Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Bright Objects Hypnotize the Mind

I did not know that April the 14th was National Poem in Your Pocket Day.

I did know that April was National Poetry Month. I have a big poster in my work cubicle that reminds me. It came in the mail with one of our journals, or a publisher's catalog. It says, "Bright objects hypnotize the mind" in white letters that glow on a dark, woodsy background. The line is from a poem by Elizabeth Bishop.

It's the first thing I see when I come to my cubicle in the morning.  I look at it when I am despairing over the piles of paper on my desk, that I keep vowing to go through. I look at it when I spill hot chocolate powder on my desk and have to scrape it into a trash can, like right now.

Since National Poem in Your Pocket Day was only a week ago, the public library still had a basket of leftover poems to give away at their poetry reading last night. These pocket poems were printed on thin cardstock, about 2" x 3" and were offered along with brownies and coffee. I grabbed six of them. The  idea is to carry them around and share them with other people. So far I've shared one of them with one person.

There were two poets at the reading, and my cousin's wife, Maril, was one of them. It was a grey damp day outside, and very breezy and chilly. The wind that had assaulted me on my walk to the library building from the parking lot seemed intent on turning me back to my car. But I was glad I had persevered. The meeting room was warm with the fresh-brewed coffee, and with the free-flow of words. Maril's words and her soft voice reading them, relaxed me and filled my mind with pictures, and got me to thinking. I belong in these spaces where words and language are celebrated. I like the reverence of it. The agreement among strangers that reading and writing matters. I have to do more of this, I thought. I've been an isolated writer, but whether I'm writing myself or not, I need to go where the written word is welcomed and embraced.               

The 2nd poet at the reading  had a collection of haikus, and they were sparse and elegant. But they left me craving Jack Kerouac's haikus.

Here are some of his haikus I like:

50 miles from NY
All alone in nature
The squirrel eating

Well here I am
2 pm. -
What day is it?

The tree
looks like a dog
barking at heaven

In my medicine cabinet
the winter fly
has died of old age

Holding up my purring cat
to the moon
I sighed

All day long
wearing a hat
that wasn't on my head

too dark to read the page
too cold

Drunk as a hoot owl,
writing letters
by thunderstorm.

And a few of my absolute favorites, which I've posted before:

Missing a kick
at the icebox door
it closed anyway

The little worm
lowers itself to the roof
by a self shat thread

Quietly pouring coffee
in the afternoon,
how pleasant!

When the moon sinks
down to the power line
I'll go in

Glow worm
sleeping on this flower
your light's on

Jack didn't follow the strict Japanese form. He was a writer of American Haiku. He said,

The Japanese Haiku is strictly disciplined to seventeen syllables but since the language structure is different I don't think American Haikus should worry about syllables because American speech is something again...bursting to pop. Above all, a Haiku must be very simple and free of all poetic trickery and make a little picture and yet be as airy and graceful as a Vivaldi Pastorella."

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