Friday, September 29, 2006

Walking in different shoes

I revived the following poem in response to an exercise to write a poem that is outside one's usual style, format, and/or realm of comfort. It's a good exercise, in that it takes one right outside one's head, and makes one write from a perspective new and unfamiliar. For example, if you're a formalist, try writing free verse; if you hate to use meter and rhyme, normally, then write in meter and rhyme; if there is a subject you would normally avoid writing about, go there now; or even try to write from the POV of your opposite gender.

The poem below is one I wrote some years ago, although it fits this exercise idea. I almost never write in metered rhyme, and whenever I have attempted a sonnet, the results almost invariably, well, suck big time. So, this is a very atypical poem for me. (This is not to say that this poem doesn't suck, too.)

Teresa’s Grave, 1813, Spain

There on the hill, as the guns fire ‘round,
he leaves her: her cross, a parceled ground
covered with stones, her silken scarf laid
across her name, which he never said

enough. Bright gunsmoke takes the place
of flowers. He knew that last look
of release was how he’d remember her face,
peaceful, parting. His worst enemy took

what was left of time: her infinite grace,
erect and astride her spirited horse: they raced,
one morning, summers past, for the shrine
across these hills: he has nothing now but time.

A flourish, a fanfare, the silent guns:
still all the earth, now: her race is run.

A bit more about this particular poem:

On occasion, I find myself responding to a piece of literary writing, or a movie, or a myth, a comic book, a graphic novel, a TV movie, an episode of Masterpiece Theatre on PBS, when one of the characters has so come to life for me, that I must respond artistically, with a poem. I like to put myself into the mind of the character, or the event, and then the poem becomes a contemplation of a liminal moment in that character's story, when everything converges. Getting into the head of another, you sort of shapechange into that other, and take on their persona, for awhile. It gets you right out of yourself, in a good way. It's also a way of dialoguing with art that moves me.

I have done a series of Portraits of these character moments; I know who all the characters are, but I'm not sure anyone else would. A lot of the moments I respond to are moments of transcendance, when a character makes a break with the past and stands before a new world of possibility. This poem was never officially part of the Portraits series, but it fits in, in terms of method and means.

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