Notes #1.5: Response to “A Blessing,” James Wright  

The use of imagery here is very minimal, however very specific. He layers time and place neatly onto each other. In the first lines we’re given a very distinct place at a very distinct time. With the heavy use of imagery at the beginning, it allows the rest of the poem to loosen into the subjective a bit. This isn’t to say that it abandons concrete images, it certain doesn’t, but it makes use of them in specific moments – dividing it’s time (back and forth) from perception and introspection.

Another interesting aspect is how, when the concrete images do show up, there is also the appearance of active (concrete) verbs. These verbs (such as “munching,” “nuzzled,” “walked”, etc.) adds onto the concrete images. Perhaps gives the reader the ability to envision them more strongly. Two lines really exemplify this for me: “And the light breeze moves me to caress her long ear / That is delicate as the skin over a girl’s wrist.” The comparison of an ear to a girl’s wrist is a strong connection that one can envision, but couple that with the word “caress,” or even the fact that a “light breeze moves” the narrator to do it, makes the entirety so much more intimate.

Link: http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/175780

Notes of the Day #1

Description of an Eye:

The image of an eye is just a fascinating. Moon-like. Large pearls, stained with finger prints. A canvas with smudges of paint. The eyes are round. A hatching egg of soul. A mirror reflecting life. The seduction of a mind. Glass capsules harboring suns. The movie projector of life. A round rock hurdled down a street. Veins coarse with sleep. Clicks of a camera. Painted finger nails.

Description of a Fragile Hand:

It is something hard to grasp. Jelly. Rotting fruit smashed across the road. A melt clock. A branches tremor. Pale, near translucent. Veins coarse with sleep. Bones with a simple veil. Folded over one another like unsaid words. Damp paint bubbling on a wall. A dead chicken.

Without Permission: Maurice Kilwein Guevara

Pepenador de palabras

Landscape, landfill: from a couple hills away with papers flying and ink-beaked gulls I’m a scavenger rooting about, picker of words, new father trailed by a long cotton sack, Nobody, now a humpback: reader, be careful: intensifiers combust: it’s easy to lose your footing: noxious puddles of common nouns red as brake fluid: bottles and fins and the detritus of feathers: iridescent condoms, bloated cardboard: the leg bones of pig and cow I can resell to the soup factory for bullion: bending with her little sleepy weight from dawn until scudding clouds darken the late horizon: dull ache in the back of my thighs turning to numbness as I hunker with tweezers to fill one of the four class vials clipped to my break pocket: scry, emunctory, sugared, tic, comma, priapism: once I dream of Remedios Varo in a hammock between trees and a stream: wake up: that slope is where they slide and dump the near-dead fish without permission after closing time: you fall there, you go under for good: the sun at noon chomps at your neck: once I opened a yellow garbage bag stamped with the insignia of the National Library, cut the corded muslin: finger-tagged, it was the desiccated arm of Cervantes clutching a rusted sword: strata and skin: who knew the next day from a fruit crate I’d hear her infant cry: wrap song to my back: bring her home to the sound of boiling water: constant wing-flap of tarpaper: Lucero.

Commentary:

Poema, by Maurice Kilwein Guevara, is a complex and beautiful collection. Throughout most of the pages the poems seem to act in layers. The deeper you go, the more powerful the words become. At the end, this poem is all about words. The powers words can have, and the power we try to take. Through this poem, Maurice is saying that being a poet is like being a garbage picker. Poets must comb the language/knowledge tossed into the landfill of language and history. We create poems to sell back to the world.

