Saturday, January 14, 2006

The Visible Record

“Poetry is the visible record of invisible desire.”

Frederico Garcia Lorca said the above when he was still a young man.

About six months ago when I discovered I had been laid off from my very nice job in a seniority bump, Andrew suggested that a good use of my time would be to study Lorca. (He loves to tell me what to do.)

You can find a nice home grown translation of a poem here Morpheme Tales: Translation: Garc�a Lorca's Arbole, arbole...

We used his book credits at Powell’s and bought Lorca A Dream of Life by Leslie Stainton and Federico Garcia Lorca A Life by Ian Gibson. We sat on the porch and read bits out loud to each other, and compared detail.

I sip biographies of poets like an inspirational potion. I do this with the huge Anna Akhmatova Poet and Prophet by Roberta Reeder. My eyes glaze over and my mind goes numb when I try to read serious academic treatments but the writing about the lives, usually written by folks steeped in poetic tradition I find useful.

Once I received a lovely fan e-mail from the niece of a famous poet about a couple of poems I had published on a Middle Eastern website. She started off by saying “I see you are a follower of Semiotics…” and went on in much academic detail to describe my poems.

I didn’t have a clue what she was talking about! I had to go out and get one of those wonderful Introducing Study guides. You know, the ones that have the cartoons?

This propensity for my eyes to glaze over, (it also happens when I am reading detail about photographic technique) is why I stay away from the poetry critique sites on the web. I have about zero tolerance for folks trying to show off how much they know and watching some of my closest friends get involved in emotional debates about lame feet and a change from the iambic to the trochaic drives me around the bend.

Yes of course we need to know the rules before we start breaking them! But how many rules are there and who the heck is in charge here anyway? If I can’t absorb what I need to know by reading the very best poetry written again and again than I am afraid I’m never going to learn.



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