oulipost 30: libertine composer

So, the final count is in…

- 30 poems for Oulipost
– 29 poems for NaPoWriMo (one was shared with Oulipost)
– 37 poems for Poetic Asides (bonus ones are thanks to Two-for-Tuesday prompts, but I’m also counting one of them as three because it was three sections of fourteen sonnet-ish lines each; if that doesn’t suffice, there were at least two drafts I threw out without showing them to the world)
– 2 poems for Monday workshop
– 2 poems for Thursday workshop

Which means that, holy shit, this post contains the one hundredth new draft I have done for the month of April. Which means additionally that I am going to just not write anything new for the month of May, I think…

This is not a feat I’m eager to repeat, but as it had been a while since I was in any kind of generative mode, it’s nice to be back in one. I’ll spend the next several weeks going through what I’ve written, and my hope is to pull out ten poems that I can edit and develop and turn into something worthwhile. It’s been a wild ride.

Today’s Oulipost is to use pieces of all the other Oulipost poems one wrote during the month… and so this is what I’ve got. Enjoy!

Libertine Composer Premieres Manifesto for Flute and Bodies, in F Major

My rhythms are European imports:
Broadway fades through observation of
erotic society. I include particular
attention to inhalation:
the denied modesties and the Deeds
Not Mentioned. When the brothel
turns to jungle, my bedroom mechanism
knows which glory to shoot.
A flair for the dramatic and a new,
reckless grace: this hedonist wants
semen to twist into sea ice.
The sex-party runs coronas over memory
and men’s room fantasies.
My alphabet of interplay arcs from artist
to zouave, and every motherfucker
one could covet in between.
Mortality is an architecture
I’m burning out of by kissing like wild birds.
I prepare my pure philosophy:
great people know what regular people
want. A liberation miracle. A vision
in emptiness. A man in motion who purrs
specifics, beautiful poets, a honey-water
woman with a wonderful wish.
I crave and murmur and make it all
into the music of desire.

oulipost 29: rock’n’roll legend

While I love the Oulipost concept for the prompt today — “Canada Dry“, the champagne of soft drinks, meaning a prompt that seems like restricted writing but isn’t — I don’t think I have the time or patience to really do it justice as I’d like. I just took some biographical factoids from a slush piece about Bruce Springsteen, and started by deleting all the proper nouns. Then I deleted a lot of other things. And just got this dashed-together sketch which was erased and re-arranged, not particularly carefully and not particularly artfully, because, well, Canada Dry.

Seriously though, I love the concept. After this hellish month draws to its conclusion, I’ll have to go back and give the idea another whirl.

Rock’n’Roll Legend Discusses Impact of Parents’ Divorce

A 14-year-old sees his childhood home
on the popular variety show. Inspired to be
in front of an audience, he could then
guitar a wonderful wish. His mother, having
60 bucks to buy obscure songs,
fails physical meaning, will always say
his father would probably die straight.
When he came home, his father said,
audition in front of the man who had
a relationship in spite of everything. He was
giving him so much, once. Music that night
made everywhere spring. The effect
and the relationship, ugly/beautiful, came out.
The bottom line: all three things made him
a megastar, used up and spit out.
He has outlasted most of the married.
The footnote in his life? He kind of laughed off
the personal things: marrying, and kids.

oulipost/napowrimo 28: shrink’s wife

In an odd case of synchronicity, NaPoWriMo’s prompt today was to use text from a newspaper; so naturally, without even trying, I am cramming this together with my offering for Oulipost today (a melting snowball), creating the unholy beast known as the NaPOuliPoWriMoSt. The good thing about this unholy beast is that it was pretty light on my brain today, which I needed, because I wrote a golddurn triptych poem for Poetic Asides today about some heavy emotional stuff, plus a piece for workshop. Which catapults me, by some kind of count, into the nineties (in terms of number of April drafts). Ughhhh.

But, something wonderful is that NaPo also featured CSHS Quarterly on their site! There’s still nine hours left to submit for the Alchemies issue; better late than never, eh?

Fun facts about this poem’s source (an interview with the owner of a new Montreal-style bagel shop here in NYC) include the fact that “all-hands-on-deck” was in there, as was “eye-to-eye”, which I shamelessly carved up. I tried to keep the words in the order they appeared, but I was desperate to have honey-water in there, so I messed with it a bit.

Shrink’s Wife, a Local Poet, Assesses Hubby’s Methods

Therapeutically:
all-hands-on-deck.
Aesthetically:
observations problematic.
Honey-water:
beautiful together.
Certain things:
other.
Work:
eye – to – I.

oulipost 27: expectant couple

I’ve lost track, but I think this is poem draft 88 for the month of April. Can I hit 100 by the end, the big finish? Here’s hoping. And then I’m going to crawl into a hole and die for two weeks, then slither out and revise for several more. I’ve stated that if I hit 100 drafts this month, I’ll be happy if I can pull out 10 which are decent enough to turn into Real Poems. Ten within one month seems like a respectable number.

