Posts tagged modern poetry
Posts tagged modern poetry
Corinna Parr, Imagist
This young author’s work is akin to that of the Imagists, a 19th-century group of writers containing many women. Like the Imagist’s work, Corinna’s writing features clear visuals, precise language, and mythological themes.
As her charming essay Memory of Magic reveals, Corinna is a born poet. At the age of five, while playing with other kids in a sprinkler, she saw spontaneous circles of children shift into a variety of geometric shapes. Corinna was carried away by the beauty of the impromptu dance: ”I’ve remembered it, and in remembering have caught glimpses of the pattern of magic elsewhere.”
This childhood experience seems to inform the poetry Corinna writes today. You can see it in her magic-laden prose-poem Maiden Mother Crone in which a daughter of Epona (a horse-goddess) emerges from the earth and has only three days in which to live a full woman’s life. The story’s climax is a three-circled dance ceremony.
What this young poet celebrates most, however, is sex and the complementarity of men and women. She often writes of a frustrated yearning to merge with her lover, to feel and understand his maleness. From Ode to Happy Man:
…Oh, if I could
into myself and
drink the masculinity
of you, become one
with it and
truly know what it is
to be a happy man,
For me, it is only ever
the imperfect joining,
the spill of fluids
and your ragged breath
caught in the cup of my
Corinna walks the fine edge of erotica, writing sensual poems that stop just short of being explicit. But sometimes she delves deeper, exploring the ways in which submission flows naturally from her femininity. Corinna is not afraid to cross lines, and the short story Captivity (written in collaboration with James Ciriaco), set in colonial America, is both terrifyingly violent and psychologically astute. For BDSM fans, this is the most natural, least forced piece of that genre I have read.
Corinna’s muse embraces motherhood as enthusiastically as she embraces sex. The Butterfly Shirt speaks of a three year-old who’s precociously gallant, and Corinna beautifully unveils the tensions between mother and son. The short sentences of this poem hold the reader in a tight mother’s squeeze until gravity takes over at the end:
If you knew,
what you do
to my heart
when you tell
me to wear
the butterfly shirt
because it makes
you would then
why I cry
and hug you
until you complain,
"Mama, put me down!”
Corinna is not shy about pondering her own mortality. In The Universe is Bloodless she expands her poetic reach, reflecting on the fact that it’s not flesh and blood but star-stuff that composes the universe, and this is a form to which our bodies will one day return:
Stroke your arm and think:
The universe is bloodless,
Not I; this body
of flesh, veins, soft pulsing heart,
made to spill, to break;
Life, to the beat of mad drums,
or hands on my skin.
The universe is bloodless;
Not I, this body of flesh.
The narrator draws a sharp contrast between her youthful zeal and the cold indifference of inert matter. Though she makes life seem exceedingly fragile, faith shines through her words. In asserting that she is not her body, Corinna also asserts that some part of her will survive death. Her writing will stand the test of time because Corinna Parr’s passion for life is infectious. As her profile says:
"Breathe, cry out, sing, or don’t write at all."
Barbary Chaapel Weds Water and Land
Barbary Chaapel excels at capturing sensory impressions and weaving them into universal themes. Her beautiful Quartet of Seasons takes us through a symbolic year of life in her Appalachian home, seamlessly mixing rhythms of nature, people, and ghosts. Here is Spring:
Alive, the mountains,
The rills and runs,
Light spilling over new green.
Look beyond the tulip tree buds:
Wood smoke, elixir
From a chimney in the clearing,
Where every April, my flower bed
Gives up a marble, a shooter -
Imagine marble-clicking sounds -
Lost to the earth by long-ago farm children…
Although she was born in rural West Virginia and grew up in the Great Lakes region, Barbary spent seven years sailing the Caribbean with her husband. This voyage yielded her first two books, The Journey of The Snow Goose (prose)and No Name Harbor (poetry).
