 'oh woe is the writer's world'...and yeah, they sometimes helped me sort out exactly what I thought about what I was doing and maybe touched on stuff like not being able to write or obsession with writing or what to do with discarded poems and such like... ; )

    Barbara, that book sounds good and just right up my street at the moment as I'm trying to put together some introductions to the poems (like you so wisely and kindly suggested before...)so will definitely try to get it...
    The poem above has been around for the past two years, maybe you saw it wasn't in The Stinging Fly but another one of the same ilk was! ; )


  5. Liz,

    This is one of my favorite Liz poems,It is a wonderful gift to read it again today, thank-you. Writing about writing, well first off I am guilty, I have several poems about writing, my connection to the words, and they flow out naturally and come from that place where the poetry goes, I used to try to purposely not write them, but then they banged down my door for a chance to "voice" themselves. As a writer I love to read poems about writing and poetry, one of my favorites poems is Mark Strands "Eating Poery", perhaps the audience for these poems is smaller, perhaps not. I think as writers it is a natural expression, to write about something we love, and feel a connection to, a celebration of the words, both the good and bad. It is part of who we are, so it is natural that it will express itself through our words. Hugs. :) brenda

  6. Thanks for your thoughts, Brenda - can totally relate to what you're saying. : )

    Hope you're having a nice week-end.

  7. " ... it is a can-can poem dancing on a pin-head/
    and walking a tight-rope with arms pressed tightly by its sides."


  8. Thanks, Michelle, so pleased you liked it. ;)