Fast Poem 34: On Interpretation

What criteria do you use to determine right interpretation from wrong?

Who wrote the criteria down. Did they contemplate for long

before reaching consensus? Do they intend one day to tell us; 

down here in the trenches, we the lowly masses, 

how to think so that we comply? 

What rules we must apply

to determine should we deny 

or accept an interpretation 

as worthy of consideration –

wrong or right,

day or night,

black or white?

And if we find between lines a song

unwritten laws deem can not belong

do we bag and set it curbside

or self-thinking decide

which voice stands out –

the wrong, embryonic shout

or the mature murmur of right

safe but rutstuck tight.

-Note on the Poem-

An alter-ego is taking a class at coursea.org named Fantasy and Science Fiction: Our Modern World, The Human Mind. The professor delivered a video lecture proffering interpretations can be wrong. On a discussion forum, my alter-ego disagreed with the professor’s position. Another student disagreed with him and sided with the professor. The dialogue progressed a step or two before my alter-ego, better late than never, asked me for input. I offered this.

A Bit Of Imaginary Silliness

If you belong to a social network you have likely seen tag-requests, a post with a list of things with a paragraph or two in which you are named and invited to create a similar list. The tag-requests float through the sites like chain letters.

A while back, quite awhile back in fact, a poet I read, Melfamy Melfamy tagged me with a tag-request.

Normally, I do not respond to chain letters, digital or otherwise, but I enjoy Melfamy’s poetry. I read but seldom make comment praising his work. Hoping to atone for not providing deserved, encouraging feedback, I decided to respond to his tag-request.

The tag-request urged me to write seven things about myself and chain the tag to seven friends. Following you can read my attempt at first half of the request. I fear I cannot fulfill the second half. I do not have seven friends I feel comfortable chaining to.

I found the first half challenging enough. I and other alter-egos were not raised to discuss ourownselves. My initial attempt to publicly expose seven personal tidbits took, as you can see, a weird twist or three in short order. 

In truth, you really only need to know one thing about me. Like Dionysus, I was not born but erupted from a thought filled forehead.

Unlike Dionysus, I do not attract singing swarms of swirling, twirling women who, overwhelmed by my presence, offer themselves to goatish paramours and in throes of ecstatic bliss, scratch loyal, human lovers to bits.

Additionally, unlike Dionysus, the forehead from which I sprang belonged not to Zeus but to a hick farm kid known to local women as somewhat tall and somewhat gentle with strange eyes and equipment falling well within the measurement of normal. (1)

In the wee hours before dawn, from beyond the silvered glass called mirror, I peek at this curiosity from which I sprang and whisper to him he must watch his weight (2) … as if one could miss it. 

In passing decades since first I looked out from behind his eyes. I’ve watched his beard, beneath which he hides a slightly weak chin, become more salt than pepper. (3) A result of long-term exposure to corporate, florescent panel lighting, blonde, tastefully groomed to social expectations, hair dulled to cubicle beige. When he escaped at last, sunlight, open skies, age and wisdom brightened beige not to expected Danish gold but to the cumulus white of childhood. (4)

I sense from my place behind his eyes the number of  his days and from them know the number of my days (being a voice for inner dialogue, his days are my days), and the measure of my universe. He passed beyond life once while we, his voices watched helplessly. We, that is he, tasted utter nothingness beyond ego and language. Reluctantly dragged by medical hands back to the living light, he never forgets that neither he nor I nor our universe can survive. (5)

He suffers a peasant attitude; his personal albatross; limiter of life and opportunity; an artifact found in the luggage of immigrants and passed down, father to daughter, mother to son.  From first wail he learned the Great things in life, opportunities that knock, deeds of knights and kings, lovers from outside the village and world changing ideas, “Ain’t for us. We don’t do that. Look around. Those things, other people do ’em. Be  happy with what you got and get back to work.” (6)

He grokked dysfunctional speakers, parent, teacher and preacher, accepted peasant obligations with blind obedience but without joy and happiness. They pretended and promised, one of the obligations they accepted, but without genuine joy and happiness.

His awareness that neurological poison tarnishes synaptic paths and pollutes subconscious whims and desires does not provide antidote. Knowing does not undo damage. Imprints etched in the virgin panels of his undefended, infant mind solidified in time. 

Rewriting ancient imprints and life-games requires therapy and psychedelic excursions; remedies ironically belonging to the list of things that “… are not for us … ” (7)

Finis.

One or three things about me and seven more concerning the owner of the forehead from which I jumped. 

This exercise produced a few stories, memories adopted to the non-confrontational Zeitgeist of the twenty-first century, post-post-modern spiral toward the neo-Dark Ages. Should I overcome inherent laziness, perhaps, before February brings the false thaw, I can share those as well.

Story, Reality, Life.

Story shapes our lives.

Stories are everywhere At the office we are story-tellers when we share last night’s adventures and tell sly little jokes. When we react to situations, data, information and proposals we are story-tellers.

We embrace stories that validate our life stories but we tread cautiously when faced with stories that rewrite parts of the stories we hold dear.

To keep main characters of our stories consistent with reality, we accept or refuse personal responsibility for day to day events.

Leaders tell stories to inspire. Experts tell stories to inform. Advertisers tell stories to sell shoes, food and plastic crap. People tell stories to amuse, warn, attract and repel.

As I write this, I am telling a story.

Most people recognize stories told with words but we do not limit stories to words. Our clever, tale-weaving species convey stories with every tool at our disposal. We share stories with movement, music and pictures. When we wince, smirk, sneer, shrug or smile, we expose bits of story and, intentionally or not, influence people who see us wince, smirk, sneer, shrug or smile. The clothes we wear, the cut of our hair – every gesture make and every pause we take tells a story. Parts of our story enter the plot lines of the people we meet.

