I am so pleased to announce that for the very first time, one of the many poetry forms that I invented has been published somewhere other than this blog. At the end of last month, the prestigious online literary journal in a blog format Radius: Poetry From the Center to the Edge posted three of my streetbeatinas (I originally submitted two, but the editor requested a third) along with a short history and explanation of the form. The streatbeatina is one of the first poetic forms I ever created and a personal favorite of mine. Normally, I would now give instructions on how to write one, and show a few examples, but I figure that would be redundant, since all you need to know about the streetbeatina can be found at radiuslit.org. Please check it out, and let me know what you think by either leaving a comment on Radius or back here on this blog. I would really appreciate it, and hope you will be inspired to try writing a streetbeatina of your own (warning: it will be a challenge, but I think you will enjoy it).
“Poetry helps me understand who I am. It helps me understand the world around me. But above all, what poetry has taught me is the fact that I need to embrace mystery in order to be completely human.”
“Poetry is a process of getting back to the unconscious. Hence, I am always writing-even when I’m not facing the white space. I feel writers are like reservoirs of images. We take in what is around us.”
“I like connecting the abstract to the concrete. There’s a tension in that. I believe the reader or listener should be able to enter the poem as a participant. So I try to get past resolving poems.”
“It wasn’t a deliberate decision to become a poet. It was something I found myself doing – and loving. Language became an addiction.”
“I define poetry as celebration and confrontation. When we witness something, are we responsible for what we witness? That’s an on-going existential question. Perhaps we are and perhaps there’s a kind of daring, a kind of necessary energetic questioning. Because often I say it’s not what we know, it’s what we can risk discovering.”
“Poets are seen as the caretakers of language, so working with words no matter what the form is what we do.”
“Students often have such a lofty idea of what a poem is, and I want them to realize that their own lives are where the poetry comes from. The most important things are to respect the language; to know the classical rules, even if only to break them; and to be prepared to edit, to revise, to shape.”
“Poetry is a kind of distilled insinuation. It’s a way of expanding and talking around an idea or a question. Sometimes, more actually gets said through such a technique than a full frontal assault.”
“There’s a sameness about American poetry that I don’t think represents the whole people. It represents a poetry of the moment, a poetry of evasion, and I have problems with this. I believe poetry has always been political, long before poets had to deal with the page and white space . . . it’s natural.”
“I think of my poems as personal and public at the same time. You could say they serve as psychological overlays. One fits on top of the other, and hopefully there’s an ongoing evolution of clarity.”
“Writers sometimes give up what is most strange and wonderful about their writing – soften their roughest edges – to accommodate themselves toward a group response.”
“I want to write something so simply about love or about pain that even as you are reading you feel it and as you read you keep feeling it and though it be my story it will be common, though it be singular it will be known to you so that by the end you will think— no, you will realize— that it was all the while yourself arranging the words, that it was all the time words that you yourself, out of your heart had been saying.”
“I consider myself kind of a reporter – one who uses words that are more like music and that have a choreography. I never think of myself as a poet; I just get up and write.”
“I decided very early that I wanted to write. But I didn’t think of it as a career. I didn’t even think of it as a profession… It was the most exciting thing, the most powerful thing, the most wonderful thing to do with my life.”
“I have a notebook with me all the time, and I begin scribbling a few words. When things are going well, the walk does not get anywhere; I finally just stop and write.”
“It was not a choice of writing or not writing. It was a choice of loving my life or not loving my life. To keep writing was always a first priority…. I worked probably 25 years by myself…. Just writing and working, not trying to publish much. Not giving readings. A longer time than people really are willing to commit before they want to go public.”
“It is no use thinking that writing of poems – the actual writing – can accommodate itself to a social setting, even the most sympathetic social setting of a workshop composed of friends. It cannot. The work improves there and often the will to work gets valuable nourishment and ideas. But, for good reasons, the poem requires of the writer not society or instruction, but a patch of profound and unbroken solitude.”
“I’ve always wanted to write poems and nothing else.”
