Friday, November 09, 2007

The new fridge was delivered today by two very adept Home Depot delivery guys, who delicately sidestepped piano benches (C's), leaning bicycle (housemate David's), and piles of boxes to bring in the new baby. They took doors off hinges quickly and efficiently and hoisted her in, and had the doors back on and were out within twenty minutes. Artistry. And now I have refrigerator envy--of my tenant! She gets that whole clean gleaming thing to herself, while C and I are sharing fridge space with Masankho and David, our salad fixings spilling over into someone else's Korean take-out, into someone else's peanut butter and half'n'half.

The other night I dreamed Hillary Clinton wanted to be my special friend. We were at some kind of function and she insisted on sitting next to me at my table and telling me she liked me. I told her I liked her too, but I didn't know if I could vote for her because she voted for the war. I still prefer Obama. (Also I'm suspicious that the Republicans are setting Hillary up to be the Democratic candidate because they think she's beatable.) It reminds me of the time I dreamed I was making love with Arnold Shwarzenegger--now that was horrifying and titillating--the deadly combination of his inflated pectorals and his odious politics!

I've spent time the last few days reconfiguring my poetry ms. for the bajillionth time and renaming it as well...with all the new poems I've been writing lately, it has taken on a different tone. I read an article Eavan Boland wrote a few years ago in Poets & Writers Magazine, about how first books aren't really first books anymore. With all the pressure that the competitions put on emerging writers, by the time a book finally gets published it is more like a third book. That is definitely true for me. This ms., which is supposed to be for my second book is really more like my fourth or fifth. I've put in and then taken out so many poems that I felt were not strong enough, even some that had been published. (And of course there are the ones Dad likes vs. the ones Ruth likes, and then the ones that never got accepted anywhere but I still just stubbornly like them.)

Boland's point in her essay was that this over-editing ultimately shortchanges readers who want to track a poet's growth and development--everything has become so polished by the time it hits the general airwaves that we miss the precious rough edges and transitions that are a normal part of any artist's development. I think she's right. Looking back over my tattered collection of favorite books of poems by W.C. Williams, Frank O'Hara, Muriel Rukeyser, Galway Kinnell, there are poems that are uneven, poems that might not make it through a rigorous workshop. But it doesn't matter because what I was after when I read poetry back in the day, before I was so thoroughly indoctrinated into the po' biz, was the feeling of a life laid bare on the page--and that was something these writers gave me, even in their most imperfect works.

I've discovered a new poet--finally bought a copy of Unfortunately, it was Paradise, by Mahmoud Darwish. He is the poet laureate of the Palestinians, if a stateless people can have a laureate. His voice is poignant, earthy, authentic. I brought in the following poem to my fourth and fifth graders this week. They were challenged and inspired by it:

The Flute Cried

The flute cried, If only I could go to Damascus as an echo.
Silk weeps on the shores and passes through a sobbing cry.
Landscapes fill with tears. The flute cried and tore the sky into two women.
It divided the road and broke the heart of the sand grouse.
It divided us so we’d fall in love. O flute, we plea for mercy!
We are not as distant as the sunset. Are you crying out so as to cry in vain,
or to crush the mountain as well as Adam and Eve’s apple? O shout of
infinite silence, cry Damascus, my woman, I will love and I will survive.

The flute cried. If only I could go to Damascus as an echo.
I even believe in what I don’t believe. Silky tears burn away our breath.
The flute cried. If only I could cry like the flute, then I would know Damascus.

--Mahmoud Darwish


miguelita said...

i had a dream that hillary wanted to be my special friend too!! i was at a speech she was giving and then we went to dinner in new york...

i've read your writing in the sun...happy to find a place where i can get a fix more often.

Alison said...

That's funny--my boyfriend dreamed about Bill Clinton last night! It seems we are in a dream relationship with the power couple!