I like poetry.
I like poetry pretty much the way I like music, in a sporadic, shot-gun method, where the individual poets may bear no relation to one another whatsoever beyond the fact that it appeals to me on some level. I don’t go looking for poems, I don’t read them often, and by the same token, I don’t research music, I buy it rarely, and I usually only throw it on when I’m working and want something to occupy the linguistic part of my brain while the rest of me gets around to the important nonverbal part of painting. Every now and then, however, roughly once a year, probably in response to changes in temperature or the alignment of distant wombats, I get this poetic twitch, and go wandering around the internet or the used book store, looking for a poem and a poet. And then I find one, and I am happy again.
I like the quatrains of the dervish Rumi and the works of Pablo Neruda, and I know that sounds just too damn hip for words, like I should know a lot about wine and brie and the difference between first and second blush tea leaves, so I hasten to assure you that I hate brie and the only reason I know the bit about the tea is because I was stuck in a car with a non-functional stereo, listening to NPR on my way to a furry convention last year. All that I know about wine is that I like the way white wine evaporates on your tongue and you get the sensation of drunkeness being passed through your gums and soft palate and directly into your brain, and I think it may have something to do with grapes at some point, but I won’t swear to that. To make up for this shamefully chic tendency on the part of my poetry tastes, I also have a fondness for Robert Bly, who’s work has acquired a vague stigma of cheesiness, probably due to the association to men’s drumming retreats and running around naked in the woods peeing on trees, getting in touch with your inner Homo habilis, but I still think that:
How I love to fly alone in the rain
How I love to see the jellyfish pulsing on the cold borders of the universe
is just damn cool. Then again, I also like Rudyard Kipling’s poetry, and if it gets more manly man than Kipling, I haven’t found it yet. Given that I also have a sneaking fondness for Sidney Keyes in my more grim moments, it may just be a war poet thing. Kipling, along with John Donne, get my “It rhymes, but it’s cool anyway, damnit,” award, even though I have a general distaste for rhymed poetry that doesn’t involve frequent allusions to Nantucket.
Some haiku also floats my goat, like the works of Issa:
I wish she were here
to listen to my bitching
and enjoy this moon
and a bunch of stuff in the less well known tanka style, which if you can stand a Geocities site, is worth reading. Go check out the death poetry, too. Each one is like a little…well, sort’ve like a little frog. In a pond. Probably a carefully sculpted pond put together out of raked gravel and enlightened moss, by bowed monks who haven’t spoken a word in several hundred years and who can devote a lifetime to trimming one twig of a bonsai plum tree. So there’s these frogs, right? And you read each frog and it sort’ve plops into the carefully sculpted pond, and your feet get wet and you go “Whoa! Neat! A frog!” and then you look for another frog, and the great thing about these collections is that there’s hundreds of frogs, and pretty soon the pond is full of poems standing on each other’s heads, ribbeting, with water slopping over the raked gravel while the monks wonder if it’s worth breaking the vow of silence to cuss you out.
Right, there’s a reason that I don’t write poetry unless I’m coming up with lines for Gothbat. And that one night with the drunken haiku about gnome buggering, which, if there is a god, are lost to all time.
Annnnnnyway, today was one of those wandering poem days, which led me between Neruda’s “Cat’s Dream”:
How neatly a cat sleeps,
sleeps with its paws and its posture,
sleeps with its wicked claws,
and with its unfeeling blood,
sleeps with all the rings–
a series of burnt circles–
which have formed the odd geology
of its sand-colored tail.
I should like to sleep like a cat,
with all the fur of time,
with a tongue rough as flint,
with the dry sex of fire;
and after speaking to no one,
stretch myself over the world,
over roofs and landscapes,
with a passionate desire
to hunt the rats in my dreams.
to Billy Collins, poet laureate, who cracks me up completely. “You are not the pine-scented air. There is just no way you are the pine-scented air.” Go read some of these. Even if you generally don’t like poetry, it’s charming.
I also inked the last page of “Monster Under the Bed” and did a lot of work today, but really, the poetry is how I had fun.