When strangeness shows up in your poems, what do you do?
One of the stronger emotions is embarrassment. Poets don't use it. I have decided to let my poems be embarrassing.
Example (got pub'd in New Note Poetry):
I’m Not Waiting
I get out my waiting things
because I am waiting for God to arrive
and I like to wait.
I sit under a clock,
that wind-up saint of waiting.
I unbraid my hair then braid it up again.
I masturbate. I take a shower. I lie down to nap.
I go for a walk. At the park
dogs chase sticks and catch up to them,
then get distracted by dogs.
I can understand. I’m distracted, too.
I’m not waiting for a purpose or for digestion.
I’m not waiting for a stick or a stone.
I am waiting for God,
who walked the earth once,
walked back and forth over
what but for him had been all void.
Big void. One void. Any old void.
Back and forth over the earth
I walk, counting my steps
toward the awful conclusion of all my waiting.
I’m waiting you out, I tell God.
I’ve got your number. Or someday I will
have counted as high as your throne
and I will sit down just below it,
where your feet stretch out,
as under the clock I sit respectful and attentive,
while the hand chases a minute
from twelve to twelve.
To my waiting things I add a new stick,
a stick I picked up, tooth-marked and wet,
from among the running dogs.
I often think of lyrics, where oddness makes a song memorable. For example, just about anything by PJ Harvey (“I cast my iron knickers down”) or the B-52s (“Living in your own private Idaho (oh) / Underground like a wild potato”).
Or Bob Dylan: “Well, Shakespeare, he’s in the alley / With his pointed shoes and his bells”
That’s odd, but as soon as you hear it you see it.
Or this line: “The ghost of ’lectricity howls in the bones of her face”
That’s a strange, complex image, perhaps multiple images in the same line.
Again, you write into the questions that matter to we developing poets., and with such insight. Thank you, Radha!
AND the workshop in Taos looks grand.
I resisted poetry until I was in my late 50's. I didn't have time for its inconvenient hours. I tried my best to roll over and go back to sleep but the strange insistence never went away until I wrote it down. For those first 35 years I wrote 35 poems, all of them driven by a strangeness that was utterly different than my carpenter life. Now that sleep is relatively unimportant (since retiring in January of 2023) I can indulge this strangeness. I have written more poetry since January than in the previous 40 years. Other than essays, everything I write is driven by the "strange impulse", or it is somehow hijacked by it, otherwise it would not get written. The ones without strangeness or magic as I call it, are not worth looking at twice, they just lie there, like a dead mackerel, not shining, just stinking.