What does it say about us that so much history/language is willingly thrown out? Well, it seems to point an accusatory finger right back at us. We’ve commoditized language/history and discard these important bits of information when deemed useless. Are they are useless as we imagine? Well, I have to point to our shrinking language. Today, we just use less words. We only need to look at politics/social issues to see how detrimental the issue has become. Words take on multiple meanings, but has their tone highly relied on. A word like “Racism” takes on multiple meanings, so the issue gets buried under confusion or the refusal to scrutinize one’s own actions. Something that comes out of that is the use of a word such as “Thug.” It is, in my mind, a straight-word replacement for the N-word. Of course, those who use it would call foul if that point is made. “Thug” is seen as an innocuous word for bad guy. The use of the word isn’t ever looked at… because honestly, who are the group people mostly being called “Thug” here?

And this is where I think the poem really gets to the heart of the matter. Not on race issues, but on the issue of language. It is about the ownership one has over language. If we, the readers, see this landfill as being one littered with history and language, we must also look at the person picking from it. The Poet takes control of the information they hand back to us. While they may be combing the history that sorely needs to be spoken about, they will obviously no present all the facts to us. Take, in this poem, the reference to Remedios Varo. Who is she? Well, she is one of the few Women Surrealist in a movement that was mostly controlled by Men. I already knew the reference since I have a passion for Surrealism (her paintings are amazing). How many of you would have known that? And where would you start looking? (I found her first on Tumblr… speaking of landfills). The garbage picker in this poem has the ultimate control over us. However, we’re all beholden to the control of language itself. Language becomes about a concentration of power. Those who control language control the discussion, thus controlling the person. However, language has a power all in itself. The multiplicity of every word, alongside their histories, adds onto the object the word is used upon. We struggle somewhere in between all that, attempting to make sense of our being.

I would definitely recommend this book. It has such a free, but complex quality to them. The poems are luminous and just wash right over you. This is a beautiful book with a complicated message. Buy it here: http://tinyurl.com/ovh9nzk.

Poetry: Metaphor

As I said last post, metaphor is that place between the concrete and the abstract. Metaphor marries the two concepts to create a rich multiplicity of meaning. It is essential to consider the metaphor in any poem, because it always manages to do much of the heavy lifting if done correctly. My own work, which is greatly image based, relies heavily on the metaphor as a means to communicate the point underneath. My hope is that the multiplicity gives the poem an area to explore my feelings and ideas. Perhaps to pick out the contradictions in my rational. Perhaps to attempt to portray how contradictions manage to developed in our lived experience.

Of course, metaphor can be used as different extents with different focuses. Most people probably wouldn’t quite understand that. Any technique, including the use of abstraction and the concrete, can be done in several ways. One recent book that I read, heredities by J. Michael Martinez, develops metaphor in a way that give the reader a body to explore. In his poem “Aporia,” metaphor is used brilliantly. Even if you focus on the very first part, titled “The Signified Seeks the Body,” you see the simple image of an icicle hanging from the side of a roof. One has to consider what is happening in these set of images and what does it mean to the overall idea of “The Chicano.” Really, it starts with a subtle simile: “I said, The Chicano shapes identity like an icicle fingering down from the roof’s edge.” To fully appreciate that line, you have to think of how all the images are at work here, specifically the icicle. What is the icicle? It’s frozen water. It is water molecules that have gathered together at this specific moment, to freeze together at this certain moment in time. Water has always been used as a metaphor for life (as a source of life or of rebirth). Martinez takes that simple symbol and expands upon it the idea of history. As this particular section goes on, so the metaphor deepens itself: “… translucence freezes about its own boundaries, declaring the noun from the water, I said.” Then he connects the idea of history back to the body: “The name seeks to root in the arterial cavity; the tendons turn from the blood like foreshadowing.” Water and blood are link; history and the body are linked. The rest of the poem, and the other sections, begin to take on a circular effect, further linking the images/metaphors it uses to this deep idea of the connection between the body and history.

