poems, etc.

Zelda's Inferno exercise: "a sign"

Posted on: Sun, 04/15/2012 - 20:55 By: Tom Swiss

Zelda's Inferno exercise: write about how an experience caused a change of mind or a flip of perceptions.

a sign

in my head
for the past few weeks I was
working on a poem about heartbreak
what can you do when your heart is broken?
there's drinking (always available)
and meaningless sex (harder to find)
and changing the radio when a love song comes on

in my head
I am working on this poem about heartbreak
as I drive
thinking about what we do with gifts from old lovers --
keep them around, hide them until we've recovered, throw them
       away, burn them
all the ways we try to cope

Alan Moore on the Guy Fawkes mask Tom Swiss Fri, 02/10/2012 - 16:17

At the BBC, Alan Moore comments on the rise of the Guy Fawkes mask -- made famous by his amazing graphic novel V for Vendetta, and by the mediocre movie adapted from it -- as the face of Anonymous and other protest groups.

(BTW, a guy who seemed to be experiencing a headful of interesting chemicals told me at a New Year's party that I looked like Guy Fawkes...make of that what you will.)

Zelda's Inferno exercise: "I rush to end the separation" / "the empty promise of freedom"

Posted on: Sun, 10/30/2011 - 20:49 By: Tom Swiss

Zelda's Inferno exercise: poem based on the following wordlist, generated from the theme: traffic

patient, stillness, delay, glare, chaos, reflection, overheating, tailgating,
carbon monoxide, separation, congestion, rush, taillight, blacktop,
disabled, backup

I rush to end the separation but
get caught up in the congestion and
the chaos of the backup and
am stuck unmoving, overheating,
instead of moving toward stillness

my patience is disabled
and then I realize
if I'm stuck sitting still
while I'm trying to get to stillness
haven't I already arrived?

there is no where else to go

Exercise 2: free-write from one or more of the following phrases:

extreme vocal attack
there is no cost
empty promise of freedom
the seat of power
hard to argue with

the empty promise of freedom
cults, messiahs, demagogues, rulers
all saying "follow me, I will take you there"
but this empty promise is a contradiction
no one else can take you to the place where
you are free from the need for others to take you places
no one else can give you yourself

freedom is knowing yourself and
no one else can give you yourself
and the empty promises of freedom
are the chatter of salesmen
the bait on the hook
the lure in the snare
the teachers of freedom give tools
not directions, not maps

no one can give it to you
no one can walk it for you
so many empty promises
so many empty words
so many slogans and manifestos
to dress up the vacuum
so the more they talk, the more they promise
the more you can spot the lies

freedom makes no promises

Zelda's Inferno exercise: escape routes

Posted on: Sun, 10/23/2011 - 20:49 By: Tom Swiss

Zelda's Inferno exercise: write a poem on the theme, "escape route":

escape routes

you've got to have a way out
a backup plan
don't hide in a hole unless you've got a tunnel to another exit
never get cornered --
if you do, climb the walls to get away

always leave room in your schedule
don't buy the train ticket until the last minute
maybe you'll want to stay longer or
maybe you'll need to skip town right away

this world is too complex for your plans
maintain flexibility of attack and defense
don't commit until you must
leave options open
have spare keys
know where the exits are in case of fire
have food and water and ammunition on hand in case of zombie apocalypse
be ready to jump out a window if the cops show up

don't get addicted or dependent or otherwise chained
and don't get chained to "non-attachment" either
grasp what comes but be ready, always ready, to let go
when the time comes

it's not paranoia --
or maybe it is, but so what
so long as you don't get trapped
let them say what they will, so long as you remain free
like clouds, like water

Zelda's Inferno's exercise: the ultimate poem Tom Swiss Sun, 10/02/2011 - 20:30

Zelda's Inferno's exercise: either

* Write a poem about the "ultimate" poem, or what a poem "should" do.


* Write a poem using, "how to...". For example, "how to write a poem", "how to break my heart"," how to distinguish a flower from a frog".

(from http://www.davidrm.com/thejournal/tjresources-exercises.php)

the ultimate poem
should grab you by the ears and scream
the ultimate poem
leaves its brand on the brain
the ultimate poem
holds us steady to the truth (says Emerson)
the ultimate poem
will never desert you
the ultimate poem
fills you up but never slows you down
the ultimate poem
inspires other poets (so we do not mean ultimate as "last", never!)
the ultimate poem
is in the language of the people
the ultimate poem
beats a prayer
the ultimate poem
leave ambiguity but no doubt
the ultimate poem
does more for your brain than a shot of whiskey, a bong hit, strong coffee,
      and a cup of mushroom tea put together
the ultimate poem
cannot be shot down
the ultimate poem
seems familiar on the first hearing, but new at the hundredth
the ultimate poem
makes a child stop to hear it
the ultimate poem
does not call attention to itself, and for that reason it is heard
the ultimate poem
is never discussed in your high school English class
the ultimate poem
sits down and tells itself to you
the ultimate poem
speaks out for things
the ultimate poem
never gives up on you
the ultimate poem
does not discriminate on race, religion, national origin, gender,
      sexual preference, or economic class
the ultimate poem
explains itself
the ultimate poem
never apologizes
the ultimate poem
is both scholarly and common
the ultimate poem
loves everyone equally

Zelda's Inferno exercise: "bright pink lipstick" Tom Swiss Sun, 09/11/2011 - 20:50

