Thursday, October 19, 2006

Poetry Thursday: Avoidance

We have been having trouble with our family computer network at home, and no network means no internet. I think it's finally fixed and I will be able to post this before Thursday bedtime. Still, it's only just Thursday in the US so that's OK.

Poetry Thursday this week asked us to consider "avoidance". Are there some poets we avoid, for instance, because they are too difficult? Well, I read a lot of poetry. And I know that there are some poets I skim over and then pass on to something else. But I don't take conscious note of who they are so that I can name them here. Rather, I take note of the ones I love, and read more. The others tend to sink beneath the horizon of my awareness. So it was hard for me to do the suggested assignment, to sit with a poet I avoid, try and get to know his/her poetry, and maybe write some in the same style.

I have though been reading off and on over the past couple of weeks, the poetry of Michele Leggott. One of her poems was included as an example at a workshop I went to recently, and I loved it. Only after a word or two of explanation was given though - then all the dense and tangled imagery fell into place and it made sense. Sadly, it's still the only one of her poems I feel I understand. I do intend to go back to these poems and read them some more, and try to get a feel for them. At the moment, I am restricted to enjoying individual images - fragments as short as half a line, even - without comprehending the poem.

What I tend to avoid in poetry, I think, is senselessness. Which of course is not really senselessness - it's just that the poem doesn't conform to my own sense of logic. I have sometimes been accused of explaining too much when I write. I do like a sense of mystery in a poem, but only to a degree. I have never liked to feel that I didn't understand something at all, whether it's poetry, quantum theory or anything else. I need to learn to live with, and enjoy, mystery.

Something else I tend to avoid is submitting my poems to journals. However, I sent a batch off to Turbine on Tuesday, two days before their deadline for this year's issue. A pat on the back to myself for that. I've missed out on a couple of other deadlines through procrastination.

The topic of "avoidance" reminded me of an essay I read on Poetry Daily some months back. Click here for Stephen Dunn on avoidance. A line in this essay "restraint, avoidance's mentally healthy cousin" prompted this poem:


avoidance’s mentally healthy cousin – Stephen Dunn

Restraint is the blue-eyed twin
the polite, tastefully dressed one
who looks around when you see fires break out
and tells you “it’s not real,
there’s no one running”

And don’t you just want to push her
into the cupboard and slam the door,
don’t you want to run into the street
flinging fistfuls of yourself to the wind
like the autumn trees,
don’t you want to screech
loud enough to shatter glass

while she sits in the cupboard
pounding softly on the door


che said...

beautiful . i certainly understood it well !

ren powell said...

Thank you for a rich posting. The introduction to a poet I'm not familiar with, the link to the great essay and a lovely poem!

Anonymous said...

I rellay liked what you did with this prompt.."throwing fistfulls of yourself to the wind..great visuals...thanks..m

Crafty Green Poet said...

Oh absolutely! Excellent poem. Interesting post all round.

twilightspider said...

I loved this, the sharing of your journey, topped off with a fabulous poem. Like Madd, I also love the line "throwing fistfulls of yourself to the wind". It's an image that I wouldn't have thought of for a feeling that I have often.

Deb R said...

I love that poem! I've often talked about my feeling that Stubbornness is the ugly stepsister of Patience, so a poem making a similar comparison betwee Avoidance and Restraint is fabulous.

Jim Brock said...

What a terrific riff, Catherine. Funny, liberating (and very wry with the repetitive "don't you want to . . .").

Kay Cooke said...

Oh no blogger bipped me again.
If my comments appear twice I apologise in advance.
I think this poem's great Catherine.
I met Michelle at the writer's festival in Bluff earlier this year. She is a wonderful woman who has her personal battle with life, but you'd never know, she's so strong and carries herself with a lot of confidence and dignity. She has real presence. Like you however, I do struggle to understand her poetry at times - it's so deep.

Anonymous said...

Delicious poem.
Thanks for the head's up on Leggott. I'll check her out.