Thursday, November 27, 2008

John Steffler

The Green Insect

John Steffler

I had a green insect, a kind that had never before been
----- seen,
descendant of an ancient nation, regal, rigid in ritual.

It would sun itself on my windowsill, stretching its legs
one by one, its hinged joints, its swivel joints, its
----- claws, unfolding and folding its Swiss army knife implements.
It was ready for a landing on the moon.

Around my page it marched itself like a colour guard.
It halted, and its segments fell into place, jolting all
------ down the line.

It uncased its wings which glistened the way sometimes very
------ old things glisten: tortoiseshell fans, black veils,
------ lantern glass.

It was a plant with a will, an independent plant, an early
------invention wiser than what we've arrived at now.
It was a brain coiled in amulets for whom nature is all

People gawked, and a woman pointed a camera, and I
-------hesitated, but -- I did -- I held the insect up by its
-------long back legs like a badge, like my accomplishment,
and the air flashed, and the insect twisted and fought,
-------breaking its legs in my fingertips, and hung

lunging, fettered with stems of grass,

and I laid it gently down on a clean page,
but it wanted no convalescence,

it ripped up reality, it flung away time and space,

I couldn't believe the strength it had,

it unwound its history, ran out its spring in kicks and
------ rage, denied itself, denied me and my ownership,
------ fizzed, shrank, took off in wave after wave of murder,
------ and left nothing but this page faintly stained with
------ green.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Excerpt from a Letter to... an Old Poet?

"Read as little as possible of literary criticism - such things are either partisan opinions, which have become petrified and meaningless, hardened and empty of life, or else they are just clever word-games, in which one view wins today, and tomorrow the opposite view. Works of art are of an infinite solitude, and no means of approach is so useless as criticism. ... - Always trust yourself and your own feeling, as opposed to argumentations, discussions, or introductions of that sort; if it turns out that you are wrong, then the natural growth of your inner life will eventually guide you to other insights. Allow your judgments their own silent, undisturbed development, which, like all progress, must come from deep within and cannot be forced or hastened. Everything is gestation and then birthing. To let each impression and each embryo of a feeling come to completion, entirely in itself, in the dark, in the unsayable, the unconscious, beyond the reach of one's own understanding, and with deep humility and patience to wait for the hour when a new clarity is born: this alone is what it means to live as an artist: in understanding as in creating. "

---------------------------------------------------------Ranier Maria Rilke

Monday, November 24, 2008

The Letter

"...A work of art is good if it has arisen out of necessity. That is the only way one can judge it. So, dear Sir, I can't give you any advice but this: to go into yourself and see how deep the place is from which your life flows; at its source you will find the answer to the question whether you must create. Accept that answer, just as it is given to you, without trying to interpret it. Perhaps you will discover that you are called to be an artist. Then take the destiny upon yourself, and bear it, its burden and its greatness, without ever asking what reward might come from outside. ..."

-----------------------------------------------------------------Rainer Maria Rilke

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Grasshopper, Snatch the Pebble From my Hand...

"...You ask whether your verses are any good. You ask me. You have asked others before this. You send them to magazines. You compare them with other poems, and you are upset when certain editors reject your work. Now (since you have said you want my advice) I beg you to stop doing that sort of thing. You are looking outside, and that is what you should most avoid right now. No one can advise or help you - no one. There is only one thing you should do. Go into yourself. Find out the reason that commands you to write; see whether it has spread its roots into the very depths of your heart; confess to yourself whether you would have to die if you were forbidden to write. This most of all: ask yourself in the most silent hour of your night: must I write? Dig into yourself for a deep answer. And if this answer rings out in assent, if you meet this solemn question with a strong, simple "I must," then build your life in accordance with this necessity; your whole life, even into its humblest and most indifferent hour, must become a sign and witness to this impulse. ..."

----------------------------------------------------------------Rainer Maria Rilke

Hook, Line & Sinker

Friday, November 21, 2008

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Off the Cuff

I don't usually ad lib my posts - but there've been a few things on my mind lately that I'd like to share. I'm not sure whether this is going to be a rant or even where this is going. Bear with me. As some of you have noted - I have not, as of late, been "as engaged” with poetry as I've been in the past. Actually, I asked poetry to marry me. Bought a ring. Got down on one knee. She said yes, but jilted me at the altar. I'm kinda out there on the rebound - but I'll survive.

Then there's the fact that I've become rather disenchanted with this whole blogging spiel. I mean why should anybody give a crap that I post a poem or music clip or commentary or what you usually come across on poetry blogs: self-aggrandizement. There's enough hot air out in the blogosphere to fill the Hindenburg all over again and then some. Everybody is trying to sound so "deep" but all I keep hearing and reading out there are hollow words. Then when you actually find something on a blog that you want to comment on and do - God forbid if you disagree with the blogger. You're shunned like the proverbial plague. I don't do "brown-nosing" very well I'm afraid. If that means that I am destined to become a pariah in this literary community. So be it!

Strange, I thought that artists in the guise of poets and writers in general welcomed different perspectives. I was led to believe that they welcomed voices of dissent. Voices that were different from the common and that differed from their own. Voices that marched to the beat of a different drum. Is there no room for a poet that does not twist and pivot to the beat? Is there no room here for the stick which will not bend to the stream? Is there no place for a would-be poet that is not published? Must poets only be measured by the prizes and awards that they garner?

In 1901, Joseph Conrad, Thomas Hardy and Leo Tolstoy were all overlooked by the judges who awarded the first Nobel Prize for literature to Sully Prudhomme. Anybody read any Prudhomme recently? Literary awards have become so enormously important to writers and publishers that as Ellen Seligman of McClelland & Stewart says, “If a book isn't on a list, there's a sense in which it doesn't exist." (Well I guess that my poetry does not exist then. It is a figment of my poetic imagination.)

There was a time when writers weren't obliged to take literary prizes seriously. They understood the politics, the bargaining, the subjectivity and the sheer dumb luck that invariably goes into these decisions. Today the writer seems (IMHO) to take these awards too seriously. Your work must win prizes or at the very least be on a short (even long will do in a pinch) list of also-rans.Well, I have made no such lists. And you won't likely be seeing my name bandied about by publishers as an "also-ran".

I write poetry: bad or good, it's all I've got. It gives me pleasure to write and sometimes even to read it. Apparently, it's also given a few readers some pause. That's enough for me. If that makes me irrelevant in the literary world or even in this on-line poetic community - well then that's fine too! Somehow I'd lost track of what this is really all about - the poetry. It doesn't matter if I publish it or not - what matters is that it communicates something - anything.

I'm stepping off the soap box before I get pushed off. Thanks.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Don't Think Twice...It's All Right

It ain't no use in turning on your light, Babe -
That light I never knowed.
And it ain't no use in turning on your light, Babe -
I'm on the dark side of the road.
Still I wish there was something you would do or say
To try and make me change my mind and stay.
We never did too much talking anyway.
So don't think twice. It's all right.