Poems are a way of identifying what’s happening, often in conversation with oneself, or with others. What do you hold dear, what needs to be said this moment? Our observations, for me, seemed the first accurate ones ever, as we shed the trance of World War II and the 1950s. Interesting to be young and growing, in consonance with the culture’s evolution, wherever that growth has taken us.
Writing poetry is a journey into form and into unknowable material. Guides are Charles Olson’s “Projective Verse" which taught us the line is a score of your personal breath and Robert Creeley’s “Form is never more than an extension of content,” plus the visual improvisations of John Wieners and Allen Ginsberg’s broad sprawl. Ginsberg's most profound precept to me was that poetry should "Make the private world public."
Beginning a poem begins a new and ageless journey. If the journey is not pristine, we’re not tuned in. My background contains strong tugs toward Wieners’s exact statement of feeling and Alden Van Buskirk’s personal, apocalyptic vision. Then include the social power of Bob Dylan, feminism, radical politics, meditation, sonnets, and spoken word, alongside study of T.S. Eliot, the Greeks, Shakespeare, the anthologies.
Chalcedony’s voice, a woman’s, came to me in the cycle of Chalcedony poems, somehow grounded me and inspired a rediscovery of passion. I started using the form of early poems and speaking in a more authentic voice, whether female or male. I have extended that process to my newest works, War Allies, Love Poems: Your Hands Say Breathless Rose and Hello, Paradise. Paradise, Goodbye.
The honesty, passion, and justice of the Beats, responsibility in answering a general need for authenticity, along with an unswerving focus on the topic and how to present it without distractions - these values seem undying to me. The image itself, the emotion itself, and the evolution embedded in them. How to follow it - through poetic expression and staying true, in these difficult times, to those principles I learned among the Beat Generation.
I LOVE THIS MAN (excerpt)
I love this man!
I love the skeletal push
of his upper chest, how he moves
leaning forward pulled by a cord
at cranium’s peak. He wrestles
with the buzzing in his bones, pushing
at their edges and blunt ends.
I will soap his feet. I will wash his hair,
I will curl those strands around my fingers.
I will hold his face in my hands.
His soul reaches into my soul.
My soul reaches into his.
Meet his eyes and I meet his core.
I love how he explores
the shores of our island.
I’ll be gone before tomorrow,
a threat of clouds on the horizon.
BE A SOLDIER (excerpt)
Be a soldier! Be strong
as you are this second.
Scope the next place
your foot lands and push with toes,
balance in-motion weight to
Keep focus eye-level and peripheral.
Always you've been a soldier.
The sky clears of doubt and clouds
drop away. Scan the arena: war
Visible because you're about to die.
Visible because my hip's curve
ramps into energy-crammed worlds.
Visible because the jigsaw uncamouflaged.
YOU NEVER THOUGHT (excerpt)
A poem for Alden Van Buskirk (1938-1961):
You never thought the ropes
lacing your body would loosen.
Never thought tension
would go slack, never thought
truck engines rapping at your back
like gunshots would quiet
and they didn't.
Steering-wheel leather chewed
Pollack by my fingernails, by twisting
through decades of curves.
Come to freeway’s end
at tar wriggles across cement.
Punch brakes and pitch abrupt chest forward
toward a trail like a bedsheet of stones
knobby gray in forest light.