Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Notes from My Reading List

Terrance Hayes's Muscular Music has too many poems about being a poet without ever mentioning me, the one true poet, but read it if you like. Familiarity with late 20th century pop culture recommended.

Selected Poems shows off Donald Justice's well-deserved reputation as a talented craftsman; on the other hand, while I wouldn't call him boring, I might have thought it.

In Criminal Sonnets, Phyllis Koestenbaum uses crimes ripped not from the headlines so much as the police blotter as starting points, but she quickly diverts to details of her, I assume, personal life, so the sonnet sequence reads like a diary. Enjoyable enough, though the disregard for conventional sonnet development, as well as the admittedly (& thankfully) loose rhyme & meter, renders the form arbitrary.

I like Vanitas Motel.   Here are some nice lines from John Loomis:

Do the shoes fret
by the door? Does the rosebush worry?

Or the daylight, rising pale behind the hills?
(“The Way”)

Finally--yes, finally--I have, after years of not, finished Archy & Mehitabel. It’s not great-- Mehitabel the Cat’s rhymes border on tripe & Archy gets a tad repetitive--but at times, Don Marquis writes something that is, if not exactly poetry, of poetic interest.


Zack said...

Firstly, since I find you an inspiration artistically, I hope you have the time to address all the details of my concerns.

Sub-firstly, I love that you would post an entry just of your reading notes. I think it's cool to read your notes and get a glimpse into your critical thinking, and other general thoughts.

Why, Dali, are you the one true poet? Why is it important that you receive recognition? As much as I would've liked to, I didn't sense sarcasm or irony in this thought, aside from the self-imbued hilarity, more at "caprice," that might generate out of such forward egoism.

I really, really like the idea you wrote regarding Justice: "...while I wouldn't call him boring, I might have thought it." In such a simple way, you exhibited a somewhat complex feeling, and, though I hate to use that obvious word that's overused in literary circles, "evoked" how calling him boring is such a different effect than thinking it. I also think it's kind of funny.

I don't understand what's so great about the excerpt from Loomis you chose. I would especially like to hear or read what you find so evocative or "noteworthy" about it.

I like the word, "tripe." Thumb up.

Lastly, going along with an earlier thought, I like the idea, "...Don Marquis writes something that is, if not exactly poetic, of poetic interest." I've failed to express a similar thought about something else with the clarity and effectiveness that you have.

I don't mean to "deconstruct" your entry and make it un-funny or turn it off with my observations. I'm just curious about a few things in this entry and would like for you to enlighten your crowd by elaborating on MY concerns a little bit more.

Matt Morris said...

Thanks, Zack, for the time & effort to comment so extensively about my post. I enjoy blogging, so it’s rewarding to know others enjoy what I write–which, at least in part, answers your question as to why I want recognition.

I first used the idea of my being the one true poet in one of my undergraduate poems, "The Blue Mirror," in which I was left the only poet alive in a post-apocalyptic world.

For what it’s worth, I don’t honestly think I’m the only person who writes good poetry. I read lots of poets, many of whom I admire & envy. I’ve bought their books, helped put their kids through college.

Your allusion to Dali, a great salesman if nothing else, seems particularly apt, for this is my tongue-in-cheek stab at self-promotion, the accent clearly on “self.”

However, not to cast aspersions on Hayes or Loomis, but since both are roughly my age, I fail to see what skills they exhibit that I don’t. Nothing in particular from their books set them apart from the poems in, say, my first book, Nearing Narcoma, yet both Hayes & Loomis have enjoyed far more recognition than I. So, my question to you is, why?

(Note: Before I forget, the Loomis lines you asked about–they struck me as being “Buddha-ful” in their simplicity.)

I’ve dedicated most of my life to poetry–writing, reading, studying, teaching, eating, drinking & breathing, living it–so I would like to think I’ve not wasted my life, that I’ll have enriched the world in some small way, that I’ll leave behind more than a lump in the ground when I’m dead.

Also, to be pragmatic, with the right publications, I could probably land a decent teaching position, which I am in dire need of. This is the way poets these days often receive monetary rewards since there’s little money in publishing poetry itself.