Story creates reality.

From the moment of our first breath, parents, teachers, preachers and other authority figures begin programming our minds with stories. Stories expand tiny infantile worlds into mature Universes. Unavoidable stories fed to us during our impressionable years form cornerstones of our reality.

Ninety percent of what we think we know we think we know because we saw, read or heard a story. Of the far-reaching, ever-expanding reality our minds embrace, we can only touch fragments. Most reality comes to us not through experience but second-hand, wrapped in stories. When our paths cross concrete bits of reality, we process the concrete against the abstract contexts of our life stories. We display great skill at fitting experience to our stories; rarely do we feel a need to alter our life stories to fit the requirements of experience.

We tell each other the story that Reality creates Story but Story creates Reality.

We are Story.

Our universe is Story.

That’s my Story and I’m sticking to it.

How to Read Poetry – What’s in it For Me?

Why read poetry at all? Why bother to become better?
Most who read poetry read to experience joy, the beauty of language jitterbugging through time; the satisfaction of turning the key that unlocks the door to a room filled with wonder; the apotheosis of participation in sacred rites created by writers; the sudden, sacrosanct, orgasmic rush illuminating secret paths between conscious and subconscious thought.
Poetry constructs states of ecstasy and satisfaction accessible to memory and available for replay.
To which some Americans must wonder “But really, what’s in it for me?”
Fair enough.
Learning to read poetry generates material world rewards as side-effects to the intellectual and emotional joy invoked by coming upon and embracing poems capable of igniting our unique, primordial, intellectual, and emotional responses.
Those who read poetry live more romantic lives and enjoy better sex. Translated to guy-talk, those who read poetry have more sex and enjoy better romance. This should go without saying, but now it’s been said and it should be reason enough for anyone to start reading poetry. Think it through.
Reading poetry infuses us with the capacity to read between the lines and better distill information from content.
Reading poetry improves decision-making.
Reading poetry makes us more marketable. Think higher salary and better title.
Reading poetry expands the size of our world.
Reading poetry improves our sense of self.
Reading poetry leads to a better understanding of the sacred.
Reading poetry leads to direct experiences of joy.
This list was created to demonstrate that poetry has immediate, real-world benefits. Poetic language plays no role in day-to-day business communication but knowledge of poetics improves comprehension and competence. Through poetry we learn to better understand, anticipate and explain the workings of business and society; all to our advantage. The list does not include every benefit of poetry. For each person who embraces poetry, the reward for the effort varies but all can benefit.
Note – I use a very broad definition of poetry when I write of the returns for the effort. This definition includes reading and listening to poetry, stories and music; watching drama on stage, street and screen; contemplating photographs, paintings and drawings. Because some newscasters make intense use of rhetoric to couch their deceptions and since rhetoric belongs to the tool-box of poetics, learning to objectively listen to the lapdog political pundits that permeate news media counts as poetry … in a way … but only if we learn to parse the slight-of-hand.
© 2009 Chrome Poet

How to Read Poetry – Beginning Thoughts

I hit a writing wall. Not a physical wall. Not writer’s block. A wall of distraction.

Coffee in hand, I lay my pen against journal pages to create quick, small bits of poetry and watch, disappointed as my pen slips from the truth of poetry into paragraphic opinion and personal dogma. In my manner, I stroke three quick lines to indicate end of that thought and begin again. Pen flows lovely for a second before twisting away into prosaic statements of whine and rant; words tainted by the I of Me. I slam into a wall of I need to write this mundane thing before I can write what I want.

In poetry, bits of poet stick to phrases but most, if not all, great poets do not dwell on themselves except as vehicles for metaphor and analogy. The poem resounds with the poet’s voice but the speaker and poet are not one. Universe and life provide the themes for great poetry.

In prose, I write not of poetic prose, the great fiction and rare non-fiction works soaring on wings of metaphor and analogy but of ubiquitous, scientific-style prose that attempts no more than to transfer a set of idea from writer to reader; in prose the writer not only speaks but speaks to put in the reader’s mind part of the writer’s mind.

Poetry attempts truth in invocation; prose in evocation; poetry by providing catalyst for inspiration; prose by description of insight.

My insight I trust but lack confidence of my prose to describe that insight accurately; to paint it completely enough to resonate. I much prefer writing poetry but suffer a need to write prose. I must eliminate the distraction of opinion that soils my verse. I need to write blah, blah, prose.

I do not look forward to this exercise. My prose I find wanting – inauthentic – soapboxish.

The above should provide fair warning. In the next few days I shall attempt to document and publish my views on How to Read Poetry. Opinions on other current events may leak into the mix but the primary focus, at the moment, seems to be How to Read Poetry.

To date, I’ve done little more than collect a few research notes on the topic. My way of saying I’ll be making this up as I go along.

I will not be attempting essay form. I love to read well formed essay and would like to provide same but have never acquired the skill. Instead, taking a cue from W. A. Auden’s wonderful The Dyer’s Hand, I will assemble somewhat related fragments to provide peeks into my approach to reading poetry … do not mistake this as a claim that I read poetry well but as a claim that I know how I would like to read poetry … the fact is, like everyone else I struggle to read verse well.

I find the topic, How to Read Poetry, of the highest importance, the fact that we do not read poetry well means we do not listen to stories, watch movies or hear news stories well. Our culture suffers our casual attitude toward language. With luck, I will be able to communicate why I think this. I should probably have mentioned that up front where more people would have read it. But I did not. This is one of the reasons my prose sucks.

© 2009 Chrome Poet

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