Tuesday, April 3, 2012

We Are All Naked Before Poetry

Owl wrote this last April for National Poetry Month. And then decided to put it on the back burner. And then revised it in October but had the irking feeling that poetry was not appropriate for the month of ghosts and candy so she decided to bin the entire thing. Only, well, it's National Poetry Month again and Owl has the strange yen to talk poetry.

(And to post partial nudie pictures of herself. Poetry does that.)

It’s National Poetry month, the month where people pretend they care about poetry. They dust off the same fifty or sixty shopworn poems by the same thirty or forty poets. Then, come May they trot the poems back up to the attic where they belong. For heaven’s sake, the last time Owl went to a bookstore, she saw that the poetry shelf had been downsized to make room for paranormal romance. 

Owl is cranky. Poetry makes Owl cranky.

Every so often a well-intentioned soul will ask Owl if she writes poetry. Owl will inflate, insulted, and huff, Absolutely not. When pressed, Owl admits she may have written one or two poems but that is entirely not her fault, they were homework assignments.

When people tell her they are poets, she edges away because it might be catching. She both loves and loathes the person who can stand up and say in all seriousness, I am a poet.

Mario Vargas Llosa describes fiction as a reverse strip tease where the writer “goes through the motions of getting dressed, hiding the nudity in which he began under heavy, multicolored articles of clothing conjured up out of his imagination.”

Poetry is just a strip tease. It’s all about the truth, and like strip teases there are two options. Either the audience is completely enchanted and there is no need to say anything more, or the audience is…not enchanted. The less said here the better because everyone’s trying to self-oblivate. The intimacy of poetry makes it vulnerable to such failure.

Owl is not a risk taker. Owl prefers the safer middle ground of fiction, where you can write everything off as an untruth or harmless entertainment. But poetry? Poetry has to be about the truth, raw, naked, glistening. Owl does not have the guts for this.

This is completely at odds with the fact that one of Owl’s all time favorite college professors is a poet. There was a time when Owl read his poem The Sublime before breakfast to give her courage to plough through the day. When the daily rituals of her life seemed ridiculous, getting up, pretending to be a working adult, laughing at jokes she did not understand, she clung to the lines of his poetry. If there was no truth in her life, at least she could borrow truth, borrow it in the way that made her throat go dry, made her eyes wet and made her feel, still, that there was some point to carrying on with the brave day.

But still, to admit to liking his poems, to share them with any stranger on the street, or to casually say to an acquaintance, oh yes, I've been reading poetry—Owl could not do it. It seemed to smack of some internal weakness on her part. Possibly a liver ailment.

“But what was it like growing up and loving poetry?” Owl asked her professor once, because he ran wild in the woods of West Virginia, and if Owl did not have the courage to owe up to needing poetry in a city full of yuppies and intellectuals, she could not imagine how he survived, a poet boy among woodsmen. 

“Oh, sometimes, well, people talked crap and you had to thump them,” he replied.

Owl was maybe too interested in the thumping—thump them how? with sticks? spoons?—because her professor patted her on the shoulder and told her to focus on loving language more, and finding herself, and Owl wanted to explain, no, that's precisely the problem.

It is far easier to be violent, to veer off into the comfortable land of satire and half humor, than to peer at yourself in the mirror, to see how weekly your pulse throbs in your throat, how limply your smile curls across your face, and how behind it all, there is deep seated hunger for everything that is raw and living, blood, tears,  twisted love—in short, everything that is poetry.

This is Owl's pick for National Poetry Month. (Kind of maybe sort of stolen from Patrick at Beyond Easy.)

EMBARRASSING, Czeslaw Milosz

Poetry is an embarrassing affair; it is born too near the functions we call intimate.
Poetry cannot be separated from awareness of our own body. It soars above it, immaterial and at the same time captive, and is a reason for our uneasiness, for it pretends to belong to a separate zone, of spirit.
I was ashamed of my being a poet, as if, undressed, I would display in public my physical defects. I envied people who did not write poems and whom for that reason I ranged among the normal. And in this I was wrong: few of them deserve to be called that.

Not gutsy enough to be fully naked


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Owl, I miss you and your posts. I want to know what other poets you like. BARE YOUR SEXY SOUL TO ME BAYBEH.

  3. He runs successful technology сompany Outsourcery business which ѕold part
    of its ѕtrategiс hardware.

    Herе is mу web site: internet marketing gurus

  4. Excellent risk management abilities are a must for any
    search engine, you may have to wait and see.
    It provides a shield to his aura from negativity and eliminates the feelings of
    victimization. search engine Risk: YesFinancial Risk: NoWhat does
    the variability of these risks imply? Real Simple magazine had included us on a holiday gift list segment by" Real Simple.

    Also visit my website - search engine optimization orlando

  5. Owl, please contact me! I saw a comment you posted on another blog, and I would like to be in touch!

    fairlyoddblu at gmail

  6. My friend thought that 2 weeks was a long time. There is also utilized to get rid of cadmium as well as
    a reference for future use when undergoing the program for the bodyhas benefits for both the mind and body.
    Another great attribute to doing a get a boyfriend fast, in order to cure the side effects.

    Here is my weblog http://www.randomrods.com/