Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Poet in Chains

Ah, poetry lost. Or poetic prose lost. That’s the sequel, right? First poetry, then the novel. Let’s not talk about the rise of the novel. If I do, I will have to remind myself that I spent far more of my life reading Clarissa than I ever wanted to. And Northanger Abbey was shit too. The problem with most satire, I find, is that it tends to be indiscernible from the content it is attempting to comment on. This, in my opinion, is the problem with most American animated comedy shows. It isn’t satire. It is outlandish fiction. Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels was satire. A Modest Proposal was satire. The Simpsons is a bunch of Yahoos gallivanting around.

I had begun to write about my poetry when the computer died. It is one of those rare moments in modern technology when it didn’t manage save my lost work. A pity, I was enjoying writing about the poet inside me who rages against the twelve-bone cage I keep him in. About the worlds, words carved on the bars til the stark white of the bars, invisible in the meaty darkness, is lost beneath the scrawl of symbols to which we agree to give meaning. The poet inside me who rages loudly because he sees through my eyes when I read the poetry inside the words of others and it is flint to the tender of his muse. The poet who rages so that his words may be loud enough that some may drip from my fingers, slip from my tongue.

It has been a long time since I wrote a poem. I rarely consider my lyrics to be poetry as well. There are aspects of poetry in them, but they aren’t poems in truth. Sometimes they come close, the poetry of my song, “Roots,” is one of the reasons I am so proud of it.

I’m tired of playing
at being a tumbleweed
I want to put down roots
and grow into a tree

Poetry, well, creative writing in general, should show and not tell. It is uninteresting to say, “I want to stop living a nomadic lifestyle and settle down with a good woman and lead a good life.” It would make for a boring song, and terrible poetry. Instead, we fill the page with metaphors, make a river of meaning that flows around the boring dam of blunt prose and create images that slip under the skin and gnaw on the imagination of the reader, the listener.

I do not do this enough. There is a reason I describe the poet within me as caged. I don’t write poems as I used to. My lyrics don’t satisfy the part of me that never hung my bachelor’s degree in creative writing on the wall. I never wanted to tell the world I was a poet, I wanted to show them.

Yet, here I am, six years beyond that black cap and stage, unwritten, unpublished, unseen. The poet of me has been reduced to a mediocre lyricist, the author to a personal blogger more introspective than concerned with the world at large. The amateur songwriter barely braves the stage. Perhaps what I need is to call myself to arms. Perhaps I should rage, rage against the dying of the light.

I have the training, I have the texts still, hoarded and boxed and set upon quiet shelves where they can hardly mumble between the tight borders of their covers. The poet lies chained, his bowels devoured eternally by the eagle. His muscles emaciated, his ability squandered, his breath short, hard, fast. He tires quickly, but longs to bring fire again to the world. The light hurts after so long. It seems safer in The Cave.

I am thankful for, and humbled by, the words of a few who stir that prisoner within me. They breathe poetry, whether they know it or not, and remind me that I can, and have. There is a voice in me that once knew song. It sings still, but sotto voce from the depths. If I close my eyes I can linger in the echo of its majesty.

Don’t fear that I don’t give myself credit where it is due. I just know that there is room for improvement, room for the captive to spread his legs, stretch out his fingers and pour verse into the cup of life. There is a voice to shape and define, coax into an eloquent sound skilled in both melody and harmony.  There is freedom to be found for the poet in the twelve-bone cage.


For the curious, or interested, dance class went well. I had a private “lesson” with one my most frequent students, a woman in her 50s. She hasn’t attended class in a month and a half, but it turned out to be for the best. The rest allowed much of what she had learned to settle and set in. Rather than teaching her anything specific, we simply danced for an hour, going through as many styles as I have taught her. She danced better than she ever has. I am, however, out of shape. I haven’t danced that much in a long time.

I almost skipped my normal class. No one showed up for the first 15 minutes and I was just getting ready to put away the furniture when one of my recent regulars arrived. I began to teach her the “basic” for Argentine Tango, as much as I know of it when another one of my teen regulars showed up. Finally a second lead, another regular also arrived; he was a half hour late.

We went on to review and learn more West Coast Swing. Since they were regulars and youthful, I made certain they weren’t uncomfortable with poor language and relaxed my filter. I have a lot of respect for propriety, but it makes me somewhat distant at times. Our lesson was both fun, silly, and fairly amusing. Rather than counting the beat, I sang syllables to the rhythm I was dancing, cracked jokes, and made myself comfortable. At one point the whole class fell apart because the three of them were laughing so hard. The first follow who arrived actually walked outside because she started snorting.

I don’t relax my filter that far very often. It was nice to feel that comfortable around people. It isn’t just that I use words like “fuck” more often, either. I just feel more, what’s the word Rapscallion used. . . corybantic. But that’s not right either. Less saturnalian. Perhaps carefree is simply good enough.

No matter what, I enjoyed my evening.
And a thousand words, goodnight.


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