Tuesday, January 6th, 2009
I was at and over six lines of poetry for about three hours last night. I’m back at the top level of the hypertext poem, moving through line by line, but really as the process is more organic than a linear step-through.
Anyway, I got hung up on the middle portion of a 3 by 3 set of lines through which POV sets a time, a place, and an event. The issue had to do with the right way to describe the environment (moon, darkness) and the event but to avoid cliche and limpness. Here’s a case: everyone knows how the full moon looks or whatever moon happens to be in the sky. There a million ways to describe it or to set it, if description is merely meant as a device. But describing the moon with the writer’s particular eye doesn’t have to be such a big deal. After all, every voice has its take on the object. As I revised and thought and thought ahead with peripheral vision, it became clear that the moon was not a problem at all. Rather, it was the sea. Yes, water is in the lines too.
So I left the moon alone and went to strumming this next issue. Someone leaps from the rocks into the sea, which is out of eye-shot of POV (this is really all that happens in the lines at the moment, but more is waiting behind). How to describe all this, given that the moon and the sea are all going to play motif throughout the poem, and thus must have some “character” to invite the reader’s interest? After time, it hit me that I had been trying to describe the wrong thing: it shouldn’t be the diction of the water, but, rather, its sound. But something more than its sound, the bed it makes far far beyond the shore line.
Layers of the real are tough, given that experience is a simultaneous ambience, like water for a fish. Poetry acts as a filter, a sieve through which experience is poured. It’s also experience nurtured, like Charles Simic’s “ancient machinery” in Dogs Hear It that
lumbers towards me
With all its rusty parts throbbing.
In this three hours, I found something I hadn’t thought was there or hadn’t figured prior. Throughout the poem, there’s an unwritten sound that is often not a sound. The sea or ocean water is there, but from one particular position, you have to sense it in one case with the ear, in another, with the eye, yet in another, the skin of your hands.