If this seems like self-pity, maybe it is. Like the sports fan who complains that poor officiating cost his team the game, whether true or not, it always sounds like sour grapes.

However, my desire isn’t entirely selfish; if, as a poetry lover, I believe in sincerity (& I do) that my poems are better than most of what the A-list magazines & the “best of” anthology editors tend to publish, it would follow that I want, for the sake of poetry, to contribute my genome to the prosodic gene pool, so to speak, to advance the art.

Otherwise poetry may founder in its own pretentious pool of unimaginative urine.

Matt Morris said...

*Nothing . . . sets

Zack said...

Wow. Believe me. You deserve recognition. I think the problem is that maybe there aren't enough people who appreciate quality art, first, in our area, and second, in the bulk of the US. I feel with my music what you've said about your poetry. But "music lovers" aren't really interested in clever artistic direction in a composition anymore, at least not outside critical circles. If you listen to the radio, you'll know what I mean. I suppose the same goes for the magazines you referred to. Having more experience than me, what's your take on it all?

Matt Morris said...

Yes, the arts can be a very closed & snooty circle. The old saw, "It's not what you know but who you know," seems to apply especially to the arts.

Many editors are too unsure of their critical acumen to publish anything outside the narrow boundaries of established verse. This is particular disheartening for poets who use humor. Apparently, the Gatekeepers of Poetry, by & large, don't believe humor contributes to the human experience in any meaningful way. Locally, there is no audience whatsoever for poetry.

What kind of obstacles do you face as a musician? By the way, I don't listen to the radio because I learned years ago how asinine pop music--pop culture as a whole, really--can be.

Matt Morris said...

er, . . . is particularly

Zack said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Zack said...

I guess you could say recognition is an obstacle I face. My main "problem" is that I write music for myself rather than others. Sometimes I become severely negative and indifferent toward everything because I judge myself, and sometimes others, too harshly. I'll frequently convince myself that there's no point in writing what or the way I want because most music listeners are more concerned about the "unce unce" of a song and might not have the patience to listen attentively. That's the problem I'll continue to face as a musician: people don't have enough time (patience) to sit and listen to anything with intent. I think we are a people controlled by busyness, thus thoughtlessness, and to give any time to a piece of art with one's whole being is seemingly prohibited by our cultural nature.

My music is usually highly climactic and action-packed with very little bar repetition (though very repetitive thematically). I can't complain any more because I haven't put the effort into getting my music out there. It's slowly dwindling into mere cathartic exercises that I'll hide away in a folder. So other people aren't really to blame, aside from the carelessness I've too often witnessed locally.

I even frequent WVSO performances at the Clay Center and force my introverted self to talk to people about music. I've found that those who pay for the cheap seats in the balconies are actually interested in the music while the people on the floor are usually there to dress up, be out, and feel either nostalgically or vicariously aristocratic.

Even those that ARE interested in the music can't seem to express what they like about it, which is fine. Maybe they aren't used to talking to strangers, maybe they have other things on their minds, etc. I don't want to make people enjoy something just because that something makes my life meaningful. My greatest success has been talking to music majors and sharing my art with music professors.

It seems to me that the extent to which we discuss or recognize good art in a mainstream manner is through WV Pubcast and PBS.

I see film scoring as my artistic escape from our boggy popular culture. Still a part of the mainstream, film assists the flourishing of decent, if not great, art music. I believe film is where we are now with art music. From the Baroque period, we have opera, which transitioned to other periods, and eventually the 20th century. From 20th century "classical" to jazz, we are now in the age of film on the art music chronology, at least in my opinion. So then being a film scorer is my pursuit that connects my artistry to our culture.

Matt Morris said...

Besides film scores, how does a composer get his work recognized? Do you post any of your scores online?

Zack said...

Post online to forum sites or composition sites that allow posting like Young Composers; send music like a resume to universities, radio stations, other composers, music professors, friends, basically wherever makes at least a little sense; and finally, enter composition contests, which are usually film-related. Winning such a contest usually gives you networking connections for a year, money, award-winning certificates to show your achievement, etc.

I've done only a few of these things.

Matt Morris said...

My advice, if you want it, is to be persistent. From what I know about you, I'm confident you can achieve your goals.