When I’m sitting down to write every morning, I make sure the sun’s casting a photoshopped glow through the sheer blinds and that all implements of the trade are just so. I’m particularly interested in books being at the right angle for photographing. The above picture is apparently Faulkner’s writing room, and I’m 100% certain that it looked just like that when he was writing in it. He was a meticulous man. No errant papers, no spilled coffee. I’m equally certain that Faulkner only wrote in the perfect light, likely magic hour. Only ever magic hour. He wrote As I Lay Dying during that first and last hour of light because people only die when the light’s just right. You wouldn’t want to die in the wrong light, would you? I mean, what would people think? Writing and dying. Dying and writing. But when you think about it, you also shouldn’t eat in the wrong light or make love in the wrong light. Jesus, what if your lover sees that scar on your left knee?
My dog died last night as I held her in my arms. I tried for magic hour, but the vet was running late. I lit candles instead. She died there in my arms, injected first with anesthesia then with kill-you formula. Her eyes stayed wide open and twitched. She let out a dying breath that smelled like violence. We buried her in a deep hole. My office overlooks her grave. It’s magic hour, this hour, this hour between sleep and waking. I’m writing at my messy desk. The light’s really nice.
Behind the Scenes / 1 Comment
January 19th, 2012 / 9:40 am
The title of this post consists of lyrics from one of my favorite Mos Def songs, on his album The New Danger. Many of the tracks on this album are about Jack Johnson, the first ever black heavyweight boxing champion. I could listen to it all day. And it’s in my head this fine Sunday morning because I’ve been catching up on Dexter Season 6, in which Mos Def, I mean Mos, I mean Yasiin Bey, plays Brother Sam, a born again murderer who Dex befriends. I am on episode 4, and I already love this character. I was curious, so I Googled Mr. Bey and I found a great clip from The Colbert Report in which Mr. Bey graciously gives no explanation as to why he changed his name, and from which I learned that Black Star has a new record. READ MORE >
Random / 8 Comments
January 15th, 2012 / 10:19 am
What is memoir in poetry? We read prose memoirs and see how lives are stretched taut around themes: a chronology of water, a debilitating illness, a drug addiction, a nomadic childhood, a strange religion, insomnia-driven thinking. Themes become umbrella girding; living, the fabric that fills it out. But where does poetry fit into memoir? We could think about the confessional in poetry and say, yes this is the place where poetry and memoir meet. Plath on suicide attempts: “I have done it again. / One year in every ten / I manage it–” or Lowell, “My mind’s not right…I myself am hell.” Depression and mania are easily encapsulated states of being, but all poets write their lives, confessional or not. When Simic writes, “My mother was a braid of black smoke,” we assume he’s not writing fact-truth. Maybe he’s writing dream truth or metaphor truth. Maybe he’s just writing, and I’m extrapolating.
I started thinking about this when a poem of mine called “Man Builds a Guitar” went up online recently. It’s basically a persona poem in Jack White’s voice. I wrote it after watching the documentary It Might Get Loud and not being able to shake Jack White’s weird tinkering and instrument making from my head. So, it’s a persona poem, but it embodies themes and emotions I was thinking about at that particular moment in time. When I say, “I heard everything disappearing” what I meant was that my marriage was over and life as I knew it was evaporating in front of my eyes. I’m using the imagery of my childhood in the South and the sounds that take me back there to get at the particulars of silence-after-a-storm. This is a memoir poem even though it’s a persona poem. I mean, I don’t know Jack White, but I know me.
Matt Hart has a poem called “Sailing the Gut Boat,” that begins, “I made you a thing with no tongue / and gallons of new-fangled fog. I made you / a thing with nothing and nobody—not even / a surrealist screaming into an atlas….” Hart reminds us that you can fashion people and events into whatever you want (a nothing, even) on the page, but the truth of them still remains behind that fashioning.
Or take a short couplet poem, “Future,” by Emily Kendal Frey:
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Craft Notes / 9 Comments
November 21st, 2011 / 11:04 am