In he recent poetry collection Estuary, Barbary contemplates the opposing forces of her life, symbolically joining her earthly roots with her seafaring adventures:
"The estuary inside me, a confluence, words of earth and fire from mountain to sea."
But Barbary’s work isn’t predictable. She blew me away with her unconventional poem Simulation, in which she once again touches on a journey from water to land.
In it Barbary writes of an abnormal pregnancy (fetus in fetu) in which a smaller, partially-developed fetus grows on a normal one. The larger fetus, soon to give up her watery life for one on land, narrates the poem with loving acceptance of her little stow-away:
We turn in on each other
In those first months of sacred knowing.
I am sweet fruit. She swims naked in
The red-black juice of a pomegranate…
I signal baby kisses
To my little aril other,
Her tiny foot and leg tilt in my round pan
Of a brain. I become the boat,
She, the norish voyageur,
Fetus in fetu.
But I think this is more than a poem about a stowaway, a parasite, or a haunting. This is about the growing realization that one carries something that has been there all along and requires nurturing: a soul. For even the “monster-born” are children of God.
Like Corinna Parr, Barbary Chaapel has written a poem (Maiden, Mother, Crone) about the three stages of a woman’s life. Although Corinna looks at a woman’s life from a broad mythological perspective, Barbary ties her reflections to a specific place and time:
On tiptoe at lamplighted cottage window,
She peers into the corners of her kitchen life
Iron skillet, greenglass juicer, apron strings:
Her life as a woman,
New moon, full moon, nearly dark moon.
Notice how carefully Barbary has placed objects in the kitchen of her life— a skillet (masculine imagery), a juicer for extracting essence, and apron strings for children to cling to. What more could a woman want?
Barbary’s current project is a charming book of poems called A Child’s Calender of Verse. Here’s a sneak preview for you: When the 11th Month Comes:
The fishes sleep
their long winter sleep.
They doze under a skim of November ice.
A slow-motion video swims behind their round
fishy eyes…worms, wriggling provocatively.
Reading the work of these two gifted women makes me wish I were a poet. But not being one seems less important knowing that I have Corinna Parr and Barbary Chaapel to speak for me.
Copyright 2013 by Ann Marcaida.
All images are stocks from Google Image
In grade school, I fell in love with English Romantic poetry. Who wouldn’t swoon over a phrase like ”willows whiten, aspens quiver, little breezes dusk and shiver”? The gorgeous visual imagery and rhythm of the English Romantics defined my notion of good poetry for years.
A lot has changed since the days of the English Romantics. Modern poetry began as a rebellion against the precise forms and speech of Victorian poetry, much as modern painters rebelled against more traditional forms of painting.
Modern poetry is full of fractured phrases, unconventional words, free verse, and shifting points of view. Rhymes are few. Modern poetry isn’t designed to confuse readers (although it does that uncannily well), but rather to persuade readers to examine their own thoughts and mental constructs as they read a poem.
As a visual analogy, compare the 1888 John Williams Waterhouse painting The Lady of Shalott (top of article) to Picasso’s groundbreaking 1907 painting Les Demoiselles d’Avignon (above).
While Waterhouse’s painting looks fairly natural, Picasso’s painting is anything but natural. You can see the principles of modern art, including modern poetry, at work here. Forms are fractured, point of view is inconsistent, and there’s little structure. Although the Waterhouse painting is easier to look at, it’s the Picasso image that makes you think, because it challenges your ideas about painting.
The same is true of modern poetry. If you can get used to its unpredictable structure and shifting points of view, reading it can be an enlightening experience.
I have no academic background in literature, nor do I write poetry. This makes me uniquely qualified to tell you about my favorite poets. If I can read and appreciate them, so can you!
Susan Budig: Tugging Your Heartstrings
Susan Budig is a wonderfully versatile, mature poet who works in both traditional and modern styles. She writes free verse as well any poet, but she also loves traditional forms and tight rhyme schemes.