The Oulipost prompt is another sonnet-y one, an irrational sonnet with the stanzas divided into lines equivalent to the first five digits of pi: 3, 1, 4, 1, 5. I tried to stay pretty true to form, pulling out whole lines of iambic pentameter (sometimes a bit long or short) from the Voice‘s weekly event listings, padded with a couple of filler words to keep the narrative structured and rhyme-ish, along with a questionable turn from “he” to “she”. The line break change actually doesn’t do much for me; I guess it’s supposed to create a different sense of balance among the parts of the poem, but if I had no line breaks whatsoever, I feel like it would read much the same. But I’ll let y’all be the judges.

Expectant Couple Named Artists-in-Residence

Although we’re never taken far beyond
analysis of sound and language, we
will have to introduce a bill to ban

this man in motion, doing stuff: maybe

he purrs instructions to the pregnant woman,
says no, it’s not a midlife crisis. He
will carefully study different kinds of voices.
In lyrics written with her mother, she

is kinder, gentler, but no less confusing:

a week of readings, talks, and master classes,
appearances by poets, scholars, the
approachably experimental. It’s
their seismic sense of interplay, what
they do with the specifics of his face.

oulipost 26: ask a psychic

And lastly, before I cave in on myself in a singularity of poetic burnout, another lighthearted-fantastical one for Oulipost‘s beautiful outlaw (belle absente) prompt. I took the name Orson Welles for this one: the first line is written without the letter “o”, the second without the letter “r”, etc. Managed to even get some rhyme in there! All words are sourced from an article in the Voice about his film version of Othello, and turned into a goofy new age vaguery piece about dreams. Go figure.

Five poems today. Fin. *mic drop*

Ask a Psychic (see Page 13)

The scrap-fabric mysteries are seductive:
easy to decode and easy to believe.
A ribbon of dream fanning out like vertigo
is assembled in the hair, wispy-refusing-stiff,
as the dark fits together, bright but slow.

A mosaic might be made (and then undone)
by imagination. Who could look away?
Or, the setting may rather be pieced together,
each jagged vision in emptiness, one by one:
iron grillwork, black flags. A body of a play
you need can be learned, or embittered.

oulipost 25: goddess of wisdom

Playing catch-up on yesterday’s poems again, after a rough evening. This is for yesterday’s Oulipost prompt of taking two sentences from a text (in this case, an article about horse carriages from the Village Voice), inserting a sentence in between to enrich the narrative (in that case, an article about artist Judy Chicago), and repeating the process until a fleshy narrative is created. I honestly had no idea where this was going until I got to sticking the last sentence in, and I decided to just let it go the whimsical direction it wanted. Shrug?

Goddess of Wisdom Provides New Batch of Pegasi

No human has ever died as
a result of a carriage accident. We’re just
regular people who want to go to work.
It’s not that she has any complaints about
her own career. So what does she have to be upset about?
But we really don’t know. She’s coming off
a day’s work and sounds a little weary.
She’s a petite woman, but
her personality towers. Butterflies have come
in and out of my work for years,
but it’s always been a symbol of liberation, she says.
Where I am now is a miracle.
Our horses are helpful, fit, happy, bright-eyed,
and a good weight. Red, pink, purple, fuchsia,
white, silver, and gold. This is
the best birthday present in the world.
Even in pain, horses will run races.

oulipost 24: neighborhood boys

Getting my Oulipost on this lovely afternoon. Today’s prompt was to do a homosyntaxism, taking found text and converting words to other words with the same part of speech: nouns become other nouns, verbs become other verbs, etc. I decided to adapt the prompt a bit and call it a slow burn, where the poem applies these changes to the same sentence one iteration at a time, as you’ll see below. I’m sure there’s a better name for it, but I like “slow burn” because it applies to the content of the piece. The original sentence is the first one, and it’s from the Voice, and it’s a throwaway line whose provenance I can’t recall.

Neighborhood Boys Exchange Difference of Opinion

The conversation turned to us talking about the people and things that made our local spots great.
The conversation turned to us talking about the people and things that made our local spots deadly.
The argument turned to us talking about the people and things that made our local spots deadly.
The argument turned to us talking about the speedballs and things that made our local spots deadly.
The argument led to us talking about the speedballs and things that made our local spots deadly.
The argument led to us talking about the speedballs and switchblades that made our local spots deadly.
The argument led to us talking about the speedballs and switchblades that made our usual spots deadly.
The argument led to us talking about the speedballs and switchblades that left our usual spots deadly.
The argument led to us showing off the speedballs and switchblades that left our usual spots deadly.
The argument led to us showing off the speedballs and switchblades which left our usual spots deadly.
The argument led to us showing off the speedballs and switchblades, which left our usual day deadly.

poem-a-thon 23: serenading the madam

Gah, managed to get my four poems for today done before the end of work, thanks to a brief lull in things. This is for the NaPoWriMo post of doing a homophonic translation, which is to say, taking a poem in a foreign language and shifting it into English. This requires some clever use of orthography and/or some familiarity with the language’s phonology, plus a certain willingness to skim carelessly and just roll with the punches. My go-to language for such exercises is usually an Eastern European one (Hungarian and Serbian are favorites), but this time I went to Finnish, and the poem “Won’t You Close Your Eyes” by Olli Heikkonen. Here’s the original text:

Sulkisit jo silmäsi.
Heidän valonsa on muita valoja kirkkaampaa.
Se pakottaa silmiä ja korventaa niskaa.
Se tulee puiden takaa, ihmisten valo,
ja saa minut säntäämään
pensaisiin ja pitkään heinään
metsän hyiseen ytimeen.

