For national poetry writing month (NaPoWriMo) I’ve written a poem a day in April each year from 2012 to 2015, but in 2016 I needed to concentrate on finishing the PhD and last year I had a little break. So now I’m back in the write-and-publish-a-poem-every-day-in-April saddle.
This year I decided that I would write and post a rescued poem daily: there’s nothing quite like putting on a straitjacket, then trying to do cartwheels!
I’m posting them over at http://jenniferliston.com. Please visit, and I’d love to hear what you think about the poems via the comments.
I’m absolutely thrilled that the delightful Jerome Rothenberg has featured my rescued poetry on Jacket2, a leading online journal that offers commentary on contemporary poetry and poetics. You can read it over here.
Her procedural poetry, as presented here, adds significantly to the line of such poetry in modern and postmodern writing — in both her poems and poetics. The idea of the “rescued poem” is indubitably her own, and a further collection of poems as examples will shortly be gathered as a book.
Jerome is an eminent American contemporary poet who started his career as a translator of poetry. He is also a highly regarded poetry anthologist, editor and poetic theorist. One of the most well-known anthologies for which he is responsible is the beautiful Technicians of the Sacred, a collection of poetry and incantations from indigenous peoples around the world.
You can read more about Jerome on the Poetry Foundation website.
Thank you so much, Jerome.
This little rescued poem is the first in a new rescued poetry project I’ve just begun — but, more about that in a future post when I’ve completed some rescue missions and I’m ready to report!
I rescued this poem from two books by Irish author Edna O’Brien: Some Irish Loving (p 251) and Mrs Reinhardt and other stories (p 122).
In the Grainne Mhaol project which I worked on for three years, I topped and tailed rescued poem titles with ellipses so that poems were clearly identifiable as rescued rather than ‘organic’ Grainne narrative poems. (You can read more about that project over here: How a pirate queen helped me become a doctor.) I’m still not sure what I think of the aesthetics of ellipses, but will continue to use them for now. Each rescued poem title is simply an excerpt of a few words or an interesting-sounding phrase from the poem itself.
I lay down by naked water.
I thought I was alone.
A tender fawn walked by, then turned
to meet my eyes. He said:
“Forget your sweetness, little one.
Forget your blush, your glow.
Sins of stone shall haunt your heart,
your flesh will shame you sore.”
Morning in a dress of light
girl in shoes of brown
mountains cold and wild and still:
stream that drank me down.
I rescued this poem from seven ‘blurbs’ combined from the 2015 IKEA catalogue.
As always, the important distinction between my rescuing process and other process-based approaches such as ‘finding’ poems is that I do not select a complete phrase or sentence; after I transcribe the text I jumble it so that all the words are in random order, and then I choose words as individual building blocks. The resulting rescued poem is usually quite surprising, then, because I take the words out of their original context and impose my own creativity on them, combining them to give a new twist – as is the case with this little rescuee.
little people of IKEA
even the tiniest children are complicated
up and down in a million moments
these unique little freaks
lost in worry-free space
home in happy safe place
ideas become needs
become want want want
getting and giving
getting and giving
high on make-believing every day
hide in giggling sleep every night
and you think
you can stack time
in smart storage
but that’s not the way
it seems to play out
and one day
the world takes these
This rescuee is from The Celtic Twilight by W B Yeats (p 9) and The History of the Town and the County of the Town of Galway (1820) by James Hardiman (p 65). It’s the first one to have a bit of a conversation going on.
The conscience-stricken spirit
The spirit standing in the doorway
had an infinite, heavy sadness to it;
a weight of troubles from another world.
Is you dead, I says.
What thinks you, he replied.
When I was living my enemies took power,
destroyed my castle, my kingdom.
What I feared more than anything else came to pass:
terrible misfortune on the land,
winds of damage turned families and visionaries to peasants,
pleasure of music and poems a memory,
a place whose masters have no heart
an earth whose heavens are foregoing…
He seemed kind, strong.
They are so distant from me, said he, neither day nor night,
time nor words, make me feel that…
If you would talk to… if you would…
His voice began to fail.
They see me as half-mad, I says, queer as a copper shilling.
Talking to you, about you, is no wise things for me.
So I has written this down
I is no mystical person, I is already damaged,
lodging in this place
longing to trim my own winged mind.
This short but intense poem is getting its first airing here. I rescued it from two books by Miranda Green: Celtic Goddesses: Warriors Virgins and Mothers (p 77) and The Gods of the Celts (p 35).
Before a name
Silver horses run on alien lands
guardians of gold hands and Ireland’s stories;
vigorous, the king of wood and word,
sexual, the bride of stone and roots.
Mortal is the waterbird, believing
that rivers shape-shift, carrying divine
spirits to a savage transformation,
to a form that forced a human birth:
crushing meaning; giving them a name.
This is an unusual rescue-ee in that the source texts are two poems by William Wordsworth: ‘Lucy Gray’ and ‘Daffodils’. (I usually rescue poems from prose, not poetry.)
The result is definitely influenced by how well I know both poems.
She is all, and night is just
Sound never looks this lonesome.
She wandered, small,
overlooked, scarcely there.
She was inward, broken,
on solitary wild.
Night was tossing
the wretched daffodils.
She danced, wanton,
chanced a glance
at lantern moon
shine sprightly golden
reached downwards beside
on milky snow.
She gazed wide at lonely heaven
and through sparkling
stars tracked waves of twinkle.
She danced, pensive,
yonder mother mountain
a steep, stormy rise homeward.
She danced, wept,
her footmarks lost,
never to be seen.
I rescued this poem from My Life in Advertising by Claude C Hopkins (p 205) and The sea by John Banville (p 143).
Summer afternoon pocketing thunderous idleness in the dark.
ghosts of desire sitting in pitch-dark intensity
deprive primal intensity;
balls for breakfast
conscious phantoms lurch
from joy to grey
approve to disreputable
filled fingers to wanton waste,
picture-house main feature to forgotten poverty.
I rescued this piece from Captain Corelli’s Mandolin by Louis de Bernières (p43) and Sons and Lovers by D H Lawrence (p107).
simple embodiment of profound good
soul scattering naked comfort
like snowflakes in your presence
your subversive blackberry words
from the black of fallen fruit
to the whiteness of snow
as wet as warm touch
scar of peace.
This little rescue-ee is from Eva Luna by Isabel Allende (p217) and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon (p207).
Beneath the hoping measured
narrow echoey train
was roar roar
was stutter stutter.
Machines in rows,
in windowless cubicles
served the silent treatment.
Lipstick, ribbons, makeup, hair creams, boots, skirts
never paper-wrapped gestures.
Unappetising lunchroom leftovers:
beans and custard creams.
Walls that wear eyes.