Sunday, August 2, 2015

Poetry and the Selfie

Yesterday, thanks to a Facebook post by Shape&Nature Press, I read a great post on Literary Hub. In Poet Selfies: Searching for the Thing-In-Itselfie, 39 poets respond to questions about selfies. The answers range from surrealist and goofy to heartfelt and thought provoking. It was also cool to see the non-traditional selfies that some of the poets supplied and I felt inspired by their responses to write one of my own. I was at first surprised and then not surprised by my answer, which I’m sharing below. 

Question: What is the relationship between poetry and the selfie?

I don't like my selfies when I'm the only person in them. I've tried and failed to take a solo selfie I like, even in awesome situations like at concerts or while rock climbing. And it's not because I don't like how I look. It's because I don't like seeing myself alone.

I'm an only child, but I didn't mind that until I was 8 and my parents moved us from a New York City apartment building that served as my neighborhood to a small town in Pennsylvania where the kids on the street thought I was weird and made fun of me (for being tall or Episcopalian or a bookworm or something—and later for having purple hair).

I made friends at school and at the church where my mom worked, but something in me never got over the loneliness of the next 10 years spent without any neighborhood friends. For the first year or so, I had imaginary friends. Tracy lived three blocks down the hill and was always sitting on her front porch swing when I walked by to get her on my way to the corner store. David hung out in the yard that bordered ours in the back and would hop the fence to climb part way up the spruce tree and then just sit with me.

When those friends faded away I turned to nature and books. These have been my refuge and my sources of inspiration, poetic and otherwise, ever since.

I take selfies with other people to capture moments, and also to prove to myself that I'm not alone. Look, I have a friend, she's not imaginary, she shows up in pixels! 

Answer: The poem explores what the selfie avoids.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Finding Poetry at the Music Festival

Last weekend I was at the Green River Festival, enduring the hot sun for the sake of some awesome live music. I’ve been going to the festival for years and it’s the main way I either discover or develop a deeper appreciation for all kinds of musical artists. This year, my favorites were: for dancing, Red Baraat and Bela’s Bartok; for lyrical melodiousness, Milk Carton Kids and Sean Rowe; and for downright amazing stage presence and powerful singing, Valerie June and Steve Earle

I’ve been in quite a dry spell (or blocked place, for a different metaphor… I’m not sure which I like worse) with creative writing—but while listening to Steve Earle, two poem ideas came to me and I typed them into my phone to work on later, and when I got home I made this found poem using the festival program and an article from Rock and Ice titled "The Unnatural Way to Climb."

So Deep It Seems Simple

You can take one thing for granted:
you're going to be candid.
This could bring back memories
of staring down the crux
having fallen off the last move
which figuratively refers to scrambling
and literally means out of balance.
The key is to remember
this is not a natural way to write
and for anyone transitioning
from velvet glove to split fingertip,
year after year has the effect 
of narrowing vision, carrying you
from Tennessee to Baghdad,
wondering how this primal response
can cause the most irritating
and easily avoided failures.
There's no audience, but
on a wildly overhanging wall
most of us learn to hold back.
For no good reason
we want to approximate
the unnatural way
to put a smile on a face.
The most important performance skill
is cranking out brilliant comparisons. 

Here I am doing the collage with my “assistant” Dylan.