The Scotland-based transatlantic publication Dark Horse Magazine is celebrating its 20th anniversary. A recent article by former U.S. Poet Laureate Dana Gioia entitled “Poetry as Enchantment” is available to read online here. I recommend it as an example of criticism done judiciously and with consideration to the future of the craft. Mr. Gioia writes of the sense of wonder at critical invention in a poem that can be understood intuitively be a reader. This same poem can also be examined to gain working knowledge of its form and structure, as a building is examined to discover how it is held up. More often than not today our wonder is subsumed by the task of the critic, as the child is surpassed by the adult.
Being able to listen to a poem read out loud is something the deaf are not able to do. But poetry began as an ancient oral art requiring no physical sight but the eye of imagination. Reading a poem on the page is likewise what the blind are not able to do. Poetry today stands somewhere between the page and the air, riding the backs of linguistic symbols and launching their arrows of meaning toward the reader. Somewhere between the old and the new, the sight and the sound of a poem, is its sense, which does not seek a house of understanding in one of our five physical senses. Both the deaf and the blind encounter this sense in poetry, and for those of us with senses intact, comparisons can be made and criticism “done.”
Poetry reading doesn’t begin with the critical eye. If it does so, say in the increasingly stringent quarters of an ideologically “rich” academia, a very narrow and more often literal or linguistic reading occurs. The study and enjoyment of poetry cannot be sustained by this activity alone, nor can it be continued with it at as the helmsman. There’s something in the immediate apprehension of language made in poetry that delights the intellect and connects it to the heart and the body – perhaps, feeding our souls. Enjoy the article and if you have the time, listen to a new poem I’ve recorded for the public at my Soundcloud. Spoken word – or spoken music?
The above image was my first venture into the small music world of Portland, Oregon. It was put together on a hand-me-down desktop computer more than a decade ago. I had just discovered I had a little penchant for songwriting as some lines I wrote in my poetry notebook never dried their ink to the page. When I picked up a guitar and began to teach myself tracks by Neil Young and Cat Power (and my biggest influence, L. Cohen) a new route of expression was discovered in that hazy green underbrush of youth. My words had found their place in verses, not in verse.
Besides the big names, I was also influenced by a group of young, local musicians that had come to Portland from their hometown of Salem. The lead singer-songwriter and I shared a class at Portland State University and I soon had him and another member of the band working beside me at the restaurant which I had picked up a bussing job at in a Northwest neighborhood. I soon learned that these talented players had a band and had just finished up their first self-released album under the name Typhoon. Their label was called Boy Gorilla Records. Soon, I was helping them load and unload gear, printing album covers and even recording my own split EP on the label with one Elec E. Morin. A few tracks of mine survive on a little visited Bandcamp site, but I’m proud of the work I got to share and experience with my friends.
I’ve given this blog the honorary http of “dawnzerlylight” as a smile and wink to that swiftly changing image of my Portland home for a good ten years of life – longest I ever stayed put in one place. But not many places, well, not many cities, remain as they were for the young who needed their streets, their cafes, their all-ages venues and their cheap homes for a cool basement to practice in beneath the hot summer streets. While playing scant shows in town I was privy to see the rise of friends to local and national acclaim, all beginning with a little label from the sons and daughters of Salem. See also Wild Ones, Genders, and Sons of Huns. There’s still quite a scene in Portland, I’m certain of it. Here’s to DIY movements, getting involved, and creating your own voice from the audience to the stage.