Tuesday, September 1, 2009

A Poem A Day #6

Today there are a couple new things.  This is the first column to feature a woman.  It's also the first column to feature "new" works, in that they are from the last couple of years.  Also, this is the first column to feature a poet that isn't canon, that is to say, that those outside certain communities will not have heard of.  These are good things.

I'll be using two poems by Chelsea Bullock today.  Chelsea is a young fashionista and writer and lives in Oregon with her husband.  She was in a couple of creative writing classes I took at CSU, and these two poems really stuck with me after the class was over.  They both also saw publication in the CSU Arden.

The first is an exercise in sound and image, and also stars everybody's favorite CSU professor, Dr. David Schwimmer, who is also a fine guitarist and collector of folk songs.  I don't know if anyone has pointed this poem's existence out to Dr. Schwimmer, but someone should.  This is one to read out loud, and have the pleasure of making the sounds yourself.


flint, jasper, jet
coquina, chalk, micrite
diorite, gypsum, and scoria,
volcanos, shards of mineral and rock --

he says, "there's no mystery in how it formed!"

swears at the whiteboard marker then
heaves it toward his pet granite by the door
hikes up his antique Levis--
sighs at his steel box of gems

- Chelsea Bullock

The next is another vignette, this time chilling as well as lovely.  It takes on one of the hardest of forms, the pantoum, a form created by the devil for inducing cranial hemorrhaging in writing students.  It's a rotating repetition form, where the entire line is repeated, such that if the first stanza is ABCD, the next must be BEDF, and the next must be EGFH, and so on, the second and fourth lines of the previous stanza becoming the first and third of the next.  And the last stanza must feature the return of the A-C from the first, completing the circle.  "Firestuffs" is only three stanzas, the shortest form in which all the principles of the form are at work.  It's a fine example, and the swinging of the axe is of a piece with the form, the repetition making a steady, gently rocking pace that gains tension as it progresses, until the chill of the last turnaround descends and there us just the sound of the axe in the hollow air.


The axe's dull weight scared me--
Its blunt might no matter of reckoning.
You swung rapidly, with force,
Almost every cut splintery clean.

Its blunt might no matter of reckoning,
The wood gave every time,
Almost every cut splintery clean.
Log met dirt, hollowing the air around it.

The wood gave every time.
You swung rapidly, with force and
Log met dirt, hollowing the air around it.
The axe's dull weight scared me.

- Chelsea Bullock

I'll let the poet have the final word, from a 2007 interview:

How do you know when a poem is finished?
"A ray of sunlight warms my face, and then a bluebird comes and lands on my right shoulder."

Legal notice:
Some may feel that the inclusion of works not in the public domain is a violation of the fair-use doctrine of US copyright law. I obviously do not agree, but I will gladly defer to the wishes of the rightsholder, and if anyone wishes for a post of their work or work for which they own the intellectual rights to be taken down, they may ask for its removal and it will be so. I claim no ownership and have no rights as to the works I will be posting, save for any that were written by me.

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