“Writing a poem … is a kind of possible love affair between something like the heart (that courageous but also shy factory of emotion) and the learned skills of the conscious mind.”
“… to write well it is entirely necessary to read widely and deeply. Good poems are the best teachers.”
“Poetry to me is prayer.”
“When I’m writing, I know I’m doing the thing I was born to do.”
“A woman who writes feels too much.”
“Craft is a trick you make up to let you write the poem.”
“It’s a little mad, but I believe I am many people. When I am writing a poem, I feel I am the person who should have written it.”
“All I am is the trick of words writing themselves.”
“The beautiful feeling after writing a poem is on the whole better even than after sex, and that’s saying a lot.”
“I think of myself as writing for one person, that one perfect reader who understands and loves.”
“I think I’ve been writing black poems all along, wearing my white mask. I’m always the victim … but no longer!”
“I keep feeling that there isn’t one poem being written by any one of us – or a book or anything like that. The whole life of us writers, the whole product I guess I mean, is the one long poem – a community effort if you will. It’s all the same poem. It doesn’t belong to any one writer – it’s God’s poem perhaps. Or God’s people’s poem.”
“I’m a writer who likes to be influenced.”
“I thought, There are a lot of poets who have the courage to look into the abyss, but there are very few who have the courage to look happiness in the face and write about it,’ which is what I wanted to be able to do.”
“Poetry is a deliberate attempt to make language suggestive and imprecise.”
“One day the Nouns were clustered in the street.
An Adjective walked by, with her dark beauty.
The Nouns were struck, moved, changed.
The next day a Verb drove up, and created the Sentence.”
“All poetry comes from repetition.”
“When you finish a poem, it clicks shut like the top of a jewel box, but prose is endless. I haven’t experienced an awful lot of clicking shut!
As for political poetry, as it’s usually defined, it seems there’s very little good political poetry.”
“You can’t be too influenced by a great poet. You simply have to live through it.”
“Poetry, which is written while no one is looking, is meant to be looked at for all time.”
“When you get an idea, go and write. Don’t waste it in conversation.”
As I explained in an earlier post, a lipogram is simply writing in which the author excludes one or more specific letters of the alphabet. Although lipograms can be totally original works (examples include the novels “Gadsby” by Ernest Vincent Wright and “Lost and Found” by Andy West which both omit the letter e), I am particularly fascinated by the variation where pre-existing texts are rewritten in the form. Last time, I shared my lipogram of the Robert Frost poem ” Fire and Ice” without any i’s entitled “Flame and Frozen Water” . This time I have attempted to revise the first section of the Edgar Allen Poe classic poem” The Bells” by avoiding the most frequently used letter in the English language – e (I am still working on converting the other three). First here is the original:
Hear the sledges with the bells—
What a world of merriment their melody foretells!
How they tinkle, tinkle, tinkle,
In the icy air of night!
While the stars that oversprinkle
All the heavens, seem to twinkle
With a crystalline delight;
Keeping time, time, time,
In a sort of Runic rhyme,
To the tintinabulation that so musically wells
From the bells, bells, bells, bells,
Bells, bells, bells—
From the jingling and the tinkling of the bells.
— Edgar Allen Poe
I had an extremely difficult time finding a synonym for bells that did not include the letter e. My first inclination was to rewrite the poem as “Gongs”, but instead I settled on an instrument quite different but often utilized in modern days for the same purposes that bells served in Poe’s time:
Hark! Cars and trucks with horns —
What a world of mishaps this cacophony forwarns!
How that blaring, blaring, blaring
In this humid air of day
With a blazing sun glaring
And human ill humor flaring
Into a rowdy, frantic fray;
Sustaining rhythm, rhythm, rhythm
In a sonic sort of schism
From a sad symphony of traffic that moans and mourns
With car horns, horns, horns, horns,
Horns, horns, horns —
With this tooting and that hooting of car horns!
So what do you think, folks? Was my lipogram successful in retaining the style and flavor of the original? Perhaps my humble effort inspired you to try writing one of your own? Which classic poem would you like to see recreated sans a certain letter? If you do try your hand at one, I hope you will share it with us.