I was doing so well with not being crazy busy in my off-time this week, and then it was just one thing after another… people visiting New York, yoga busy-ness, dropping by a writer’s group, et cetera et cetera. It’s all been socially marvelous, but I definitely haven’t had as much time as I wanted for writing (and submitting, eek! falling behind!). I’m designating Friday night and Saturday morning as my catch-up time, as usual. Have several submissions to send in, a couple poetry things to write, and possibly a surprise. (And also drafting some ideas/outlines for NaNoWriMo, because, that.)
We Write Poems asks for a list of why you write. I wasn’t feeling the list poem idea, and instead wanted to couch my answer within a story I’ve been meaning to turn into a poem. (My friend I was driving with when this happened a month ago was the one who came up on Tuesday night.) You know how people write about writer’s block when they have it; consider this my writing about not knowing how to explore a snapshot image when I have one. It’s a pretty structured poem, lots of three-part things and parallelisms happening throughout, which I hope will make it digestible. Fun fact: I think I used every letter in here.
The title is the name of an alchemical treatise from 17th century France that gave wordless diagrams about how to create the philosopher’s stone. (Transformative!) It means “Silent Book” in Latin, which is pretty cool. And when it comes to Ars Poetica, I’m a disciple of Archibald MacLeish’s poem, which we read on the first day of my creative writing class in high school, and has stuck with me since. (I used to have a blog subtitled “an empty doorway and a maple leaf”, somewhere.) Billy Collins has a somewhat more wry treatment that I enjoy too, and I’m a huge fan of Jack Spicer’s “A Book of Music“, just for its ending: Yes, / Poetry ends like a rope. I don’t think there’s anything more to say than that.
The other night, as we drove over the bridge from Philly,
nine deer came galloping along the toll plaza’s verge.
Antlers broke in the sodium light:
young buck deer. We slowed down
Between the lines of the smallest stories live other,
quieter stories. And we, the only species blessed with
knowledge of how much we don’t know,
must figure them out.
Salt rises in the blood and lightning begins:
what were they running from? where are they going?
What has become of all of their deer wives?
Their tails flashed in the envious dark as they
disappeared into a stand of maples. Our curiosity
chased after them,
this old god we all carry,
taking the shape of desired translation.
We want to learn that pitch just outside our hearing;
we want to tell the stories that come before the stories,
and after the stories; we want to speak
deer-memory and deer-beauty.
We, the only species cursed with language,
must find other ways to pin out the wings of seen
and unseen. Each word bubbles up like
a scarlet thorn that turns those deer to champions,
a drop of water that dissolves night for us to drink,
a white-hot nail that coaxes through the tongue.