Compare this use with Maurice Kilwein Guevara’s poems in Poema and you see the metaphors take on a different purpose – though with similar points at the end. In the poem titled “Against Metaphor,” Guevara seems to be laying out the impossibility to really describe life without the use of metaphor. Each line contains two images he manages to link together in their dissimilarities with the term “not”: “Chair is not a Mine Sweeper. […] Dark Moth on the Kitchen Windowsill not Syllable of Julia de Burgos.” The “not” becomes a sort of “knot” that makes it impossible to separate the two images as soon as they are mentioned together. Similar to Martinez’s use of water, Guevara’s use of references (particularly that of historical figures) adds onto each poem a multiplicity with respect to history. Here, the point to me feels that with each word comes a historical multiplicity that cannot be separated from these words. In another poem titled “Pets,” references are used in connection with the naming of ants. Adding these names to these ants describes and prescribes their behavior. Naming the ant Julia de Burgos also adds on all the turbulent life, work, and history she went through. It is also a means to communicate the narrator’s own experience with the knowledge of Burgos as well. Everything becomes linked together to the lived experience. We are never separated from various points by time or location. Even in place, our influences and knowledge has crossed borders and back.

It is undoubtedly difficult to really master the metaphor as these two writers have. It takes a lot of work and knowledge to really fit these ideas together. Perhaps sometimes it can become too theoretical, too apart from the audience you may want. That is really true for any writing style. Yes, some tend to stand out as more popular than others (spoken word, for instance). Yes, these styles may rely heavily on the opposite sides of abstract or concrete (spoken word vs. conceptual poetry for example). However, I think it is best to see it as a range to explore and mix around. See what calls out to you the most.

A small exercise I can do of doing, off the top of my head, would be to take the previous exercise (of changing the abstract to the concrete) and seeing if you can find a metaphorical middle-ground to explore. Research your image to find any historical or symbolic significance. Play around with it. Perhaps something you’ve wanted to write about could be deepened through this image. Overall, it is about exploration – let the image lead you on.

Poetry: Concrete vs. Abstract

There was an exercise I did today, for class, which I thought to share with you. It was meant to deal with the development of concrete images over abstract ideas. One of the more common criticism levied against understanding poetry is that most poems are simply too abstract to understand. This tends to mean that a piece is too personal, too subjective for a person get a coherent interpretation. Of course, building concrete images can also help organize the scene you are attempting to relate to the reader. For example, if you want to write a poem about two lovers building a concrete scene where these two lovers inhabit is key to understanding not only the two people but even the emotions of that moment.

The exercise was a simple one. Take an abstract phrase/word and try to attach as many concrete images to it as humanly possible. Here we were given a short time to come up with as many images as we could. Something that I found fun while doing this particular exercise was how images seem to meld into one another. This is something you have to allow yourself to do. Since most of my work tends to be more in the surrealist framework, that is to say the melding of images, I found it necessary to find words that relate (in some sense) to the previous word I come up with. Even if it didn’t make any sense. Here are some of the results of that exercise.

Order – Government building, suit, near stack of papers, a bird’s nest, an egg, a fresh pigeon’s wing, a beak, the song of a finch.

Rage – Furrowed face, a father, a sister, broken glass, dent in door, the chipped paint of a wall, the rusty fire escape, the hollowed out building, an empty street.

Peace – A forest, light rain, an empty bed, an unmade bed, a bed with someone in it, someone standing in a doorway.

Hunger – Hands caked with dirt, the bent over person, bone, dust, the open manhole, the darkened room

Grace – a flowing dress, neat handing writing, a near hand-written letter, moving legs, a person just catching the train as the doors close.

As I mention, most of my images tended to link with one another as I went along. You could also use this as a means to develop a scene as a whole. For example, take the last word “Grace” that I used. Looking back at it, a scene could definitely be made. A woman in a flowing dress receives a letter from someone important. She must see this person, for some reason. The letter has complied them to rush out the door and take whatever transportation they can to reach the person. They just catch the train before the door close and the train departs. Of course, this would only be a framework to further develop. What type of letter was it? Why did she rush out? Is this event joyous or tragic? Well, that would be up to me to develop.

