Posts Tagged ‘Poetry’

Time to Start Posting Again

Sorry, faithful readers, for not posting anything. I have been studying for something that my college calls the “MA comprehensive exam” and it has taken up all my time. Now I am free from that burden and I’ll get down to some writing. For a little taste, here is a sample of a poem I am currently working on.  I hope you like it.

A Small Vespers
for Jennifer

I. The Litany of Peace

You need this. Asleep on the train,
you are at peace with the whole
world; at peace with the wounds
of the day; at peace with the hand
that stings; the nation and it’s institutions
for which all are responsible; at peace
with the demands of the exact time
and the gentle rocking of the 5:09
out of the city.

sing a quiet psalm to your heart
while you lie in the seat with your coat
half open and the windows of section
eight houses begin to glow, like candles
under the cradling roof of the Chicago
to Elburn.


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Valentines Day: a poem

Valentines Day

Saturday. The dentist. I was paying
my bill when the girl at the counter
was given a bunch of red roses.
This made me think of you;

how the red petals were like
the red highlights in your lovely
hair; how they made the room
swing and how they belonged
wherever they had been placed.

Then I wanted to send you flowers
and I suppose a romantic guy
would have found a way
to get your address and surprise you
with them, but I didn’t do that.

So instead I just wrote you
this poem and I hope you manage
to stay warm on the fourteenth
which, I am fairly certain, is going
to be a cold day in February.

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Here is a poem that doesn’t seem quite good enough to send out, but still I think it deserves a home. So I hope you like it.

late Afternoon

Cigar shop and I’m thinking
of you when I should be working
on something that might get published.

But your hair is something
of a coolness on my mind.
And I can picture you, I think,
without obsessing over the curve
of your waist, or the shape of your ass.

I am not nervous that you haven’t called
me in three days and my cigar doesn’t taste
very good. I think there is something wrong
with the humidor in this place. More often
than not, the cigars don’t burn right.
Old guys on the couch are talking
each other through the evening news.

But I hope that you will call me again
because the idea of your voice
makes me rise like the smoke rises;
slowly and not too high.

I will rise from this place and return
home where I will drink gin drinks
and I might hear the sound
of your voice on my answering machine

Or maybe I’ll take the dogs for a walk,
watch as the rain slowly turns to snow
and obliterates the roads and the sidewalk
making everything quiet and still.

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Sunset Over Snow

Here is a neat poem I wrote while I was at my brother’s farm in Michigan. Enjoy.

Matthew Fouts

        Sunset Over Snow

Let me think of you now quickly.
        In this light, the snow outside
is the sandy color of your skin.
        In this now, the bare trees are
the dark brown of your hair,
        your lovely upturned eyes.

Hurry. Kiss me while the clouds
        are on fire. Quick, let me hold you
now, and now, before the changing light
        darks my window once again.

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Here is a first draft of a poem I’m working on for a very special girl

    Le Quattro Stagioni

Come and see the lovely fawns
frisk and play, for it is their first
spring as well. Their dark eyes
shine like your dark hair with
a peculiar light, a young light.
raucous with a rush of life,
awkward with a sudden force.

your lips are parted, panting
in the heavy air. These days
are long like a vowel, like a moan.
The curve of you neck is smooth.
wet and shining, you look to me.
The glow in your eye burns
like the refiner’s fire.

The fire we tended last night
has settled to a bed of coals.
Stay here in this bed with me,
I will hold you. Stay warm
here while the leaves turn
outside. The cool air will blow
them into our open window.

This snow is all we have.
come with me and walk
once more into the drifting.
You see it isn’t cold. Hold me
now, before you once again
become the sky and I
return as the blowing sand.

