Rule of Threes (Plus One)
(In the end-of-an-era spirit of looking back)
1. I go back to Robert and Shana ParkeHarrison’s apocalyptic/environmental art-photography often. The Architect’s Brother pretty much inspired all of the poetry I wrote in my early twenties. In book form, there’s an essay by W.S. Merwin called “Unchopping a Tree.” It begins:
Start with the leaves, the small twigs, and the nests that have been shaken, ripped, or broken off by the fall; these must be gathered and attached once again to their respective places.
2. I have loved Edwidge Danticat’s books since Breath, Eyes, Memory came out in 1994. The stories in Krik? Krak! (1996) still floor me. For a course I’m co-teaching in January, I’m reading Danticat’s After the Dance: A Walk Through Carnival in Jacmel, Haiti (2002). While the language is definitely less interesting in this book, a beauty emerges from its simple, unadorned descriptions of the author’s homeland. In one section, Danticat talks about a character called a chaloska, a caricature of an actual military officer that once terrorized the town of Jacmel. During carnival season, these chaloskas run around with whips and fangs scaring children. To make them go away, children recite this rhyme:
Chaloska m pa pè w;
Se moun ou ye.
Chaloska, I’m not afraid of you; You’re a human being. A childlike, and totally poetic, way of cutting the enemy down to size. (I wonder if cultures more in touch with their folklore aren’t also more in touch with their poetry.)
3. Matt Hart and Dobby Gibson have some great poems in that last issue of H_ngm_n. I think they deserve a re-read, especially as examples of collaborations that aren’t mere exercises but actual art. In “Autoterrorist” they write:
I have a theory — well, not really — I just like to think
about all the various possible explanations
for impossible, improbable, inexplicable things.
The way farmland goes right on happening to itself,
or how the Earth can survive a single day
even though it’s struck by lightning
100 times every second.
Which might be the definition of poetry.