my life by poetry

Poetry meme from Michelle:

The first poem I remember reading was… “As I was going to St. Ives”. The first poem I remember, ever, is Brahms’ lullaby.

I was forced to memorize numerous poems in school and… I was only occasionally made to memorize poems in school, and I was terrible at it. Luckily most of my k-12 poetry eduction was creative writing or poetry analysis and not lame rote memorization. That said, I can still recite “Nothing Gold Can Stay” (Ms. Swoger, 9th grade English)

I read poetry because… well… I rarely read poetry. I prefer to read a novel that I can just suck up and enjoy. Poetry is difficult and rarely rewarding for me. When it is good it is very very good, and when it is bad it is horrid. … Also I enjoy writing poetry and you have to know the medium.

Michelle said this, which I agree with: “I hate sentences. At least today. I much prefer scattered text and line breaks to sentences and paragraphs. The sentence makes me feel uncomfortable and like I am waiting for something to be over. Okay. I don’t hate the sentence. But I do like broken things. And music. And shapes. some of the reasons I read poetry.” Deleuze would be proud.

A poem I’m likely to think about when asked about a favorite poem… is Shelley’s “Ode to the West Wind.”. I have lots of favorite poems or books of poems… I love Susan Howe’s Thorow, Muriel Ruckeyser’s U.S. 1, Laura Riding’s “Poet: A Lying Word,” Stein’s “A Valentine to Sherwood Anderson”, Niedecker’s “Paean to Place” … most of my favorite 20thC poems are by women. But Shelley is an old love; we have a history together.

I write poetry, but… I want to create huge installation pieces. And I only very rarely write poetry.

My experience with reading poetry differs from my experience with reading other types of literature… not so much. When I read “for pleasure” I often pick up a Victorian or Modernist novel, something straightforward and plot-driven. When I read for enlightenment, so to speak, poetry, theory, novel, memoir, drama all work on me in very similar ways. For me it is more about the message than the medium. Media are flexible; genres are plastic. Is in Search of Lost Time never philosophy? Are Camera Lucida or To The Lighthouse never poetry? Is wide slumber for lepidopterists never drama? Maybe it isn’t so much that I’m looking for message over medium, but that I prefer messages that must be conveyed through more complex, genre-defying media.

I find poetry… exhausting, difficult, unrewarding. Exciting, open, raw, artificial, beautiful, challenging.

The last time I heard poetry… was Charles’s reading of Girly Man, for the “high poetry” market, but in general, commercials that are poetic and Wynton Marsalis’s rendition of “The Night Before Christmas.”

I think poetry is like… architecture. Nuclear physics. Patterns and traces of life and movement. Codes for behavior and thought and human interaction. Politics. Love.

Tagging the locals: Maureen, Ryan, Sandra, Tom, Rod. I tag Lorraine too if it doesn’t interfere with her packing.


About Jessica Smith
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