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Fouts’s Theory of Poetry

Adynata or My Name is Raincheck

The main problem with poetry is also the thing that makes poetry possible; poetry doesn’t work. There are no words to describe the human condition, at least no accurate words. If there were, I’m not sure there would be a need for poetry, or religion, philosophy, consumer culture, maybe even sex. Nearly every human thought or action is an attempt at transcendence. Even such non-transcendent activities as eating or breathing are often turned, in the human mind, into vehicles for transcendence (consider eating disorders and breath counting meditation). The idea that humans are mammals bent on transcendence has been best articulated (for my money) by Kenneth Burke in his work, A Rhetoric of Motives. He says:

“So, to say that man is a symbol-using animal is by the same token to say that he is a ‘transcending animal.’ Thus, there is in language itself a motive force calling man to transcend the ‘state of nature’… And in this sense, we can recognize even the cult of commodities…as a mode of transcendence.” (192)

The reason for this is simple and profound: we are separate. We are separate and, more importantly, we are aware of the separation and we would like to be less separate.
We may choose to believe that we will all be together in heaven, or that we are all in touch with the collective unconscious, or that we will all be happy if we drink Zima. Burke goes on to discuss the cult of commodities as an “inferior” mode of transcendence (194), but I would argue that they are all inferior in the sense that they all fail to achieve transcendence over our separateness.

Which brings us quickly back to our problem. Poetry doesn’t work. But the reason why poetry doesn’t work (our awareness of our separate nature) is also the reason why we need poetry. Poetry is a stretching of language. Poetry is the use of language in a fashion that comes as close as possible to transcending the limitations inherent in linguistic communication.

Poetry tries to say more than mere language can say. It is for this reason that other elements come into play when discussing poetry. The concept of silence on the page, the idea of white space, the experience of the shape of a poem, like the experience of the shape of a woman or a Zima bottle, are all a result of the human desire to transcend our separateness.

I would like to propose a hypothesis about the first work of poetry ever created. We can never tell precisely when this occurred or in what form. But let us say that the event took place between two-million and fifty-thousand years ago, on the savannas of Africa where meat was plentiful and proto-human hominids could get enough protein to develop the brains that would make them Homo-Sapiens. Once the physiological changes necessary for language took place, language developed as a way to spread technological knowledge and coordinate with members of the family/tribe and it suited this need so well, that Homo-Sapiens became the dominant species on the planet.

However, the chemical change that made language possible also had a down side; the change gave us the ability to see beauty. By “see” I mean that we could (and still can) impose beauty on what would otherwise be a perfectly innocent collection of atoms. Some might argue that we do not see or impose beauty but that we recognize beauty. Beauty is entirely subjective, so this is not a valid argument.

For an example, I would like to describe a hypothetical example of the first person to ever experience adynata. Let us call him Og. As he walks out of the family cave one morning and the view of the sun rising behind some clouds moves him in a way that he has never experienced before. He thinks that something wonderful has occurred to the sun and the clouds so he runs back in the cave and gets his whole family up to show them what has happened. Og’s family, tired and cranky from being woken early, tell him that nothing has changed. the sun and the clouds look just as they always have. They return to the cave in order to get an extra half-hour’s sleep before the big mastodon hunt that day. Og, however, stands there for a long time looking at the sun and the clouds and trying to figure out what is going on. After a while, the feeling goes away and the sun is just a sun again.

Still, he can’t shake that feeling that they were somehow different for a time. Whenever he tries to tell someone about his experience, they ask him to describe the change. In what way were the sun and the clouds different? Og is skilled at using this new thing called language, but he can’t think of words to describe how the sun looked. He tries to do the best he can.

This is what poetry is for me. It is the best attempt I can make with language to communicate the way I see the world to other people. This is impossible to do. Or rather, it is impossible to completely communicate these non verbal experiences. But we can try. Quality poetry, then, is the result of an ernest attempt to stretch language into a shape it is not designed to take. We do this while at the same time acknowledging that we will only partially succeed. The degree to which we do succeed, however, is a revelation that brings us all a tiny step closer to overcoming the gulf of separation that surrounds each one of us.

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        For Angela

sorry if I stared
        at you like a dumb
awestruck child.

But I couldn’t find
        the words to say
thank you for showing

me the lovely pools
        of your eyes after
the worst week

of my life.

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