Definitely try this out for yourself. It could help you develop a subject to write about or help you think of the images you want to describe in a poem you are already working on. Either way, images are very important in a poems development. Many may disagree with that sentiment, but images are the way we come to experience the world. The images developed through all are senses are so important. Abstractions (such as the abstractions of concepts) can only take a reader so far. However, there is always an exception to the rule. Metaphor is where the concrete and the abstract marry one another. I’ll speak on this soon.

Poetry Drafts: “Current Events”

1st Draft:

Current Events

Reflections off a vibrating chain

wait patiently to be broken.
The images of whipping mouths

are too soon ready to be spoken.

Teeth begin to gnash in rapid

motion, tearing against the wind

until the blood is clotted.

This was a quick draft of a poem I made earlier today. It was my first attempt at the old Spanish poetic form, the Seguidilla. The form is a seven line poem. It is rhymed in the second/forth and fifth/seventh lines respectively. It also has a syllable count (7,5,7,5,5,7,5). As you can see, I completely disregarded the final aspect of the form. It was both out of forgetfulness and a focus on the rhyme. I wanted to focus on how the rhyme would help shape the piece.

2nd Draft:

Current Events

Vibrating chain’s reflection

waits to be broken.

Images of whipping mouths

are too soon spoken.

Teeth gnash in rapid

motion, tearing the gold wind

until all is blood.

This was an immediate “revision” after I realized my mistake in the first draft. It is slimmer. Perhaps more organized.  However, one of the issues I had was that the first four lines seem much more in tune than the last three. It threw me off. Something still doesn’t feel quite right about it. Yet, I feel sort of stuck… So…

3rd Draft:

Current Events

My vibrating reflection
waits to be broken.

The blur of my whipping mouth
is too frightening.
Teeth gnash in rapid
motion, tearing the gold wind
until all is blood.

Now that is just creepy. Here I just wanted to shape up to feel more free and less constrained as the first one. However, it does seem to be getting more personal as I went along. Perhaps that is what the poem is telling me to do. At this step of the revision process, I will leave this piece aside for a few days and maybe go back to it. One of my issues as a writer as going back and revising something. This isn’t to say I lack in revising my pieces. More like I tend to revise during the process of creation. So the act of creating and revising tend to help simultaneously. Admittedly, it isn’t the best way to create stuff. Most of it comes out of a fear that the original idea is lacking in content, organization, or structure.

I will be taking this piece and revising it a few more times before I come to any final draft. Initially, the idea came out of a phrase I used to describe poetry: ‘Poetry is / the reflection off a vibrating chain / what wraps the world with history.” The image of a vibrating chain seems to be a perfect metaphor for how history is considered. It is something we’re all effectively bound to, but the focus is in a constant state of flux. Stories/poems make up the reflections that give us individual pause. Something to be considered that makes history more personal, more alive. This happens to me every time I read a poem by Puerto Ricans (islanders), especially poets from the past like Hugo Margenat (of which there is painfully so little translation):

[…]

I and God in the hot salt pits;

In the struggle of Jayuya;
from the hoe to the bell; and Lares.
I and God will recite poetry
of the calloused hands: good hardness.
In the sorcery of guayama:

And the hours.
Now, finally, in the night of the San Juan that is mine
we’ll recite the last poem of the night.

I and God, we have returned to you with wooden wings.

– “I and God, We Have Returned”
Hugo Margenat
Translated by Digna Sanchez-Mendez

Group Activities

Salons. Workshops. Clubs. Collectives. Colonies.

I’ve always been interested in trying to form a group of writers and artists. Something to develop connections, experiment with work, create an audience, and to overall support the individual artist in their work. Unfortunately, it has never worked out. There are numerous of reason for it. In my own case, it was mostly my crippling inability to interact properly with people… at least after a certain length of time. However, I do think there are other causes for my failures.

