Friday, October 21, 2005

Rule 10: play a game: form: sestina

Chris Stroffolino's "In Memory Of My Rock Band" (Shampoo 24) is a sestina, which requires six stanzas of six lines each, and the last word in each line of the first six-line stanza is repeated as the last word in each of the subsequent stanzas, but resequenced so the last word of the sixth line is now the last word of the first line, the last word of the first line is now the last word of the second line, and so on in a sequence like... oh, crap. I'll let someone else explain the rules of the sestina game.
Rule 10: play a game.
Rule 19: the epigraph is not dead.

In his "Poems" ("cows just stare...") in Shampoo 24, Del Ray Cross uses each word of the epigraph as the title and inspiration for another poem.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Rule 20: sex makes you look.

Even the worst work in the world (a one-handed novel, for instance) will hold a reader's attention for minutes at a time. Sex is an effective trick.

In "To Jacques Pépin" (BAP2005:31), Compton says "I dream of being food in your kitchen" and plays with the sexual connotations: "You are hypnotic as you pat / a chicken's rump with your right hand" and "Slick me with a little clarified gold." and so on.

It doesn't make me laugh and I think it's supposed to. But sex made me look.
Rule 19: the epigraph is not dead.

Byrne (BAP2005:27) starts by quoting Kierkegaard
"In relation to each other men are like irregular verbs in different languages; nearly all verbs are slightly irregular."
and then

Rule 10: play a game.

works with a list of irregular verbs (beaten, drawn, fled, hung, singing, had begun [implied sung], etc.) to derive lines such as:
another who has burst the helium balloon you bore in mind
like a glow-in-the-dark apple the doctor gave away:
The whole poem is online here.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Rule 18: contrary to another common anti-art complaint, it's not true that your kid could do this.

When something is possible, it happens, but there are no younger poets widely published and recognized. The minimum age to get in is 18 (or so) and they need to see some ID.
Rule 17: contrary to one common anti-art complaint, you can't just randomly insert line breaks into a text and get a poem.

Reading strategy: take a poem you don't know well, pull out all the line breaks, then come back to it later and see if you can put them back where they were.

Are the line breaks need where they were? Are they needed at all? Look at the Bukowski piece again to see why he wrote this:
from the sad university
these hucksters of the
despoiled word
working the
still talking that
dumb shit.
and why he did not write this:
from the sad
university lecterns
these hucksters
of the despoiled
word working
the hand-outs
still talking
that dumb shit.
So it may not be the greatest poem in the world, but it has been constructed with some care, not just bashed out with random line breaks.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Rule 16: take out the subject that is so exciting to you and see if the piece is still exciting poetry.

Look at BAP2005:25 again, the Bukowski piece, and suppose it's about something else, maybe it's a piece by a carpenter about why he wasn't in the union and how the union stewards were full of shit. Supposing it was interesting to you (a poetry reader and probably a poetry writer and maybe a poetry lecturer) as a poet's opinion of the poetry business, is it still interesting as a carpenter's opinion of the carpentry business?

This is really part of rule 15, but I like it on its own.
Rule 1: you can be kinda old dead...

Charles Bukowski was born in 1920 and died in 1994 and appeared in the Best American Poetry 2005 (p.25) not, I suppose, because guest editor Paul Muldoon thinks the poem particularly good as poetry. I think it was instead because Muldoon likes what Bukowski says about poetry movements:
and all the gatherings
and tenderings of
proclamations toward the
had very little
to do
with anything.
and university poetry lecturers:
from the sad university
these hucksters of the
despoiled word
working the
still talking that
dumb shit.
Rule 15: you can get a marginal piece past the editors if you say something they're dying to say. Conversely, imagine just how marvelous a poem you would have had to have written to get a pro-Bush, pro-war piece past Lyn Hejinian for last year's BAP.
Rule 14: humility is good.

It's one of the seven contrary virtues, the opposite of pride.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Rule 13: teach me a word

Stephanie Brown makes me look up "sprezzatura" (studied carelessness, especially in art or literature) when I read her poem (BAP2005:23).

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Rule 12: if everyone's a poet, "poet's poet" (not to mention "poet's poet's poet") means nothing.
Rule 11: all of the rules are simple.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Rule 10: play a game.

It's one of the commoner writing strategies. Rhyming is a word game. So is something like
I want to be your shoebox
I want to be your Fort Knox
I want to be your equinox
which is what Catherine Bowman does in "I Want to Be Your Shoebox."

If you aren't inventive, the games are a waste of time. But if you are inventive and you just need a way to get going, a game can be productive.
Maybe strategies is a better word. Strategies of writers, of editors, and of readers.

But a strategy is a rule, or a set of rules, by which one acts.
Rule 9: borrow stuff.

In the notes, Bloomfield says "My 'Catholic Encyclopedia' is almost a found poem."