Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Why Poetry

There's a cadence to poetry, whether rhyming or metered or not. There's a flow that one can ride like a wave from the gentle swell of figuring out where it may be going to the final, gentle push onto the shore of its actual destination. You can't control it, but you might really enjoy the ride if you can loosen up and let it be.

There is an honesty in poetry. Even if the words are lies. Poems cut through the static of explanations and get to the spine of the matter.  Poems bring out truths (even with lies). They connect on a visceral, subconscious level - that part of your brain where dreams wait for night and visions wait for mediation time... poems take you right there. Hook you right up. My vision expressed as a poem locks in a Vulcan mind meld with your own bright brain which filters and interprets my mother stories for you so that, even not being me, you get it.  And your father stories somehow become clearer as a result.

When I read or recite a poem it's like riding a horse.  The thing is alive under me. It responds to who's in the room, how light or dark, what came before.  It's not the same poem it was the last time. Not exactly.  That's why readings are so much more exciting than reading.  If you can spare the time.

I've been spellbound by a poem at least a dozen times. My experience so resonated in me down to my spleen that I tried to tell the poet - "That's one of the best things I've ever heard" - but her smile said she didn't have any idea how great it was.  It's a spiritual experience to be grabbed by the throat and yanked into someone else's past or dream or nightmare... only to arrive out the other side sparking and snapping like you've just sat through an electrical storm, or kissed a Tessler bolt.

And I've had women come up to me as well, weeping, eyes large and round with amazement that I had told their story by telling mine. Poetry does this.

More people know about songs than know about poems.  But wait until your highest high or your lowest low. Your marriage day. Your father's funeral. Your baby's birth. I guarantee sometime in your life there will be a moment when nothing will serve as well as a poem.  In the future maybe poets will fill stadiums and build hospitals, but right now most of us just do it for love.

I'm performing my poetry, for free of course, this Saturday, May 26th at the Classic Quiche Café in Teaneck, NJ at 9 pm. I'm hoping folks will come. I have a multi-media extravaganza planned. I think it will be fun. Plus I intend to reveal truths, expose lies, celebrate tragedies that gave birth to victories and basically just let the poetry happen, riding my poetic horses, navigating the brains and hearts and spleens in the room so that everyone gets something worth their time.

Here's a poem for you, comparing childbirth to writing poetry.  Maybe it tells the story better than all of this explanation...

To The Reader

Having six babies, at least a dozen strangers have 
examined between my legs and reached inside.

I invite you to examine, too, my most private thoughts
realizing that, unlike childbirth which is always luminous,
pushing out poems need not necessarily be.
You are my judge, 
critic, midwife
sadist, friend.

Poems are like babies
you could not have planned but
loved having.
Caught by surprise on the highway
pulling over to hunt for a broken pencil, leaky pen, 
paper bag, deposit receipt.
Thrown out of bed 
hurled down the stairs to a 
quiet little light shivering
under its warmth.

One does not consider at that moment
who they might influence
what enemies they may incur.

They simply are.
And you hold them for a moment, admiring
each word correctly spelled,
Then let them go 
to do the good or damage that they may.

I may not have intended a single word for you,
but here you are suddenly
the center of my poetic universe
observing me as I grit my teeth 
leaning into the pain.

Feel me silently reflect between each impulse.
Then another contraction comes
I am swept along with the current 
even over the falls.

Watch me close my eyes and listen only to myself
not considering that the results may be 
more humiliating than spreading my legs for strangers,
or just as luminous.

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