One big issue is that a group MUST certain around something, and that something is usually political. This was actually one of my early mistakes with a “group” (originally meant to be a small publication) called Burro Char. In this case, it was centered around an idea of a form of literature that was developed out of both the techniques from the Surrealists (Automation) and the Oulipo (Constrained Techniques). I believed that in folding the two together, there could be the possibility of develop a near infinity amount of possibilities for each individual writer. There was also an ill-developed attempt to reflect the “organized-chaos” of our society in there. It never occurred to me that people wouldn’t jump to the idea. It also never occurred to me how many people who attempt to take credit of it. It left too much black and white in a scenario that I envisioned to be the ultimate shades of grey. It gave the impression that one needed to be interested or you get out. Then you have the groups where this IS the case.

There has been many groups in my personal experience that has had this take-it-or-leave-it attitude. I never got along well with them. However, many groups that I just saw perform have much the same mentality. It never made sense to me. It once sense, it’s a marketing ploy like no other. Marketing to who though? The literary industry isn’t, and hasn’t been, one that supports artistic endeavors for the sake of Art. It’s one based high on profits. If a writer can’t sell, what use are they? If this group can only bring in a dozen people, with most of that dozen just regulars attending that venue, then what use are they? Unfortunately, this seems to be driven more by ego. An exercise of ego supporting ego. If something has no monetary prospects, then we must rely the prospects of social status.

The most unfortunate part is that these issues have burrowed their way very early in a writer’s development – through the college system. In my own college, I’ve noticed that there really isn’t a develop group for writers and artists. There is a literary/art magazine, but it seems as if they are on a slight hiatus. Then the English department seems to have no visual representation whatsoever. This is a college that is known for producing some great writers, with a great creative writing program. Nothing.

There seems to be an obvious caution here. Artists, at least in this city, seem too protective of their work. I’ve found myself guilty of this time and time again. Who wants to share their work in an atmosphere where people seem to judge and reject over attempting to understand and interact? I’ve been lucky enough to experience the Graphic Arts community and there is indeed a world of difference. Comic Book Artists, for the most part, are leagues more supportive of each other than nearly any writer could be. Why? Well, there is definitely more money in it. (More money than zero at any case.) There is definitely a more wider and supportive audience. I also think that there is a wide diversity in styles that leave people feeling unchallenged by one another (most of the time). (Unlike writing, that seems to consistently universalize or market a single type of writing).

There should definitely be chances taken. I doubt that there will ever be a well-known group of writers, but there could definitely be one that attempts to develop literature as a whole – something that could attract people of all backgrounds. Who knows…

“I Don’t Like This Book”

Having a negative view on anything seems to always be met with negative views. I don’t there has been several times in this blog where I’ve been negative in one way or another. When I had been especially negative, I always get some push back for it. That’s fine. The issue that seems to be present is the way people look at book.

I’d offer that people tend to look at books with too much respect. Here is an object that took a lot of time to create, or so we imagine, and it must be respected. People really seem absent minded on the sort of system in place today with most publications. Books can be, and have been, and will be, printed out in an instant. There are ways for writers to literally take it right from the first draft, organize it quick, and have it printed the same week. Things even go faster in terms of ebooks, where everything is digitized and runs at the time of your internet connection.

Books have become a marketed form of entertainment. Just like any movie, cartoon, comic, television series, or video game. And this isn’t just the raunchy romance novels you find at the supermarket or pharmacy, this is all books. Even books attempting to get the upmost academic value must have some level of mainstream entertainment in them. Should it be this way? Absolutely not, but that doesn’t change the situation. Yet given this situation, it seems perfectly fine to be able to review a book anyway you like. It’s the consequence of our culture.

So it always baffles me when I see someone become negative at someone’s negative review. Unless it goes out to literally attack someone on a personal level, to the point where there would be negative consequences to that person’s life (not just hurt feelings), then what’s the issue? Sure, there needs to be informed reviews with some rigorous standard. And sure, our current ratings systems (usually 1-5 stars) is inadequate in any book discussion. However, it makes more sense to me to subvert such a system rather than outward complain against some readers. If someone doesn’t like something, and it’s all subjective, then that’s it. Fuck it. One needs to grow some tough skin, as a reader and a writer. Further down the line, if the book/writer is deserving of praise, don’t we just laugh at those negative reviews? Don’t we find it funny when a great master belittles a masterpiece for petty reasons?

