Sunday, May 17, 2009

Original Poetry Sunday: "Ghazal 5/16"

Sandra Leigh of the fantastic blog, Amazing Voyages of the Turtle has come up with the excellent idea of Original Poetry Sunday, & as my contribution I'm posting the latest poem in the ongoing Ghazal series; as per the title, it was written yesterday, tho it received a rather extensive revision this morning.

Which leads me to the observation that a poem can seem to be technically polished
—the "sounds" can seem right, the images can seem to be arresting—but if it's not "true" to itself, it remains "bad poetry." In the original version, the poem was much more "lush" & dream-like, but it really called for a more direct presentation. While technique is crucial, technique by itself can't redeem a poem that's untrue to itself. What this poem "wanted" to be about was a moment that passed between a friend & myself many years ago; in a sense that moment encapsulated much about our relationship—misunderstood "rejections" springing from self-consciousness & jealously guarded personae coupled with a tendency to "poeticize" events & to become trapped in imagined narratives. Such "imagined narratives" are perhaps an inherent danger of the poetic course I've pursued for the past 30 years & more. Of course, when we continue to cast events in a false light, that's when poetry becomes deception in the sense stated by various philosophers—when we cast events in the light of awareness, that's when poetry can, I believe, be part of healing. This all has been part of an ongoing argument with myself about poetry for more than 20 years.

On a lighter note, I've been thrilled to see all the poems being written in the blogging community I feel a part of, & I think Sandra's Original Poetry Sunday will not only highlight this, but also inspire others to try their hand as well.

I hope you enjoy this & all the other Original Poetry Sunday posts.

Ghazal 5/16

waxing crescent afloat within a white nimbus—
nothing’s distinct—a tremoloed note on a

mandolin & the willow limbs’ gray resignation—an-
other night amongst visitations convinced I’m really there—

a Virginia cottage house on a street “that
really went no place”—a silence with eyes singing

hysterically & I said Let’s dance taking her hand &
she turned aside— another visitation across pages

of poems singing You must change your life
a walk thru muttering streets thru a white fog—I

keep writing the same poem for how many
nights & years & mornings a streetlight’s white

nimbus beyond an electric typewriter’s midnight hum in a
Virginia cottage house—a tremoloed mandolin a hysterical

silence becoming a blurry nimbus the weeks & years
& hours of the same poem repeated a

visitation becoming dawn’s twilight a
tremolo on a mandolin this whitening morning


  1. "When We cast events in the light of awareness" I like that John.

    "another night amongst visitations convinced I'm really there-" I like this line alot too. Nice poem. Hope your travels went well.

  2. I am always so blown away by your work. Does it just come to you? How do you do it? You're so prolific! Wow.

    Thank you.

  3. I Sit With Your Poem This Afternoon.Thank You John.

  4. I hope that someday I'll be able to capture a moment, with all the emotions that cling to that moment, as you did in your poem. I tried to do that today, to capture what I saw at Departure Bay, but a hundred revisions later, I was (and am) not satisfied with the result. (On the other hand, I think I'm brilliant to have come up with this Original Poetry Sunday idea, because I can learn so much from you.) Thank you, John.

  5. Yes, how we all "keep writing the same poem for how many nights & years & mornings" :)

    It's funny, I have gone back and forth in much the same way as you, for so many years over-revising, then letting that go, and then again sometimes needing to because the truer poem wasn't revealed yet. Remember how Michelangelo said he only cut away the rock to reveal the David? I think that's what we are all trying to do-- in art, and in our lives.

    Beautiful ghazal.

  6. Hi Randy, Reya & Tony:

    Randy: Thanks-- glad you found the remarks meaningful, & that you liked the poem.

    Reya: Well I have been prolific of late, & there have been other points in time when I was consistently prolific. I don't know that it "comes to" me as much as "comes over" me. But I really appreciate that you like my work.

    Tony: Enjoy, & thanks!

  7. Hi Sandra & René:

    Sandra: I totally agree with René's recent comment on your blog about the strengths of your poem & how well it in fact captures a moment-- I wish I'd put it as well in comment as she did in hers. But I'd also point to the "cornsilk" line & the "wound" line, as well as the repeated opening line.

    René: Yes, writing the same poem in that sense, but also in the sense that sometimes even "different" poems all strike me as the same poem. & yes, the letting go you speak of is what I'm looking for in these poems--not always easy, because it's so much easier to use poetry to perpetuate our own private mythos....

    I was really taken by both your poems & Sandra's this morning. & thanks again to Sandra for the idea.

  8. hey John,the Ghazal is great as always and I would love to see them in a book with accomanying readings on CD,but it is the text of your post that i need to read over again, preferably when/if I am sober.There is a well-deserved award for you over at mine.

  9. Thanks TFE: Come on back for a re-read whenever it fits in your schedule!

  10. This is wonderful, John. One of your best.

  11. What you say about truth and "bad" poetry has got me thinking. I remember reading Benjamin Britten saying that he thought there were many weak moments in his compositions but that no critic had yet found one of them. I think he meant something similar - moments when the music "worked" but not as he intended it to.

  12. Hi Dominic:

    I think that's very possibly what he may have meant. The music & dazzling imagery of poetry can be a double-edged sword, as it can blind us to "what's beneath." The German poets of Gruppe 47, including Grass, Boll, Celan & a personal favorite Ingeborg Bachmann, thought about this a lot for serious political reasons following WWII.

  13. Very nice love poetry.
    I am sharing some of my favorite love poetry here.

    Nazar jab us se milti thi
    Men khud ko bhool jata tha.
    Bas ik dharrkan dharrakti thi
    Men DIL ko bhool jata tha.
    Ussay milney se pehley men boht sajta sanwrta tha.
    Magar jab wo sanwarti thi.
    Men khud ko bhool jata tha.
    Men aksar kitabon pr
    Usi ka nam likhta tha.
    Magar kuch wo jo likhti thi.
    Men likhna bhol jata tha.
    Men aksar hi ye kehta tha.
    Men tum se pyar krta hon.
    Mgr jab wo ye kehti thi.
    Me dunya bhol jata tha…!


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