Thursday, December 30, 2010

In Which I Resolve To Fail To Write a Poem

by Bill

Every so often I write a poem. No, really, I do.

For example, in 1993 I wrote this one:

        Face on the clock
        Hands on the face
        Stop staring at me

and this one:

        Brown bubble bug
        enfolded in faded foil
        too stale to eat
        don’t ask where it came from

See? Poems. Occasionally.

I still have my first poem, written when I was seventeen years old:

        in that room
        was a ticking
        like a clock in an old movie
        and the yellow-sickened glow from a jaundice-coated lamp
        And the black animal shadow
        of two bodies thrashing
        like one raging beast
        on the sagging bed.

Happy stuff!

Speaking of seventeen years old, here is one I wrote when I was 34:

        Intellect is shit.
        I have tasted the forbidden fruit.
        Gods, if only, if only
        I had taken that job in the gas station
        When I was seventeen.

They're not all so dire, of course. I wrote the next one while attending a reading. It was something to do with a book giveaway—everyone in the audience was writing poems—but the details now elude me. Anyway, this is what I came up with:

        Stroll at night
        Eyes spy fright
        Fall from height
        Tunnel of Light

Hmmm, okay, I guess that one was kinda dire as well. But in a funny way, right?

Right? (Validate me, please.)

At various times, I've found myself writing more involved poetry, though it turns out my longer poems often have a narrative quality which makes them more stories than poetry. For example, I once wrote a narrative poem about an adventure in pooping called, "When You Gotta Go."

That's right. An Adventure in Pooping.

Serious business.

The graphic designer in me has created visual versions of a couple of my poems. In terms of poetry, these actually move into the realm of "I think this is pretty cool, if I do say so myself." (Validate me again?)

You can read the text versions here and here, or click the little thumbnails to see the pages where each dwells.

Now, you may have noticed something. I've not written any actual new poetry. I know it's supposed to be something about New Year's resolutions or some such, but see how I've artfully avoided the endeavor? There is a reason for this.

When I attempt to write poetry, nothing happens.

That's right.



But sometimes poems do pop out of me. (Cue joke about An Adventure in Pooping, har.) They do so rarely, and I usually don't recognize them as poems until after the fact. But it does happen. For example that last bit was sort of a poem, wasn't it?

        When I attempt
        to write poetry …

See? Indent it, toss in a couple of line breaks and an arty ellipsis, and it becomes a poem. A lousy poem, perhaps, but you get the idea.

So for my New Year's resolution, I resolve to write stuff, and if some of it turns out to be a poem, then so be it. Or not.

        So be it.
        Or not.

I will end with a couple more of my short poems from 1993 (a poetic year in my life).

        Book takes me home
        Takes me a long way
        Who needs a poem about books
           * * *

        Words in electricity
        Pictures in magnetism
        Unreadable, unseeable, steals blood
        from glass hearts
           * * *

        The place that beckons me
        Smells like a sheet of clean white paper
        It begs to see color
           * * *

        Fingers type on plastic keys
        Words appear on screen
        Now someone else has a memory
           * * *

        Stone, sand, caramel-squeezed mineral
        Bath of brine and bone
        A billion years a handful
           * * *

        You build with a hammer
        You paint with a brush
        You knit with a needle
        With a computer, you kill time
           * * *

        In life,
        at least for me,
        events are like a frayed cloth.
        They continue to unwind.

A little news: in the year-end edition of the Portland Mercury, Gabe Barber of Reading Local selects Day One as one of the best books of 2010. See the complete list at the Portland Mercury.


Patty Blount said...

I suck at poetry writing though at times, I can't help myself.

I resolved to write fewer blog posts and more short stories... brevity is something I need to practice.

Graham Brown said...

Bill - good job. Like one you drafted at the reading. I don't think its dire at all.

Kelli Stanley said...

Bill, I don't think "dire"--I think dark, thoughtful, lyrical, poignant (well, maybe not the Adventures in Pooping bit);)

In other words, just like your other brilliant prose stuff!! :)

And the visual incarnations of the poems are very cool!!

Bill Cameron said...

Brevity is ever my elusive goal, Patty. To concision!

Thanks, Graham and Kelli. Glad you like my poetic endeavors.

Hey, Graham, someone on Twitter told me they were looking back and forth between your picture and mine really fast until they laughed. So I made this:

Rebecca Cantrell said...

You are validated. Twice.

Thanks for sharing the years of poems!

Meredith Cole said...

Funny stuff, as always Bill! I'm enjoying all the "criminal" poetry this week...

Shane Gericke said...

I laughed,
I cried,
I pooped . . .

Thanks, Bill.

Reece said...

Bill -- Consider yourself validated! And congratulations on making the Portland Mercury best books list!

Gabi said...

Validate, validate, Zoloft, validate