Zelda's Inferno exercise: write about cigarettes or other addictions (yours or other people's)

my grandmother -- my mother's mother -- wore bright pink lipstick
shocking pink
I remember it on the cigarette butts
white stubs of Pall Malls in an orange plastic ashtray

I can't remember her smoking them
(guess she didn't want to expose my brother and me to the smoke)
but I remember the pink slashes on those bone white ends
only a few shades paler than she was

Sometimes that's all I can picture about her, all these years later:
her sitting in the kitchen smoking Pall Malls
and drinking Tab
and watching soap operas -- her "stories"

and that's not fair, of course

because she was also the grandmother who spoiled us at Christmas
had endless patience for card games
War and Go Fish and Crazy Eights and Blackjack
(yes, my grandmother taught me Blackjack)
made pies with cherries right off the tree in her backyard
(if my grandfather could harvest some before the crows got them)

but she was the first of my grandparents to die
and when I think of that
I think of bright pink lipstick on bone white cigarette butts.

Zelda's Inferno exercise: "vacancy" Tom Swiss Sun, 08/28/2011 - 19:58

Zelda's Inferno exercise: freewrite on one (or more) of the following randomly-selected phrases:

the building is vacant
the awards ceremony will be held...
before children can start the year
little fried potato
year after year
information is available

the building is vacant
in this it is like my head, my heart
feeling very empty these days
which could be abandoned
or could be preparation for new tenants
no state of a building or a person is permanent
after all
to understand the present we
have to wait for the future
to come along and put it in context

vacancy is potential
the empty space of the bowl that makes it useful
the hub of the wheel, the open space inside the house
but vacancy is also the vacuum that nature --
so I am told --

and so we try to fill the empty space
the hungry ghost eating food that will not fill it
you can pour water into a cracked bucket forever
does this means it is an infinite container?
is the cracked bucket a Klien bottle, its inside its outside
already holding the universe?

so does my cracked heart already hold all?
(or is that just self-pitying self-agrandizing bullshit?
and if "self" is an illusion, what does that mean?)

the building is vacant
empty and waiting

Zelda's Inferno exercise: "avocado green" Tom Swiss Sun, 08/14/2011 - 20:54

Zelda's Inferno exercise: write about place, springboarding from the following wordlist:

burnt umber

avocado green appliances
in the kitchen where the frail woman stands
the wheezing refrigerator is 1970s vintage, half her age --
a wedding present from long ago

a take-out menu, a flier from the neighborhood watch
stuck to it with a dragonfly magnet
she looks at them and thinks of the story of her life as
told by what has been stuck to her refrigerator

long ago there were recipes, household hints
     columns clipped from the newspaper
then a small boy's fingerpaints
family vacation snapshots
for a rough two years, the second-notice bills
      that had to be paid as soon as money came in
wedding invitations
birth announcements

a lifetime told on a
field of avocado green

about half a song: I Don't Know Anything (When It Comes to Love)

Posted on: Sun, 08/14/2011 - 02:32 By: Tom Swiss

Wrote about half/two-thirds of a song tonight:

Oh you know you make me melancholy
Like no one else can do
So I'm sitting here at home alone
Just thinking about you

You're a hundred miles away at least
And yet you're in my mind
Whatever I try to do it seems
I can't leave you behind

So I'll just sit here and sing
Wanting and wondering
'Cause I don't know anything
When it comes to love
Don't know what to do, about you, and me

I wonder if you think of me
I wonder what you feel
I wonder if I'm fooling myself
Or if this is really real

'Cause I want you to be happy
And I want you to be free
I'm just hoping in your life
There might be room for me

So I'll just sit here and sing
Wanting and wondering
'Cause I don't know anything
When it comes to love
Don't know what to do, about you, and me

So I'll just sit here and sing
Wanting and wondering
'Cause I don't know anything
When it comes to love
Don't know what to do, about you, and me

on poetry, articulation, connotation, meaning, and magic

Posted on: Mon, 08/01/2011 - 12:48 By: Tom Swiss

I may be wrong, but from the leaden, academic prose of Professor Ernie Lepore's "Poetry, Medium and Message", I suspect that the good professor is not a poet.

I don't merely mean that he's not a published poet, or not a critically-acclaimed poet, or not a good poet (three very different things, by the way!); I mean that I have the sneaking suspicion that the idea of writing a poem fills him with the same sort of dread that the idea of drawing a picture inspires in me, or that the idea of public speaking inspires in the average American.

It's okay to not be a poet, of course, just as its okay to not be an artist or a musician or a bricklayer or a parent. But if I were to write about painting or masonry or parenting, I would certainly consult an artist or a bricklayer or a parent, and pay heed to what they say.

I'd love to have Lepore come out to Zelda's Inferno, our weekly poetry workshop, for a couple of weeks to learn what poetry is about. Instead, he cites poets only to claim that they cannot possibly mean what they say. He rejects the idea that "form shapes content", and claims that the distinguishing feature of poetry is its attention to "articulations", the linguistic sounds (or marks, but in poetry sound dominates) by which a piece is transmitted, and that "the poet wants to draw the audience's attention to these articulations as much as to the ideas the words so articulated express."

In support of his claim that "[t]he poet does not first intuit her object and then find an appropriate medium in which to articulate it...rather...through a chosen medium that the poet intuits the object in the first place", he cites not a poet, but another academic philosopher. Would it not be more fitting to ask a poet, "Pardon me, good sir or lady, but when you write about a flower or a mountain or a lover, do you intuit the object of your poem first and then become poetic about it later (though perhaps only a moment later), or do you initially apprehend the object via poetry?"

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