Susan’s poetry is unequivocally feminine, speaking clearly and wisely about emotional issues such as love, sensuality, nurturing, and loss. In The Bike Man, Susan transforms mundane bicycle repair into a sly, humorous poem full of sexual innuendo:
"Who knew a man named Wade
would know all about the intricate
details of my derailleur,
by only spinning my two wheels.
Who knew a man named Wade
would fix my purple vélo
with nothing more than
a thin gloss of lubricant
stretched between his two fingers
firmly pressed on my clotted chain,
easing deeply into my bearings
until the kink came out.”
Susan writes frequently about the loss of loved ones. In The Last Fugue, the narrator ponders the death of her sister, while a friend plays the violin. This poem is written in a difficult and intricate form (a “pantoum”), which requires that lines be repeated, but their meanings change within each stanza. Susan makes pantoum-writing seem as natural as breathing.
The tight structure and repetition of this poem gives the rhythmic feel of a violin being bowed. Susan’s visual imagery is full of grief and loss. Jet-streams (contrails) hang in the sky, suspended like the narrator’s heavy heart. Realizing that a part of her died along with her sibling, the narrator wants a two-headed coin buried in her sister’s grave:
“The contrails in the sky
Hang like my heart in stasis
When you say her name, I wonder why
I give you my last quarter with two faces
Hang like my heart in stasis
Until it bursts into a fistful of coins
I give you my last quarter with two faces
Throw it in her grave, I enjoin”
John Kimball II: Urban Alienation
While Susan Budig writes both traditional and modern poetry (see her award-winning modern poem Flying), John Kimball is a modern poet to the core. This young writer’s stark verse depicts human alienation in a technology-filled world that’s devoid of love and divine presence.
Kimball excels at depicting altered mental states. Listen to his dead-on evocation of depression from Deaf Dumb Done (Blessed are the Poor in Spirit):
“I know how to disappear completely
It’s not that hard-
all you have to do is look at the sidewalk
eyes trained down constantly
and it will absorb you
in its muted gray shade.”
Notice that there’s not a single word describing emotion in this excerpt. Instead, Kimball uses a ruthless metaphor to depict his narrator’s depression— the disappearance of color from the world.
Kimball’s protagonist, fearing eye contact with others, seems less than human and about to melt into his monochrome urban surroundings. When I read this poem, my heart sinks along with the narrator’s.
For a self-proclaimed atheist, Kimball talks about religion a lot. He has three poetry sets: The God Series (in which he personifies God and does all but spit in his face); The Beatitudes (based on the Biblical verses), and a new series about Lucifer’s duel with God.
In Kimball’s poem God Sweats, an arrogant, nihilistic God looks down on his human creations, considering whether to let them live. If you read this poem aloud, you’ll feel the driving rhythm characteristic of this poet’s work. (Or check out his creative multimedia presentation of his poem here).
Notice how Kimball forces us to examine our place in the universe by writing from a God’s-eye view:
"if I take away their music
they will lose their will to crawl
I will take way their music
they will spin
they will fall”
But Kimball’s poetry doesn’t always strike a somber note. In Confession, new love makes the narrator acutely aware of life’s sudden moments of grace and illumination in a decaying urban environment:
"But now, every so often there is a moment of clarity
when the sun jumps from the sky and splashes all over the streets
leaving some brilliant stain all over me
and if I stand still enough, long enough, I can almost see
that I’m made from the same fragile mechanical pulse
that makes everything and everyone dance.”
I hope you’ll read more of John Kimball’s and Susan Budig’s work. They are the yang and yin of poets— Kimball with his fierce confrontation of God the Father in all His manifestations, and Budig with her feminine emphasis on nurture and emotion. The work of these two literary artists runs deep.
Susan Budig’s Poetry Blog: http://susanbudigs-poetry.blogspot.com
Photos courtesy of Google Images. Portraits are courtesy of the poets.
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