At the end, one needs to consider themselves. If someone really cares about writing, then they should think about what they say about some books. I’m definitely judging myself here on that regard. One of my main blog posts, that seems to always be clicked on, is my little rant on Junot Diaz. My opinions haven’t really change on Diaz, but I do think I can explain them better. I do think it is important to develop my skills in reviewing. So, I will be adopting a standard in which to review books by. The advice I was given was to only review books I thought were good, as to keep things positive and only focus on the beauty of things. I can’t see myself doing that. There is a lot of issues with writing today, and in my view they need to be discussed. Hopefully some of these reviews will be an outlet to that goal. In my first attempt, I will be reviewing Rafael Campo’s What the Body Told.

Take care,

Isa Guzman.

Aesthetic Distance

Continuing from a thought I was having in my last post, it seemed to me that some writers (maybe most of the writing scene) doesn’t really push themselves in their craft. There will be a beautiful sentence that seems to just fall flat. An image that is explored, only for a brief second, before it is taken away from the reader and replaced with something else or something else. It becomes like following television ads on mute; there is a narrative line that flows, but it is nearly impossible to follow.

During a class yesterday, we continued the discussion we were having on Rafael Campo’s What the Body Told. Coincidentally enough we discussed “Safe Sex,” which was the poem I mentioned of having a beautiful first line that fell flat after the enjambment. To my surprise, there was such a focus on this one poem. The professor even went as far as saying that it revolutionized the Elizabethan sonnet. It was such a strong claim. What really punctuated the class was the next poem we looked at, “Kelly” [Click here: http://tinyurl.com/m4zljlh]. The interesting commentary that came out just gripped me throughout the rest of the day. The professor stated that the poem seems the least poetic of the collection. It every much is. Yet there was a student whom was vehement in saying that it was the least poetic was somehow “absurd.”

Most of the class discussion on this poem was what made it poetic. The conclusion was that the poem really came to life during the last few lines, especially with the enjambment near the end of the poem (“Pregnancy / Tests…”). It was the moment of shock for the narrator/doctor, and for us as readers; only to lead up to the bigger shock, and the final conclusion. However, my issue with this poem is that there was nothing that grabbed me initially. Yes, the big shock factor at the end obviously touches on a very important personal/political/social point. Rape is an important issue that isn’t spoken upon enough at a public level. However, I don’t judge a poem quality solely based off the content. There was nothing that made me emotionally or aesthetically attached to this poem. It falls very flat. Perhaps that was the main intention of the piece, especially if the narrator is speaking from his professional point of view. For that, it deserves some respect. However, it just isn’t my taste.

In thinking back to that quality I believe a poem should have, the initial beauty that keeps the reader enthralled, I was once again reminded of the idea of aesthetic distance – the distance a writer must have between themselves and their subject. This idea came from another professor, a well-known author, whom has made it a point to discuss the idea several times throughout this semester. She usually points it out in the parts of a novel that brings up issues with the narrative. For example, there are two characters whom become intimately involved with one another. You would expect the two characters to have connected at some level. If the two characters are too opposite of one another, then it brings to question of why the author chose these two characters to be together. Likely, this relationship happened because the author wanted to force it for some personal reason. This tends to interfere with the storytelling and bring the reader out of it. Much I think is the same for poetry. When I speak on the initial beauty, I am mostly speaking about craft. Most poets, from the readings I have attending to the conversations I hear, tend to sacrifice craft for the personal. It’s the American conception of the poem as only being an emotional outlet, which further devalues poetry in the overall culture. So what happens is that most poems tend to have similar crafts, competing amongst themselves with emotions. Yet at the same time, poems are judged harshly for being too sentimental – too emotional. It’s this strange, harsh contradiction that causes a very turbulent poetry scene. Some writers succeed, but mostly through connections and networking. Talented writers fail because they don’t meet these impossible (and boring) standards that are described as poetry. At the end, it becomes a nearly unviable profession to pursue.

