How to Write a Poem (Topography)

Wikipedia Poem, No. 571

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“The absence of plot leaves the reader room to think about other things. … Plots are for dead people.” David Shields

radiate what errs
as if it’s that simple
take words
mind nimble blades
being best free
let them delicate
among tantalizing ableness
let mind belong
let it glide to prayer
and grasp the error of being

Writing Advice: “Eschew rationality, meaning and ‘good taste’.”

roybattyex

If you find yourself unable to write, don’t write. Play with your words.

Here’s a great unplanted seed for a writing exercise: Go to your favorite website and find an article that contains a not negligible amount of text. Highlight a paragraph and the copy it to your clipboard.

I’ll do this with you. I’m going to nytimes.com. BRB:

Sunayana Dumala tried once again to enter the worship room she and her husband, Srinivas Kuchibhotla, had created in their home for daily prayers. Mr. Kuchibhotla had built an intricate wooden shrine by hand two years ago, a small sacred edifice where they would kneel each morning. Months after his death, it became a place where she would honor him.

OK, so I have my text.

Now pick a number. (I chose 3.) Go into the text an erase every X word. It’s SORT OF an arduous task, but at least your brain is spending time with the words and their meanings and connections. Then, I’m going to get rid of all the punctuation and make every letter lowercase. BRB:

sunayana dumala once again enter the room she her husband kuchibhotla had in their for daily mr kuchibhotla built an wooden shrine hand two ago a sacred edifice they would each morning after his it became place where she honor him

Now invent a form based on numbers and letters that have significance to you. If you have tarot cards they can be helpful in this step. I’ll do that. King of Coins. That features a pentagram in this deck. Five lines per stanza. The card I’ve pulled in this deck features a self-portrait of Dali restraining a leashed leopard. There’s also a gentle, prone cow in a yellow fog blowing up and out of Dali’s head. That makes me think of a certain hunter/hunted duality. A certain predictable unevenness.

I’m going to alternate my line length 5, 10, 5, 10, 5. This kind of stuff is dumb, for sure, but it just gets your brain going.

sunayana duma
la once again enter the room she 
her husband kuchi
bhotla had in their for daily mr kuchi
bhotla built an wood 

en shrine hand two a
go a sacred edifice they would each 
morning after his 
it became place where she honor him sun
ayana duma

Now move the lines around in any way you see fit. Let go of all the rules. Do something that you don’t understand. Translate some words and phrases into Italian.

la once again enter the camera she 
bhotla had in their for quotidiano mr kuchi
go a sacro altare they would each 
it became place where onora il sole

sunayana duma
her husband kuchi
bhotla built an wood 
morning after his 
ayana duma
en shrine dare due lettere

Play with it some more. Trim off the fatty, hard-to-chew bits. Smell what the rock is cooking. Don’t question yourself. Find ways to make new phrases, invent new tastes. Create meaning where there was none. Skewer meaning where there was some. Boil down all the excess, tasteless liquid. Make the phrases economic. This is for your ears and heart only, no one else’s.

la once again enters the camera she 
had in their for quotidiano mr kuchi
a sacro altare they would each 
upon it became place onora il sole

sun burnt her enemies
just as her husband mr kuchi
built a wooden mooring 
the morning after his 
second skin graft parchment
enshrined dare due lettere

That’s it. Eschew rationality, meaning and “good taste”. Don’t worry about judgment, neither from outside nor within. The exercise is just meant to get your brain good and juicy. To force you to conceptualize in weird corners of consciousness. Make the process your own. Don’t listen to teachers. Unless they’re good teachers.

When your engine is warm and you’re ready to write that big important thing that comes from someplace personal and genuine and urgent, your mind will be nimble, flexible, willing to go where it needs to go to put heart to mouth.

Cause Trouble in the Yard

Wikipedia Poem, No. 521

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“With the social consciousness wakened, the average individual may learn to refuse the ‘honor’ of being the bloodhound of the law. He may cease to persecute, despise, and mistrust the social offender, and give him a chance to live and breathe among his fellows.” Emma Goldman

       tent dawn as my tent of a new day as my      tent          of a new day as
      through the se sun is       rising aboutrustling about sporadically
 announces the air is          cool and begin to           adjust    the air     is 
rising aboutde   
my tent i see my tent sporadically announces through the se
 air is rising aboutdjust the faint sporadically announces through the
        air         is rising abouthrough the s my tent sporadically announces
 the faint           scent i see my tent sporadically announces through the s
 eyes open        and crisp and         begin to adjust the sis rising aboutde
 my tent of     a new day as my tent of a         new day as the air is
    rising aboutair   as my tent dawn as my   eyes open      and     crisp and
 crisp and begin    to adjust the sin his own shelter rustling aboutide my
         eyes open and          begin to adjust the wildlife outside my tent 
of    a new          day as my        tent          of           a new day as
       my tent dawn as         the air is rising the ster rustling the srough
 the sun is rising    about scent dawn as           my tent scent scent dawn
 as my tent scent of hickory wafts through the sun is rising aboutde my tent
 sporadically         announces      through the air       is rising
         aboutde      my tent dawn      as my tent of a new day as my eyes
 open and crisp           and crisp and    crisp and          crisp and crisp
        and crisp and crisp and crisp and begin to adjust the faint sporadically
 announces the srough the air as i emerge           from my tent of hickory
 wafts      through the air is rising aboutdjust the faint sporadically
   announces the faint         sporadically announces           through the sin
 his own shelter rustling aboutrustling aboutsun         is rising aboutwildlife
 outside my eyes open and crisp and crisp   and      crisp        and
          begin to adjust       the srough the wildlife outside my tent dawn
         as through the air as           my tent scent sporadically announces
 the s        eyes open and crisp and crisp and        crisp         and crisp
 and crisp and       begin to           adjust the sun is rising aboute wildlife
 outside my tent of a new day as my eyes open and      begin to adjust the s
         my tent sporadically   announces           the sun    is rising
 aboutsee my tent dawn as my tent dawn    as the faint sporadically announces
 through the sis rising aboutent sporadically announces the sanate amid
 a semi-silent sporadically announces the air is           cool and crisp and
          crisp and       crisp and crisp and crisp and crisp      and crisp
 and begin to adjust the      sun is    rising aboutstart           of a     
new day as my eyes open and begin to adjust the faint sporadically announces
 through the sun is           rising abo

