Friday, February 4, 2011

Gerald’s Audacity and the Definition of a Poem

(In which Carl Sandburg reminded me.)


And so, I have recently written a poem about an innocent, anonymous individual, which, by the way, may sound creepy otherwise you’re informed of the darkness surrounding the verse. But provided you were informed, it will only sound creepier if not utterly crazy. Not that that was supposed to be cryptic or something like Pérez-Reverte. But that’s something ought to be left to the benevolence of time and pizza to be completely healed.

The poem, anyway, was visible in two separate sites and received a little more attention than most of the posts I dare publish online. One comment was of theological inferences and the other, structural and/or formalistic. I just love it when my readers dare or ask me. Besides, that is the threshold of communication – you ask, then I answer, or the other way around, and then we already have a conversation.

Coincidentally, my lesson with Gerald was about Carl Sandburg’s poem “Languages”. Yesterday, I read it aloud, with the enthusiasm and (pseudo) passion highly reserved for speech and drama class rather than ours, which recently consisted of his “knight in dire lovesickness” syndrome – he lurking on their national chat room and sighing every now and then.

By Carl Sandburg

There are no handles upon a language
Whereby men take hold of it
And mark it with signs for its remembrance.
It is a river, this language,
Once in a thousand years
Breaking a new course
Changing its way to the ocean.
It is mountain effluvia
Moving to valleys
And from nation to nation
Crossing borders and mixing.
Languages die like rivers.
Words wrapped round your tongue today
And broken to shape of thought
Between your teeth and lips speaking
Now and today
Shall be faded hieroglyphics
Ten thousand years from now.
Sing--and singing--remember
Your song dies and changes
And is not here to-morrow
Any more than the wind
Blowing ten thousand years ago.

And the ubiquitous comprehension questions were asked, this time about style analysis.

“What tells you it’s a poem?” I asked, reading from the textbook and avoiding looking at his downcast eyes, the ones that tell you their owner doesn’t give a damn about a letter on the book, let alone anything to do with poems.

“I don’t think this is a poem. But I have to believe because it’s in the book,” he answered rather robotically.

“What”? I asked, perplexed.

“This,” he stressed, “is not a poem. I think he just pretends it is.”

He! And he’s referring to Carl Sandburg as a poet whose theme song for the moment, as Gerald claimed it, was something from The Platters! Alright. My blog readers can comment anytime with a question meant to target my writing style, i.e., whether what I wrote was a poem or not. But to actually tell me “Languages” by Carl Sandburg wasn’t a poem and he just pretends it to be one, is a crime against literature!

“Okay, Gerald.” I started explaining, “There are two kinds of literature – prose and poetry. It’s prose if it’s written in paragraph form. If it’s written otherwise, like using lines or verses, it’s poetry. In fact, poetry can come in the form of an apple or the letter S. So that,” I pointed out to the poem on the book, “is a poem.”

And then I remembered something I wrote almost four years ago. Yes, it’s a poem, too.

What a Poem is to Me

To me a poem is beyond words that rhyme
and measured lines.
It has a body like that of a man,
That sees loveliness in simple things,
Hears the songs of birds in fields of gold,
Smells the fragrance of roses upon one’s nose,
Tastes the sweetness and bitterness of tears,
And feels the softness of the breeze upon one’s skin.

A poem has a heart
that knows the hidden beauty and darkness
of humanity –
and a soul
that lives within the body;
gives life to the words and
essence to the thoughts.

A poem may be a prayer,
a phantasm,
a song
or a hymn.
A poem’s grace is far beyond word’s that rhyme
and measured lines.
It is beauty.
It is life.
Once it is written, it never dies.
Its beauty lives on
from eternity unto eternity.

March 16, 2007
11:35 PM