It’s unfortunate. The only thing left for a poet to earn is ego, and little else.

Take care,

Isa Guzman

The Neglect of American Poetry

I’ve concluded that Contemporary American poetry, from the 90s onward, simply doesn’t go as far as it used to. Recently, I’ve come to read a few contemporary poetry collections; the same issue has come up within all of them. There will be an image, a sentence, that seems to be penetrating something deep and meaningful (maybe even original), but then it quickly releases itself into a curse word or an idiom. I don’t really understand why.

Nick Mount, speaking on T.S. Eliot and the idea of fragments, said “if fragments are all we have left, then we will make art of fragments.” It’s such a beautiful idea, and one that has been thoroughly adopted into American poetry. In one of those recent contemporary collections, nearly every poem had a fragment of a completely different subject or experience interwoven into it. It seems to me a technique that is done to either add depth, weight, or distance into a poem. What I mean by depth, weight, and distance is very simple. Take the example of a poem about an abusive relationship. The direct event of abuse becomes the skeleton of the piece. To add depth, or muscles, the poet could either add details of the abuse or of their own emotions; interconnecting other events taking place during the abuse. To add in weight, or skin (in my analogy), bring in past events of abuse by other people or maybe even the reverse (the narrator fighting fact); to flesh out the story; bring out the imperfections of the human experience. To add distance, or mobility (I’m making this up as I go along), is to relate the issue to a wider view; relate the abuse to trends within a family, a culture, a society. The problem with the technique is that it is overly and sloppily utilized. Something beautiful could really come out of constructing a poem in the way I just stated, but it takes a command to really bring it to full realization.

This could either be a problem with me (as it is a bias) or the overall mentality with the poetry community (as I see it). It just seems as if building up writing skills, understand the techniques, understanding the history of poetry, reading the classics, or even attempting to grapple with the human condition is labeled as an absurd thing to do. Writing poetry must come quick. Collections must be made at rapid pace. Getting your personality, or your political stance, out there is much more important. It’s the only explanation to some of the celebrated writers out there today. However, I’m not saying that if you do have the skills and knowledge that you’re automatically a good poet; nor am I saying if you have the opposite you can’t be a good poet. Sometimes those too stuck with rigid practices make the worst poems, while those inexperienced (especially kids) make poems that give you pause. I just think that the overall scene promotes sides to be taken, when we really should be considering the quality of a work.

I’ll end this with one example. I am currently reading Rafael Campo’s What the Body Told. He is a Cuban-American writer and doctor. He has won a few awards and been published in several magazines and anthologies. His work mostly focuses on the Medical Humanities. Here is a small excerpt:

Protected in your arms, I dreamed while death
Passed overhead. I guessed I was alive,
Because I heard how faintly in your breath
My name kept being said. We fell in love
When love was not protection in itself; […]

“Safe Sex”

It’s a nice beginning to a decent poem. However, it seems to become too simplistic. It was the first line that blew me away… or I should say it the way I read it wrongly. I read it as: “Protected in your arms, I dreamed while death.” The enjambment really does the poem a disservice. It just becomes something close to cliché, though the subject is what sets it apart from other poems (Homosexuality, AIDS). And overall, that has been my issue with this book. In and of themselves, the poems must be dissected thoroughly to bring out the beauty. I think a poem is definitely fuller if it attempts to grab the writer at the get go, but continues to be beautiful the further the poem is read into. It is a quality nearly every classic poem has. So why not strive to reach that mark?
Well, that’s all I have to say on this for now.

Take care,
Isa Guzman