“It is fatal to decide, intellectually, what good poetry is because you are then in honour bound to try to write it, instead of the poems that only you can write.”
“Poetry should begin with emotion in the poet, and end with the same emotion in the reader. The poem is simply the instrument of transference.
“I never think of poetry or the poetry scene, only separate poems written by individuals. The poetic impulse is distinct from ideas about things or feelings about things, though it may use these. It’s more like a desire to separate a piece of one’s experience & set it up on its own, an isolated object never to trouble you again, at least not for a bit. In the absence of this impulse nothing stirs.”
“Novels are about other people and poems are about yourself.”
“As a guiding principle I believe that every poem must be its own sole freshly created universe, and therefore have no belief n ‘tradition’ or a common myth-kitty or casual allusions in poems to other poems or poets, which last I find unpleasantly like the talk of literary understrappers letting you see they know the right people.”
“I think a young poet, or an old poet, for that matter, should try to produce something that pleases himself personally, not only when he’s written it but a couple of weeks later. Then he should see if it pleases anyone else, by sending it to the kind of magazine he likes reading.”
“If you tell a novelist, ‘Life’s not like that’, he has to do something about it. The poet simply replies, ‘No, but I am.”
“I think we got much better poetry when it was all regarded as sinful or subversive, and you had to hide it under the cushion when somebody came in.”
“Poetry is an affair of sanity, of seeing things as they are.”
“When I get sent manuscripts from aspiring poets, I do one of two things: if there is no stamped self-addressed envelope, I throw it into the bin.-If there is, I write and tell them to f**k off.”
Having received such a seemingly enthusiastic response to my last post on the pollock, I decided to follow it up with yet another poetic form inspired by an abstract expressionist visual artist – the rothko. Created by poet Bob Holman who named the form after the painter Mark Rothko, it is a three-line poem with each line consisting of three words. Emulating Rothko (who was notorious for his bold use of color), the poem must contain the names of three different hues. These colors have to appear in the poem in either a horizontal, vertical or diagonal line (much like in tic-tac-toe). Another one of Holman’s rules for writing a rothko is that it can only be written while standing in front of an actual Rothko painting. Because of the difficulty for most poets to follow this, I think it is definitely permissible to ignore that particular rule. Instead, I found images of Rothko’s masterpieces online, and used them as my inspiration for the following examples:
Frisky black spaniels
Pursue grey squirrels
Through green grass
The Leaf Peepers
Everywhere they seek
Heralds of autumn –
Red, Orange, Yellow
Our Daily Quarrel
Verbal purple explosions
Puncturing white hush
Of amber afternoons
Tragedy on the First Day of School
Blue skies above,
Yellow bus runs
Red stop sign
Beige bones buried
Under umber earth –
Grief so black
The Pollock is a rather obscure and fairly eccentric poetry form invented by poet and art critic John Yau to pay tribute to the American abstract expressionist painter Jackson Pollock. It is a fourteen-line poem with the rather unusual requirement that the first line must be a quotation by the artist. The remaining thirteen lines consist strictly of words from Pollock’s quote, the idea being to splatter words repeatedly on the page like he famously did with paint on his canvases. Although the form might sound restrictive and totally wacko, I actually found it a real blast to write. Interestingly, another one of the rules of writing a pollock is to break the rules any time you feel like it (much like Pollock did with his painting). So it is more than permissible to substitute one of your favorite quotes by someone else for the Pollock quotation (perhaps even a clever quip by a poet that was previously posted on this blog). However, in my attempt which you will find below, I decided to stay a purist, and utilize Pollock’s response during an interview when asked “How do you know when you’re finished painting?” He simply replied, “How do you know when you’re finished making love?”:
Making Love (a Pollock)
How do you know when you’re finished making love?
When you’re making love, you know.
You know when you’re making love,
you know how you’re making love.
You know when you’re finished.
You love making love,
you know you do.
When making love, you know love.
you know you.
You love love,
you love you,
love making you you.
How do you do, Love,
how do you do?
So what do you think of the pollock? Is it a form you would like to try or wouldn’t touch with a ten-foot pole? Ironically, for a poetry form inspired by a visual artist, I personally feel (that because of the repetition of words and its resulting musicality) pollocks sound much better read out loud than they look written on the page. Keep that in mind if you do decide to write one (perhaps you can read yours at a local poetry open mic, something I honestly believe that every poet should do every once in a while).