Että millaista on pudota suohon
suorin jaloin, sorkat kuin lyijypunnukset.

Ihokarvat työntyvät turpeeseen,
jokainen huokonen
rävähtää auki. Rävähtää auki

sillä mudan ja liejun syvyyksiin
on juurtunut pehmeä valo,
sinne on juurtunut
yksinkertainen valo.

Which translates (according to Maria Lyytinen at this page) as:

Won’t you close your eyes.
Their light is brighter than other lights.
It aches in the eyes and scorches the neck.
It comes from beyond the trees, human light,
and makes me race
to the shrubs and tall grass
to the icy core of the forest.

And what it is like to sink into the swamp
with straight legs, hooves like lead weights.

Hairs push into the turf,
every pore
bursts open. Bursts open

for in the depths of mud and sludge
a soft light has taken root,
a simple light
has taken root.

But which I rendered — with my knowledge of Finnish phonology, ignorance of Finnish vocabulary, and a good deal of alphabet soup transmogrification — as some kind of frustrated love song to a bordello ex-baby-mama or something. Not at all in keeping with the rest of my stuff this month, but language and ignorance make strange bedfellows:

Serenading the Madam

Sulkily, I sit on your sill, massing
hate and valors on my values. Quick computations
see packets of similar conventions in the scar
you set me, putting talk into my stain. Value?
You say “minutes”, and tall men
penning sighs in a pinch can have no one
medicine. Who’s seen what I mean?

Add a million stars. Open dots of sun:
sun, or yellowing sores. Caught queen, looped and naked.

I, who carved out twins too vast to represent,
joke that I’m an awoken
raven, the owl key. Raven. The owl key.

Silly mother, you lie on your cervix in
one of your turned-out pay-me-off wallows.
Sins are on your tongue,
whose skin — certainly — is valued.

oulipost 23: cannibal

On a roll with the Oulipost prompts, at least. Today’s was to do an “inventory” poem, dividing up the words in a text by part of speech and working that into a poem. I took an advice column in the Voice responding to the reader’s question about whether to go vegan, and ended up with, um, this. Tongue planted in a very macabre cheek.

The italic bits started as direct quotes, but I cobbled them a little bit in the end. The four lists are verbs, concrete nouns, adjectives, and abstract nouns, respectively, drawn from the response. (There are some prepositions/articles mixed in for flourish. Sue me.) I tried to work in a bit of subtle sound similarity as well.

One more poem to go! I’m trying to get these done early in the day so I can relax this evening…

Cannibal Comes to Terms with Self, Diet

I clearly remember the day I decided
I don’t like people telling me what to do.
Prepare, continue, embrace.
Move, become, reclaim.
Should take, can do, must face.

Something that I once thought was pure evil:
occasionally I’d splurge.
Cow’s body, bird flesh, the dead.
Swordfish steak, bacon, eggs.
Vegan burger. Human head.

I enjoyed it more passionately.
I seemed to love it even more.
Unique, biological, honest.
Grotesque, bizarre, pure.
Full-blown, aware of the finest.

I wrestle with the fact that I might have to choose
a version of myself that had existed before.
Thought in sin in sincerity.
Pleasure. Damage. Brutality.
Omnivore-violence-philosophy.

oulipost 22: pine barren rangers

Better late than never, yeah? I’m trying to make up for lost time this morning by getting some poems done; two down, two to go. This is for yesterday’s Oulipost prompt about antonymy, taking a found text and making as many of the words as possible into antonyms. I took some liberties and tweaked it a bit to make it more “poetic”, where possible. The original text was about carriage horses in NYC, and given that yesterday was Earth Day, I spun that as much as possible into an environmentalist kind of theme. Without further ado:

Pine Barren Rangers Raise Outcry over Hunting Permits

The sound of the Washington Forest birding grounds
vanishes after the feel of them,
the division of scrub grass and bayberries
and osprey shadows. It tumbles out of the sky
over the nameless bays, far west of the barrier islands,
next to Washington Preserve, for which
the birding grounds are not named.
The sound does not freeze your feet in place,
ignorant to the sudden cocks and hens.
One long ago morning, too, the gates were crowded.
A few of Jersey’s unknown wild birds
were fanning out their dark, lifting out of clearings
at nine mudflats collected on the edge marsh.
Outside Washington Forest,
when the avian visitors rustle uneasily awake,
upright carnivores were, at last,
burning their armistice to ash.