Friday, February 29, 2008

What happens with a writing exercise gone wrong

So I'm rooting though piles of old files (figuratively--I was searching through folders that somehow got moved onto this computer) and I come across this gem of a poem. It was written as part of a challenge in my second semester Form and Theory class. We had to write a poem about a subject we wouldn't normally write about--food, for instance. This is what came out. And if you think this is bad, wait until I post the sestina about the marijuana eating goat, or the one called "Pukey the Armadillo."

Sonnet to Sausage
-for Enid


(This is the nugget, the meaning you must
glean from this poem. You should interpret
it only this way, for there is just
one way, that I, your poet really meant

for you to read it.) I hate kielbasa,
the greasy juiciness of it; I hate
the feel of teeth that pop the sausage
casing to squeeze out the ground pig meat,

the leftover chunks that even butchers
figure can’t be sold without a disguise,
some skin or otherness. On pictures
of pigs sectioned off by dotted lines

into hamhocks, pork loins, bacon and chops,
there’s never one called sausage, no kielbasa.


Sad thing is, I really don't hate sausage. I love it, in fact. I just don't eat it much anymore unless it's imported, because I don't trust the US meat production system. Fortunately, I live near an Irish bar that imports Irish bangers and Irish bacon, so I can still get pork on occasion.

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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

"Problems with Hurricanes"

Anyone who lives in a hurricane area knows the dangers from wind and rain, but Victor Hernandez Cruz points to the real dangers. The campesino who speaks in his poem says "it's the mangoes, avocados / Green plaintains and bananas / Flying into town like projectiles" that are the real danger, because there's more than life at stake when you're riding out a storm. Family honor is at stake.

How would your family
Feel if they had to tell
The generations that you
Got killed by a flying
Banana


It's going to be hard to get Junior to accept the family name if that's what it's famous for, especially if you live in a small, close-knit community, where family name is one of the few treasures a family can hope to have.

It's easy to snicker at this point of view, if you don't live in this sort of community, if your name doesn't carry the weight of generations. I felt this way for a long time, until someone with the same last name got famous. For a while, it was cool--a chance to crack a couple of jokes, a way to get a class's attention at the beginning of the term, a witty line on my bio for poetry submissions--but lately, it's gotten old, in part because I feel like the famous holders of a name that was my own have been letting the side down, in a way.

Okay, that's not really the case. In my direct line, my sister and I are the first generation out of the trailer park. My parents were respectable enough, though for a long time, my dad, being a Junior, would often respond to people on the phone "why do you want to know?" when asked if he was Sam Spears. We have our skeletons, but since most of us are fairly anonymous (our greatest claim to fame being the uncle who has played bass guitar for Willie Nelson for nearly 40 years), our dirty secrets are our own. Any relatives who have suffered the equivalent of a hurricane-flung mango smashing their skull are safely private, the sorts of stories that come out at beer-fueled reunions. Or in poems.

My displeasure at the public trek through the trough the Spears name has taken recently is only a passing one, perhaps because it's one I've been expecting for years, and perhaps because it will soon allow the name to pass back into relative anonymity. In a way, it's as though the famous Spearses have moved beyond the "ultimate disgrace" of a plantain hitting them in the temple, and have simply been bashed against the rocks by the hurricane of traditional celebrity media coverage, giving their "death" a bit more honor.

I, like the campesino, doff my hat to that power. It's the beautiful, sweet things that can do the most damage many times, that can make you look stupid in death, when there's nothing you can do to fix the damage. It's a power to be wary of, and the people who live in close conjunction with their family honor know that. But while it's good to beware of those beautiful sweet things, it's also good to remember that those beautiful sweet things are life-affirming and useful, as long as they're not flying at your head at 70 miles per hour.

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Sunday, February 24, 2008

An interesting new journal

I am ambivalent, at best, about my graduate school experience. Fayetteville, Arkansas isn't the hippest place in the world to spend four years, after all. But Amy turned me onto a new project that some of the grad students there have put together.

It's called Linebreak, and it's a format I haven't seen before. They publish weekly, but only one poem a week. They've been up for five weeks now, by the looks of it, and you get not only a poem on the page, but an audio version read by one of the people doing the magazine. You can listen to it there or download it as a podcast. I hope they're able to make this a success, because it looks like an intriguing way to go about doing a journal.

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Saturday, February 23, 2008

Speaking of poetry

Guess it's time I start the shameless self-promotion. I have a poem up in the newest issue of storySouth, titled "US Route 50." It's part of a series of poems I've been writing off and on over the last couple of years that deal with unique roads I've traveled in this country. It's not really a project--more of a way of dealing with some images that refused to go away. I have some thoughts on the notion of working on poetic projects as opposed to poems, but they need some more discipline. I'll get around to them eventually.

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Friday, February 22, 2008

A New Poetic Home on the Web

I couldn't pass it up. I was hoping to add some different functionality to my main blog, so I set one up to test on, and the name was available. What was I supposed to do?

When I started Incertus four years ago, I was planning on making it a blog that dealt with politics and poetics, and over the years I've tried, without success, to make it more of a poetry blog. It's not going to happen, I've decided, so since I have this place now, I'll make it lit-centered. I'll put some of my work up here, boast about my successes (hopefully without seeming too geeky about it), and if and when I get a book published, this will be the main hub dealing with it.

And maybe I'll actually write some critical stuff as well. You never know.

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