Sunday, 24 July 2005

From the Poneme list: Featured Poet # 1 July 2005

Thanks for the opportunity to present a small selection of my work to the list. Half a dozen poems and a thousand words of commentary was my brief but, as you will see, I have put some additional material that you can go to look at further developments.

The first of the poems I would like to present is 'the general becomes'. This began as a page poem but very quickly I wanted to put it in a different form. Given my modest skills the visual area I'm limited but fortunate however to have a number of programs which allow me to construct poems in different ways without having to be an expert. How I would perform this poem is quite different to how I read it in the visual presentation in the link. I would read it isteadily with as little change of tone or stress as I could manage, but in the QuickTime version I chose to disrupt the message. I think the visual highlighting of the text needs to be tempered by this softer verbal presentation.

the general becomes

do what I say
and you will be free

do what I say
and you will be free

love me
and you will be free

love me and only me
this way
and you will be free

vote this way
and you will be free

spend this way
incur & repay debt
this way
and you will be free

you in the deserts
you will be free

follow my lead freely
and you will be free

hate these
fight these
and you will be free

work this way
at this time
in this place
in this manner
without complaint
and you will be free

kill these
and you will be free

wear this
and you will be free

suffer and believe
and you will be free

think this way
vote this way
criticise this way
and you will be free

spend and dream
this way
and you will be free

rebel and wear your hair
this way
and you will be free

lie down lie down
of your own accord
and you will be free

give up all thought
of justice
and you will
you will
I promise you
be free

Here's the link: the general becomes (Warning: It's a bit under five megs. It can't be reached from a link from my site – even though it appears as though it might be - as this has been created for this project.)

I put this up for a few reasons: it's new and I like to get the new poems out; it's talking about something that I think is important (the nature of freedom); and, I like the way the simple statement 'you will be free' changes, through the effect of the immediate context and the movement of the poem, into something quite different to what it meant at the beginning.

Another poem which uses, in its developed version, disruption and difficulty as a technique is this poem:

the poem about the road

this road it’s a choice
this moment or the next
this broken time
or not
the ravens caw and say
their names
gargling down
the horizon
like lager
– they love it! –
but before that
another and the time slips
and I choose to go
to meet the lovely crows
pick over lunch
to watch each other’s beaks
I’m upset
I know this mob so well
it feels like school
this is what I’m trained to do

the blue outside pulses
and one crow introduces me
The Famous Poet he says
and their various eyes light up
they’ve never heard of me
but readjust their gaze
and take in my flesh
with their sharp single eye
toothless men and young smart
curators blush at the crow
& I
think of you
back on the road and my choice
this choice
the crow is
famous – this is his patch
they caw at him
and bob their heads
size him up
for later pickings
there’s deals & pictures out of vans
and women with scary
jewels at Sotheby’s
and the mad man who says
I know you and the crow
saying Nah, nah, nah, no, &
the man, Mr K, says
Oh yes Oh yes
and smiles at me
though I think that his pale lips
twist like a liar’s
and there’s the other speedy greedy
with silver shoes
I chat up a blue eyed boy
from Buenos Aires
the crow says is gay
but who felt up my breast
out of sight of crows
as we talked
and I saw Charles & friend
and the crow saw
everyone everyone
with his smart eye
and they saw him
the woman who talks minutes
& meetings and the one
with expensive hair
the lover of someone dead
who puts her charmed finger
in the air as if to test
the wind Email Me she says
and she really wants the crow
to do it
this famous movie mistress
and I watch all the expensive
sticks and stones of paint
and glass and after I’ve released
myself and my car
after I’ve unfolded my wings
into the viscous air
and the crow goes to communism
I have the choice of the road
the crow has asked
too many questions
and I evade and dip my eyes
take directions
try to decide
you my secret or home
how many crows can
a girl take a night
secret or home
I drive through a red light
and don’t get killed
it’s home then I decide
I glide down the highway
this time I will not go back
this time I will go home
and don’t visit you again
not tonight maybe never
or at least not yet

