lost poetry
June 16, 2011

As readers of my blog might have noticed, the month of June seems for me to be about finding.  I have found two poems serendipitously placed in my path by chance (if you believe in chance or serendipity or those sorts of things that go against all conceptions of Fate and inevitability), and I have found numerous objects, those not so much by chance as by my desire to just go out and find something.  The end of the academic year at Carleton is heralded by the appearance of discarded, unwanted belongings in all the dorm lounges and recycling bins, and for the intrepid and poetic explorer, there is much finding to be done. Things I have found/taken/creatively re-appropriated include a magnifying glass on a stand, brand new articles of clothing (price tags still attached), an unopened box of pasta, a pencil case, gold wire-frame glasses without lenses (of the hipster variety), and a shocking amount of candy (which I did not creatively re-appropriate so much as simply consume).

But for all the finding and taking-up of things that I have been engaging in, I have also done my share of letting go.  I sold books that I had been holding onto with the ridiculous belief that I would revisit them in my free time; I contributed to the piles of unwanted items in the first floor lounge of my building, getting rid of – among other things – a bath robe I had never used during my entire three years at Carleton; I left a large tin of anchovies on the table of my floor’s lounge, something that I had originally purloined from a dining hall display table but never opened.

And finally (I assure you that this post is indeed primarily about poetry), I left a poem.  I am not sure if there is already a widely-used term to describe a poem that is the opposite of a found poem, but for now, I’ll call it “lost.”  The idea behind this, for me, is that while with found poetry, the poet is seeking out the poem, with lost poetry, the poet lets the work go.  In a way, all poetry is lost.  The poet, having written a piece, desires to share it and in doing so, gives the poem up to the reader.  Once the poem is released, it cannot be taken back; it is lost to the world and to the reader’s interpretation.  But the poetry that I have in mind when I use the term “lost poetry” refers to those poems that are let go that will perhaps never be found.  The poem that I found scribbled on a slip of paper and dropped in a stairwell was truly lost, in that if I had never picked it up, it could have gone unread forever and eventually been crumpled in the corner to become a victim of a custodian’s dustpan.  Lost poetry is not presented to the reader in the same way that a poem on a blog or in a journal is because it is never known if the reader is there and it is equally unknown if the reader will understand the poem as poetry.  Lost poetry is written, but its publication is more of a giving up or a letting go – a release of poetry into the world in which the poet knowingly leaves much to chance.

You are perhaps wondering about the poem I lost, and unless you were wandering around downtown Northfield, MN on June 4th around dinnertime, it is unlikely that you could have found it.  Anna (whose blog you should read and whose interest in psychogeography initiated and influenced this poem) and I found two pieces of sidewalk chalk, and what ensued could be called, “If you give two twenty-year-old intellectuals a blank page,” or in this case, chalk and sidewalks on a sunny day.

We purposefully wandered (is that a contradiction in terms? I don’t think so), starting our wandering by writing a word on the sidewalk accompanied by an arrow pointing in the direction of the next word.  We took turns writing words, and eventually, after many more words and arrows, we made it back to our starting point.  The poem that we ended up with was this:

rare
beginnings
here and now
ought
it?
hold
without
making
belief
a means of
continuance
now
think of this:
punctuated equilibrium
fails, but
try
wait
exhale
float
points
encountering
all sorts of bubbles
(uh oh! don’t be misled! or do…)
burst
reversals
lead you back
and bind nutshells with
with borderlines
which
ends
too

By now, all these words have disappeared from the sidewalk, and I have no idea if anyone stopped and decided to follow an arrow in the short time the poem lasted.  I suppose for this poem to remain truly lost, I would have refrained from posting it here and from taking photos of each word to document the poem’s existence on the sidewalk.  If I had just let it go, it is likely that Anna and I would have been the only ones to read it, and maybe as its authors, it would have had meaning only for us.  I guess what I can conclude is that I’m much better at finding things than I am at letting myself lose them.

blank verse
May 12, 2011

Philosophical Fragments

I’ll tell you now what (I think) is most sure,
above all else and even beyond god:

This moment, now, is all that we can hold;
it’s all that is most real to searching hands.
And do not try to reach out past yourself,
for self alone is all that you can grasp.
Embrace it, hold it close to you, my love,
hold you to you and never let you go,
and I, by all the most unchanging things,
I swear to keep me close to that in me
which most of all is mine and me myself,
and so, when we in double sureness touch,
your self and I can know we are, in truth.
So kindle your own deepest eager youness,
and in the moment, I would have you glow
so I will see the trueness that is you.

So wander wild if you must
and stretch out past yourself to find the World,
but know that when absurdities and terrors
haunt the night and when you’ve lost whatever
truth you thought you had, know that
you are always there within yourself –
know that such a loss is just a way
of losing self to self and heart to mind
and know that in your labyrinthine soul,
you are the path of every maze you walk.

free verse
April 21, 2011

During spring break, while wandering through a park in Barcelona, I saw a parrot walking in the grass amongst the many pigeons that one expects to see in a city.  The reason that I took notice of the parrot in particular was that there was a bell around its neck.  This poem was inspired by that parrot.  I do not know if the parrot belonged to anyone in the park or if he had escaped his owner and was wandering wild through the city.  I’d like to think that each morning, his owner ties the bell around his neck so that he doesn’t get trampled in the metro, gives him a euro in case he gets hungry, and sends him out into the world.  Then each night, the parrot comes back to the owner’s apartment to tell of his adventures, the euro spent on gelato (pistachio, of course).  Anyway, enjoy the poem.

Birds of a feather

Parrots are easily lost in crowds,
despite the feathers and the squawking,
and if you don’t realize this profound truth
of parrot ownership and maintenance,
you will foolishly think that your brightly plumaged friend
is safe on your shoulder,
that he would never think to fly off
to pester some cat on a window sill
or settle down in an old woman’s hat
with its ribbons and satin bows and velvet –
would never think that he could want
any other world
than the vast expanse of your left shoulder
under its tweed jackets and wool sweaters.

So don’t be surprised when you come home
to find that he has flown the coop
and has left you with an empty cage
and a streak of white down the left side
of your jacket.
He was, after all, just a bird
you taught to say your name and hello,
and now somewhere he is flying with pigeons
and swooping into the rank gutters
outside of all the city’s fruit stands
and living on rotten raspberries and freedom.

Yes, parrots are easily lost for good.
So clip his wings
and put a bell around his neck,
and he will faithfully follow you through
all the parks on your summer walks,
and you will hear the pleasant tinkling
of his collar as you walk in the sunshine.
The children with the ice cream-smeared faces
will laugh and point as he waddles behind you.
You will never lose him,
and he will never lose himself
to anyone but you.