Thursday, May 15, 2008

Connections/Ars Poetica

So, I was thinking about art (Irmagean's "Movin On" is pictured above) and poetry this morning and went to the Academy website and saw a feature on the art of the ars poetica, which got me thinking about how I would define the term and an ars poetica poem. And because I'm thinking about other things happening in my life and the "po biz", I was drawn to this poem:

Ars Poetica (cocoons)

Six monarch butterfly cocoons
clinging to the back of your throat—

you could feel their gold wings trembling.

You were alarmed. You felt infested.
In the downstairs bathroom of the family home,
gagging to spit them out—
and a voice saying Don’t, don’t—

--Dana Levin

Which, in turn, led me to this poem:

The Poems I Have Not Written

I’m so wildly unprolific, the poems
I have not written would reach
from here to the California coast
if you laid them end to end.

And if you stacked them up,
the poems I have not written
would sway like a silent
Tower of Babel, saying nothing

and everything in a thousand
different tongues. So moving, so
filled with and emptied of suffering,
so steeped in the music of a voice

speechless before the truth,
the poems I have not written
would break the hearts of every
woman who’s ever left me,

make them eye their husbands
with a sharp contempt and hate
themselves for turning their backs
on the very source of beauty.

The poems I have not written
would compel all other poets
to ask of God: "Why do you
let me live? I am worthless.

please strike me dead at once,
destroy my works and cleanse
the earth of all my ghastly
imperfections." Trees would

bow their heads before the poems
I have not written. "Take me,"
they would say, "and turn me
into your pages so that I

might live forever as the ground
from which your words arise."
The wind itself, about which
I might have written so eloquently,

praising its slick and intersecting
rivers of air, its stately calms
and furious interrogations,
its flutelike lingerings and passionate
reproofs, would divert its course
to sweep down and then pass over
the poems I have not written,
and the life I have not lived, the life

I’ve failed even to imagine,
which they so perfectly describe.

--John Brehm

Which, in turn, made me think of this:

Myron Michael (or Mystro) has a track called "i am" on his new CD, Masters Thesis, that reminds of this poem. The gist of one of the verses runs along the same lines as the poem above.

Reading the poems and listening to the CD, in turn, made me think of this poem (though I didn't quite remember the expletives), which is also a type of ars poetica:

I Like My Own Poems

I like my own poems
I quote from them
from time to time
saying, "A poet once said,"
and then follow up
with a line or two
from one of my own poems
appropriate to the event.
How those lines sing!
All that wisdom and beauty!
Why it tickles my ass
off its spine.
"Why those lines are mine!"
I say
and Jesus, what a bang
I get out of it.

I like the ideas in them,
my poems,
ideas that hit home.
They speak to me.
I mean, I understand
what the hell
the damn poet's
talking about.
"Why I've been there,
the same thing," I shout,
and Christ! What a shot it is,
a shot.

And hey,
The words!
I can hardly stand it.
Words sure do not fail
this guy, I say.
From some world
only he knows
he bangs the bong,
but I can feel it
in the wood,
in the wood of the word,
rising to its form
in the world.
"Now, you gotta be good
to do that!" I say
and damn! It just shakes
my heart,
you know?

--Jack Grapes

Which, in turn, made me think of Lucille Clifton, who once said, 'If I'm the person that said the smart thing, then I'll repeat it', when discussing why she used one of her own lines as an epigraph to a new poem. I often think of this poem as one of Ms. Lucille's ars poeticas:

i am accused of tending to the past

i am accused of tending to the past
as if i made it,
as if i sculpted it
with my own hands. i did not.
this past was waiting for me
when i came,
a monstrous unnamed baby,
and i with my mother's itch
took it to breast
and named it
she is more human now,
learning languages everyday,
remembering faces, names and dates.
when she is strong enough to travel
on her own, beware, she will.

--Lucille Clifton

So, what is an ars poetica?
Well, Horace would have his say, but I'm still not sure how to define it in concrete terms. Generally, though, I believe when the term is used in contemporary poetry it simply means a poem about poetry or why one is or has been drawn to writing poetry, though I think it can be applied to other art forms as well. Since, in many ways, I deem the ars poetica a defining and connecting piece, this, in turn, leads me to believe that I am still writing/finding/mining mine...

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Alvin Ailey Dance Theatre -- Wade in the Water

Front row. Center. Alvin Ailey. Revelations. Need I say more? Well, I guess a little more...

I finally scored tickets to see the Alvin Ailey Dance Theatre in Norfolk and they were phenomenal. When they unvelied the first memorable stance from Ailey's most famous piece, "Revelations", the audience went mad. We were all waiting for Ailey's 1960 masterpiece that helped solidify him as one of the most talented dancers/choreographers of the modern dance era. The Alvin Ailey Theatre is celebrating their fiftieth year in 2008. Fifty years of this timeless beauty.

While the entire performance was stunning, I found myself most entralled by the "Wade in the Water" section of "Revelations". You can watch the entire section in the clip above. I truly believe that, in another life and time, I was meant to be an Alvin Ailey dancer (stop laughing, Mom)...

I'm sure I was almost the last person on earth to get to see the Ailey ensemble live, but, in case you've somehow missed them, don't let them pass you by again.