25 November 2012

Diane Wakoski

[from Diane Wakoski's Toward a New Poetry, Michigan, 1980]

what I would like to do is be as real in my writing as I am in life, and I’m a fairly real character in life. I would like to come off the page, and be alive and singing and telling the truth, and telling the history, and at the same time making poetry out of it. I think of that as being what twentieth-century free verse is all about. . . .

I think that poetry is an act of problem solving, which means that if there are no problems solved there is no poetry to be written. . . .

The purpose of the poem is to complete an act that can’t be completed in real life. . . .

what real poetry was all about was creating a personal mythology rather than simply participating in the mythology of your culture. . . .

that’s of course our great quest: how to maintain the passion in its purest and its most violent — and I think I use that word advisedly — violent form. But have it in fact contained as an artifice. I don’t want the snakes in my head to turn you to stone. I do not want the heat of my anger to melt you into a puddle [laughter]. And yet I don’t think that art can exist unless there is that power to turn you to stone or to melt you to your gaseous elements. . . .

here’s a little discrepancy in my work because male and female sexuality are terribly important to me. If you’re going to ask me questions of how do I resolve them, maybe that is the problem solving that I am involved with because in some way I’ve always felt that it’s my destiny to be the spirit. And yet what I chafe about most in life is being treated as a spiritual person rather than a sex object [laughter] and woman by the man that I love. But, and maybe that’s what my poetry is really about, is, is, is this life journey between the body and the spirit. There’s no easy answer to it. I don’t think you become spirit by denying the flesh, and living in hair shirts. And yet in some way you do become spirit by simply not acknowledging the flesh. But again because we are body, that sounds like denial. I don’t think denial is the answer. Because what denial becomes in the physical son cutting off the head of the father, or whatever physical act that happens. So, so . . . these are problems that fascinate me, and perhaps what a lot of my poems are about. How do you solve these problems? . . .

“Vision” is what is most private, intimate, eccentric, unusual, unique, visionary about the person. By definition it would have to be that part of you which is somewhat repressed or put down because it doesn’t fit in with the forms. But it may be not be forbidden . . . it may not just be repressed or put down because of convention. It may be in fact the part of you that you have to create that is completely unique. In other words, the ability to create something unique about yourself. And you can still be quite an acceptable human being and a good member of society and a nice friend and a good lover and any number of other things. But you probably can’t be a poet if you can’t create yourself as unique in some way.

Diane Wakoski, 1980


06 November 2012

Lynda Hull

[from Lynda Hull's The Collected Poems, Graywolf, 2006]

Hollywood Jazz

Who says it’s cool says wrong.
    For it rises from the city’s
        sweltering geometry of rooms,

fire escapes, and flares from the heels
    of corner boys on Occidental
        posing with small-time criminal

intent — all pneumatic grace. This
    is the music that plays at the moment
        in every late-night noir flick

when the woman finds herself alone, perfectly
    alone in a hotel room before a man
        whose face is so shadowed as to be

invisible, one more bedroom arsonist
    seeing nothing remotely
        cool: a woman in a cage

of half-light, Venetian blinds.
    This is where jazz blooms, in the hook
        and snag of her zipper opening to

an enfilade of trumpets. Her dress
    falls in a dizzy indigo riff.
        I know her vices are minor: sex,

forgetfulness, the desire to be someone,
    anyone else. On the landing, the man
        pauses before descending

one more flight. Checks his belt. Adjusts
    the snap brim over his face. She smoothes
        her platinum hair and smokes a Lucky

to kill his cologne. And standing there
    by the window in her slip, midnight blue,
        the stockings she did not take off,

she is candescent, her desolation
    a music so voluptuous I want
        to linger with her. And if I do not

turn away from modesty or shame,
    I’m in this for keeps, flying with her
        into fear’s random pivot where each article

glistens like evidence: the tube of lipstick,
    her discarded earrings. When she closes
        her eyes, she hears the streetcar’s

nocturne up Jackson, a humpbacked sedan
    rounding the corner from now
        to that lavish void of tomorrow,

a sequence of rooms: steam heat, modern,
    2 bucks. Now listen. Marimbas.
        His cologne persists, a redolence

of fire alarms, and Darling,
    there are no innocents here, only
        dupes, voyeurs. On the stairs

he flicks dust from his alligator
    shoes. I stoop to straighten
        the seams of my stockings, and

when I meet him in the shadows
    of the stairwell, clarinets whisper
        Here, take my arm. Walk with me.


Lynda Hull