The Very Thing

 

I think of the fog in the lowlands this morning.
How something that can’t be grasped, like mist,

will become the very thing
that dissolves.

Because it hovers out of reach?
Or, already hints at its invisibility?

It’s strange thinking you forget.
The yellow cornfields left trembling.

The Force

My poem about your hand under my
shirt on my shoulder surprised you,
you said, how a simple act like this is deepened.
True, but only in self-defense because
I know, love, you are a Jedi knight who 
uses the Force to make me float above you all night,
who performs mind tricks that make me do
what I tell myself I want to do to you.
So, yes, my shoulders are lucky things
and I’ve been a little jealous of them lately;
so many parsecs in me they’ve traveled today
after you said on the phone, I kiss you, I kiss them,
that the transmissions have gone too faint, too
close to a heart they have taken for a sun.

Why Poetry?

In 2014, poet, Sarah St George asked fellow writer and friend, Bart Wolffe questions about writing poetry. Bart died around this time last year.

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WHY DO I WRITE POETRY?

Desperation, mostly, feeling each day that if I can’t escape the straitjacket of meaninglessness, I will not have had purpose and time which steals away my life will once again have had the victory.

I am haunted by my need to do something that reflects what I am, unseen, unknown, that breaks the barriers and casts a spell that suggests there is something more to language than rote and gossip.

Poetry somehow compensates for the failure of my existence.

WHAT INSPIRES ME TO WRITE?

The barest naked glimpses, moments, a personal thought that strikes me almost accidentally and often when I am not looking directly at the object or subject in question. It is a sort of lateral shift that often occurs in the most fragile of instances.

There is a trigger mechanism, I believe, which is switched to GO by something often almost incidental. Just a feeling that requires a metaphor for expression, an image to represent what is sensed and felt in transit.

HOW DID I BECOME INTERESTED IN POETRY AND AT WHAT AGE DID I START WRITING?

Words and language have always, throughout my life, been the means by which I reach out to end my separation. When, at boarding school, I was ostracized and unpopular, I took refuge in Nature and that had a great early influence on my writing. The early childhood rejection also reflected in much of my work on the subject of alienation, minorities, exile.

It was during my University days that I first became hungry to write poetry. To express myself and hope to be hear and understood by someone. Also, naturally, as a way of talking to myself.

WHAT DO I CONSIDER TO BE GOOD WRITING?

I am somewhat intolerant of doggerel and cliches, of language that has no authenticity to me but sounds more like a church chorus.

When words bind well together, they become a personal revelation of truth and not merely an effect. A poem or poet speaks to me often by weight and measure. Personally, I find it difficult to express anything worthwhile and I do not believe myself to be a great talker. So words are not easy. Anything easy displeases.

I do not feel anyone and everyone can be a poet. It is a calling to live and die by. It is inescapable and not a hobby for me. Poetry compensates the lack of human interaction, the absence of intimacy and relationship and becomes a virtual touching and giving, a mind making love to another, even a stranger.

I must find my own reflection in a poem that moves me to accept its value. Or at least see my humanity within it. I need to believe the poet’s voice.

Therefore, what I am saying is that words are never cheap and easy but individually crafted and set together in an original design if they want to be valued and believed and read.

They are spells cast by an ageless magician. They are conjurations that replace tired bibles. They are born from within even when they speak of the world without and beyond.

ARE THERE ANY FAMOUS/WELL KNOWN POETS THAT HAVE INFLUENCED MY WORK? IF SO, WHO?

Without the evocations of language and ideas that came to me very early in life from reading not poetry, but prose and fiction as an avid young bookworm, then being given a diet of Shakespeare even in my early schooling, I realised that oracles are spoken as is much poetry.

Naturally, I read Dylan Thomas, Robert Frost, ee cummings, Elliot, Walcott, Neruda, Lorca, Cavafe, Seferis, Elitis, Horace, Virgil, Ovid, Plat, Hughes, etcetera… plus many contemporaries.

All of them seeped into my soul to some extent and leaked out in my own tongue long afterwards.

WHAT ROLE DO I THINK POETRY SERVES IN SOCIETY TODAY?

Poetry is a repository of treasures, a chest to be opened and its jeweled contents discovered. When any person discovers a love of language, poetry becomes the jewel in the crown. Often, some folk only find that appetite later in life. For many, the chance and opportunity passes them by because of lack of education or coming from a lower social strata. Therefore it could even be considered elitist politically. Because of the scarcity and rarity of great poetry, the value is often seen as commercially non-viable. Perhaps poetry belongs to a secret society, an enclave of those who know and keep to themselves.. Poetry is a love affair and those who enjoy poetry fall deeply into it, falling in love literally.

Inside the heart of a poem lies all of human truth and value, the highest thoughts, the deepest feelings. It serves the soul.

(Just some initial personal responses and reactions too your questions, Sarah. Hope they suffice.)

Woodland Sonnets

1.

Here’s the spirit level, lake holding firm
To hard ghost rock, creviced grimaces…stern
With lichen, moss, blueberry havens.
Then this thing, me, off-kilter and engraved
By flesh, whispering itself spirit
From a tongue, mutinous and enslaved.
To frame the balance, the plain, I fear it’s
Between brain and bone, alone, all together
As flesh is water, and spirit, strange matter.
Let me rest, thin lake, small sea, other sea
More substantial as you invisibly gather
Breezes of light, smaller than me,
Like humility, the ghosts in the skull,
My eyes see as one, as two waves fall.

Woodland Sonnets

1.

Here are spirit levels, place holding firm,
Hard ghost rock, precambrian salutations
From creviced grimaces, stern with flowers,
Graves of lichen, moss, blueberry havens.
And, then, a body, off-kilter, unhorizontal
Despite tininess, or mightily the hold,
Each ankle-twisting step is a shallow
Consecration of mind and brain, in bone.
That thin sea knows what it is, if it knew
How much more substantial in invisible
Wind where it outgrew out in to
A smallness, nearly light, less fragile,
Like humility, the ghost in the skull,
My two eyes that see as one, as I fall.

BMW i8

I’m so close to the beach, I can hear
the seagulls this morning.
They must be cumming again
on my 2006 Volkswagen Golf,
gracefully dodging the pretty black BMW i8
parked behind me.
Seagulls seem like such lonely creatures.
Remember when we first did-it on the second floor
of EconoLodge, overlooking the pool.
so much chlorine it felt as though you and I
were swimming in a spin cycle of bleach,
and perhaps because this made both our heads
a little crazy, you asked if I was thinking
of what’s-her-name. I wasn’t,
I was thinking, mostly, about you
and something elegiac in the seagull’s cry,
before it turns to shit.

– ph, Woodland Caribou, ON

Paull Lake

This island campsite paddles by without a paddle.
This isn’t so peculiar here. When the breeze stretches out,
and hums in your ear, you travel backwards
and scent the smoke of burn four years ago.
We were here before that. Moss was our shoes.
Trees greenly stirred the blueberry sky.
You waged sword fights on edges of rocks
while your brother swam the lake.
Today, the trees are black as spears,
so I’d like to tell myself he dives like a root in new soil
and the swish from a sword is a young jack pine in
the simple wind.

– Woodland Caribou, ON

On 6th Line Road

A second rain today.
When you opened the
door to your car
and I got in,
we were
strangers again — except
for your scent.
As if you had
driven by a
third time, your
directions cut by
second thoughts.
As if the earth had come
somewhere from the sky.