Tuesday, April 24, 2012

How To Tell Time

Hello readers! If you are out there... Here is another one of my poems, started a while ago but newly finished (or nearly finished) during NaNoPoWriMo. It is a companion piece to 'How To Write A Poem' and 'How To Be A Body' which I have previously featured here on this blog. This is the roughest of the three, and I think a bit too pedantic. It tries to imagine the fixture of Time in our lives as a living thing, by describing it in seemingly unnatural ways. It is surely a rough draft, like all of the other poetry I have posted here, but I want to get it out there and see how it looks on the page/screen. Here it is:

Time is an animal, driven by instinct alone. He is no tame thing. You cannot say anything to him to make him listen.

Time is a tide, an inconstant constant. Coming and going as he pleases. It is said the urge toward form leads us closer to God, but he cannot be formed. Time takes no shape, moves according to his own rhythm. It is no rhythm at all, but an entropy dictated to us, ours to decipher.

Argue with him though you may, you will never tell time anything he doesn’t already know. He has everything but he pulls still more with him into spaces unknown. Its strange truly, how it all works, how a moment can only come once but gives its slant to everything after. Don’t bother fighting it.

You can’t smell him or see him but you know he’s always there. Always has been. You can feel him and he can feel you. He is already a real thing, even though he is all imagination. He lives in the air and in the trees— pulsing, pushing, killing. You can’t forget him, so stop trying to.

Time has no master, except his own momentous weight. Which must keep going.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

How To Write A Poem

The idea for this poem grew out of a post on Harriet, the blog of the Poetry Foundation. It mirrors almost exactly two other poems I have written, "How To Be A Body" and "How To Tell Time", and so it only seemed natural to extend the theme to a third poem. This is a rough draft of the poem, like "The Museum of Civilization" I feel I will be coming back to significantly edit this poem. But for now, here it is:


-after Bhanu Kapil

First, take a bath and rid yourself of the stink of poems. It is a wretched smell and will only frighten other poems away. You will have to fall into it, like a trap.

Build for yourself a workshop, in an abandoned fishhouse, if need be, or a windowless basement room or the passenger seat of your car. Keep every word alive, but keep in mind you will fail somewhere along the line.

Gather around you those things that will feed your orphan mind: a quarter minted in 1968, your grandfather’s leather belt, a brontosaurus fashioned out of tinfoil. Explore the old and the prodigal, all manners of creation. It will come like a dance, the same steps taken with a new partner.

Display your laurels, do not rest upon them. Something is missing. Find it.

If you have the chance, take a trip to the nearest mountaintop on a clear night in mid-August. Observe with all patience you can muster the Perseids—this is heaven’s poetry.

Don’t go asking anyone else to do it for you. Write your poem.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

More Magrelli

I know I should be in bed right now, considering I have to be at work in less than six hours. However, I cannot pass up this opportunity during NaPoWriMo to add more poems to this blog, especially considering their newly-published status.

Seven poems that I have translated from the Italian are viewable at the Brooklyn Rail's sister publication InTranslation.


Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The Oriole

As an aspiring poet, I often get asked the question, "Well, who is your poet?". I could mention a dozen or so poets all at once, the name I always keep coming back to is Rene Char, which prompts my inquisitor to respond, "Who?".

Rene Char was a French poet who came of age during World War II and who I believe is an undiscovered master of the 20th century. He has a graceful and unmatched imagination, and at college I knew exactly where his books were shelved in the library (both the French originals and the translations). He moved through several different schools of poetry during his life and absorbed the best of all of them to achieve his own unmatched poetic voice. Surrealist to Imagist to Provencal--all these terms could be applied to Char at one point or another, but none truly define the whole of his career.

This undefinable aspect of Char makes him a poet's poet. He can be anything to anyone, and to me he is a central influence. I had the honor to review Nancy Naomi Carlson's latest translation of Char's work for The Rumpus, which you can find here. Below, I have included my attempt at Char's devastating short form poem, "The Oriole". Since it is the state bird of my home state of Maryland, this poem has a personal resonance for me, and I have a feeling I will edit this poem to include an homage to my home. But for now, enjoy.


The oriole perched on the newborn sun.

The sword of his birdsong shut the door into night.

Nothing came of it.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

New Poems

Today was a massively productive day. I'm not sure if its the weather that is suddenly summery, or simply the knowledge that NaPoWriMo is slowly leaving me, one second at a time, but I was able to come up with titles and an outline for a couple different poems. As a teaser, I will give you the titles, but I will take my time in posting excerpts as these poems become more fully alive. They are:

-How Write A Poem
-Whiskey and Smores
-The Oriole

I hope this whets the appetite a little bit. More coming later in the week.

Monday, April 2, 2012

National Poetry Writing Month

This month, along with hundreds (perhaps thousands) of other poets around the country, I will be participating in National Poetry Writing Month (NaPoWriMo). The mission is to complete thirty poems in thirty days.

I know my own writing habits better than anyone, and I know thirty poems to be an audacious goal to achieve in just a month. However, that being said, I am the one writing these poems and they are mine. They don't have to come out perfectly polished, in fact they its probably a bad sign if they do. So, my goal is to come up with an idea and at least five lines for thirty poems. Audacious, yes. Impossible, probably not.

Let the writing begin.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Vagrelli & Palumbo

Since this is my bloghome, I am going to indulge myself in a bit of shameless self-promotion. It's an unfortunate part of the publishing game and I try not to get too full of myself, but that being said, I am quite proud of this particular accomplishment.

As part of my Literary Translation class with Prof. Brian Henry during my final semester at the University of Richmond, we had to pick a selection of work by a single author and translate it. Now, much of the early part of the course was spent discussing translation theory, going over ponderous essays and books that delved into the very nature of language as human communication. I will spare you the theory, even though I enjoyed most of it.

The project I chose was a selection of eight poems by a living Italian writer named Valerio Magrelli. He is an astonishing poet, but the most interesting tidbit I discovered while working on this project is that Magrelli is, by trade, a philosopher. It is only natural that his poems deal with his everyday work, but he is able to avoid the pitfalls of all the other philosopher-poets I have read. His poems come through in a simple voice that capture the essence of the philosophical or metaphysical problem at hand. A supreme example is the poem below. If you would like to know what any of it means, feel free to read my translation of it here at Guernica Magazine.

Domani mattina mi farò una doccia
nient’ altro è certo che questo.
Un futuro d’acqua e di talco
in cui non succederà nulla e nessuno
busserà a questa porta. Il fiume
obliquo correrà tra i vapori ed io
come un eremita siederò
sotto la pioggia tiepida,
ma né miraggi né tentazioni
traverseranno lo specchio opaco.
Immobile e silenzioso, percorso
da infiniti ruscelli,
starò nella corrente
come un tronco o un cavallo morto,
e finirò incagliato nei pensieri
lungo il delta solitario dello spirito
intricato come il sesso d’ una donna.

-Valerio Magrelli, 1980