At the poem about the road you will quite a different version of this poem. It's a bit under 15 mb worth so unless you have broadband you might give it a miss. I won't leave it on my site for very long because I'll use the space for something else, but I will leave it there for a [while] so any Ponemers who'd like to visit can. The text has been severely disrupted: as well as a verbal disruption similar to, but more complex than, 'the general becomes'. 'The poem about the road' also exists in a variety of visually disrupted ways in a hardcopy form (booklets produced in an edition of about 20 copies or so… and also on the front page of my site ( though as a design element rather than a poem). The central idea of the poem is that there is an apparent choice – between love or death – but it turns out there's a third option which is a banal option, going home. The control of breath and pace are the most important technical aspects of the poem: this is something I'm working on now, though it has always been an important to me, along with ambiguity. Like the front page of the .name site, most of the booklet uses the columnar form of the poem.

The question is of course – why so many options of a single poem? It wasn't that I didn't like the version above, but that I wanted to see how far it would go. There's more I could have done, and even more that someone who was more proficient could do, but I wanted to see how the text stood up, what the limits of comprehensibility were, and whether comprehensibility was the most important element of a poem in the different forms. What it revealed was that the different forms lead to different sorts of accessibility; that, in some forms, line by line accessibility/ readability was not the primary focus; and that your 'reading' style adapted to the available directly 'comprehensible' text. Maybe everyone knew this already; maybe I did, but these works are still revealing things to me about timing, pace, and ambiguity. I'd like to see 'the poem about the road' on a large flat screen on the wall – like a sculpture, sometimes concentrated on, sometimes part of the general, unnoted, environment.

These are a couple of visual versions of poems. There are plenty of other people doing much more complicated things.

Given that I've just given you a very long poem, I thought you might like this small contribution:

Near Haiku: the Nature of God

only insurance
companies believe in God,
His acts (and exclude them)

which is also offered with humility. I want poems to be anything they like. A lot of my poems are informed by what I'm reading. Every day, however, I get a new wallpaper for my screen automatically delivered from NASA. Amazing pictures which you can read about at a related site. One day I looked up the Casimir Effect – which turned out to be fascinating. This poem is supposed to be centred (though might not be by the time it gets to you).

The Casimir Effect
it’s like this
there is a mirror and
there is a mirror
and they’re looking at each other
the question is
what do they see

as usual
it is the wrong question
mirrors mirror
but in the absence
of anything else
they attract
draw together
in a sort of empty
casual affinity

singles bar
longing and desire
death and life

(Wikipedia gives a good description of what the Casimir Effect is). Not that I'm au fait with all of this, but others are and the concepts are interesting and I want to know more. It's a slight version of the theory which seems to be subtle and surprising.

This poem (also centred) uses a breathless unpunctuated style which I'm using in a longer poem (To the Citadel) I'm trying to wrangle into shape at the moment:

this poem is for your lips
that with their suppleness made
me grow warm and tremble
and for your breath on me
that made my body quiver in tune
with you and for your kiss
that made me over come
with delight and your lips
understood my lips and all
my lips could do was take them
and want them more your unbearable
kiss turned all my nerves to metal
all my body to music all my mind
to a meditation upon blood

The person who delivered this kiss objected to the final 'blood' which I thought showed the difference in attitude certainly between the individual attitudes to blood but also possibly a difference between the sexes. He felt that blood is negative. In my experience, and in the experience of at least some other women, it can be positive. A relief, a disappointment, an ambiguous thing.

The new book (just out) is not like any of these poems. There are only three poems in the book and two of those use a very long-lined, layered, accretive, image laden, fast poems (for info on that you can go to the Kardoorair site and look for Mortifications & Lies).

And on that note: (also centred):


It’s a poem:
I bloody
hope so.


genevieve said...

Chris, I really enjoyed this post and would love to link to it - however the links to both your Quicktime poems didn't work for me today. I'll try again later.
Love The Kiss and the insurance haiku, BTW. I think blood is le mot juste.

Chris Mansell said...

I've had to move the larger of the two. But I'm searching for a home for it. Come back and have a look in a few day.

Glad you liked 'blood'.
all the best

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