Toothpaste for the Young Poet

Wikipedia Poem, No. 514

w514-sm3

to rescue to operate on 
the marks of infinity to be 
transcended against one's will

time rubbed into lather
	for your opponent every deck 
		underhanded or made gape

i'm less 
jorie grammatically 
buys a vowel
      
your immediate opportunity tomorrow
	fidget spinner i promise 
		it's not you it's me this working problem has 
       
your poem 
wants to be bleach with its brief 
heavy handed whitening as declension

suicide i'm still
	novice be let bezos-loose 
		keep it just   write deep mystery

new tooth shapes become octuplets 
holding hands ripe bipedal feelings 
unbruised "skin the concerned"-essential 
     
is this how surprise 
	tastes? great
		all my new deepstate teeth 

shaping edits 
a poem but 
it has a point: threatening 
  
your own image/experience of the stuff 
	and when i wouldn't make your art form 
		how weird 

to be bleached 
	on the castle keep 
		for posterity

Hezutsu Tōsaku (1726-1789)

affluence

Affluence—define it as:
pickled greens,
rice for supper,
nice wine, one bottle,
modest but never empty

spacer1

Source: Sato, Hiroaki, and Burton Watson. From the Country of Eight Islands: An Anthology of Japanese Poetry. New York: Columbia University Press, 1987. Print.

Gender Politics

Wikipedia Poem, No. 472

gender-politics

“If I were in authority, I would forbid advertising.” Le Corbusier

to be loved   eyes closed of pain  
it is just like you not like you nothing flat  
traced with a number two pencil    nothing vested 
in hydrangeas something more like cutting 
something black ravage    to be
loved    afraid of course cutting
a slow-covered kitchen knife    something more
we will be loved afraid of pain
its dimensions feed from perspective
to follow up     thick unguent
    carving

you don't like   specifics
        we will make more     we're flattered
      thick unguent                    carving
    that you don't         like in fact we will make more
          we   will          thick unguent            
carving into mountains      just        like you
     that     you don't like 
nothing flattered kitchen knife something
    vested in hydrangeas something          something
            that you don't like        specifically that we loved
         once         afraid of pain                  covered
    in kitchen knife something
    what you    don't like    nothing black ravage
    wielding    to be loved afraid of pain    it is ok
that you don't like you
nothing    cutting    velvet    safe

Fuck You Fortune Cookie

Wikipedia Poem, No. 456

w456-3k

to recollect clean one's head    put    out out of it forget
forgot    dismiss    dismissed dismiss dismissing    missing
dismiss dismiss disrecollection of have no recall    be un 
headless put out out of it    forget    dismiss    dismissed    disrecollection of
have no more of    wean one's head    put it out it goes
let bygones be bygones be gone    bygones goner forgetfulness fail
you're a    remembrance of    forget    inattention    dismiss from one's thoughts	
forget forgotten forgetfulness    let bygones be bygones 
be    forgiveness    forget it    forgetfulness dismiss from    inattention
disrecollection    dismiss    from form inattention forgiveness   
let it go	forget forgetfulness    forget forgiveness forgetfulness dismiss   
from one's head    be unable to recall

Wikipedia Poem, No. 348

wiki248-2-sm

“The first and perhaps most fundamental [rule] involves the proposition that form cannot materialize or mutate unless it struggles against resistance in the process … [This proposition exists in and around] a ritualized realm of competition, exhibition, and idolization that is associated in our collective cultural unconscious with masculine identity.” Nancy Spector

cobblestone
result despite
the monuments

one-day
problems
are still

in modern-day roubaix
sunday concern
mechanical profession

difficult condition
annually the esteem
the result the queen

tyre puncture road
the school then
indifficult in its raphaelite

symmetries of iconogram
what separates whom
from scene when

the school
of the artistic
motif

all changelings
perfect figure
quiet scholars

sol of socrates
as it appears
to earth far removed

by windows that
third wave elevates
the fresco

and aristotle
quite wrong
echoes emphasis

Wikipedia Poem, No. 303

middle-2a

“Primarily that the focus of the work is to find who I am I guess. That’s perhaps the most important purpose of the pictures through the many years I’ve photographed. My photos are psychological statements, not political, not social, not economic. For others I would like to see the pictures help them find out who they are: to find a side of themselves that they keep in shadow. The side they refer to as ‘the dark side.'” Roger Ballen

 

who one is or
is one who after evolution
is some wholes

so one learns to open a door
something’s larger whole
somehow opens

a loch larger whole something pictured
oneself through the evolution of wholes
somehow a larger who opens

one is or becomes bored with nature
and explores becoming naturally one
does not give oneself the day

one does not go away the other way
it’s best to do this tonight either
become easier or become bored

with more experience
with dayrise to give oneself
with expired say boredom sets

spills more experience opens
a door somehow one does the
job completely of a bleeding janitor

paculum-spec2-sm

Source: