"...the players couldn't take the field;
the marching band refused to yield
the day the music died."
- "American Pie" by Don McLean
From "The Watermelon Problem - Part I":
Please take this Commercial Poetry Challenge: Go to, say, Poetry Magazine and try to read the verse there without saying to yourself: "Surely they have better submissions than this...!" followed by the inevitable "So what do they do with the good stuff?"
|Earl the Squirrel's Rule #1|
These venues provide publication credits in a publish-or-perish environment. Every work reflects the same underlying need: material for interpretive analysis. Without exception, we see substance over form, nuance over prosody, what over how. Aside from some droll puns and sly literary references, humor is absent, as are entertainment and performance value. Tragedy and narrative are rare. Drama and romance are verboten. Aside from austere readings by the poet, there is no room for additional media: performing, graphics (except for the occasional ekphrastic), video, music, etc. One observer labeled this "business card poetry": concise unadorned text designed to increase one's profile and opportunities. A more charitable view is that it is serious and professional.
Nobody Read Poetry but, apparently, nobody writes it, either!
Here comes the punchline: These are the first people to deny that poetry is dead. LOL!
|Earl the Squirrel's Rule #2|
|Brooklyn poet Tina Chang|
The piece begins with the dreaded list of unrelated objects, in the midst of which we see this 14 feet of almost perfect binary:
A cup | of milk | before | me tastes | of melt|ed al|
It is | the stor|y of | the eve | of my | begin|ning. Gifts | for me:
Were this verse we'd be complaining of the metronome. This stretch establishes a dominant rhythm--something that would be apparent to anyone with a grounding in performance. A more common approach is to use such strict patterning to underscore vital passages, as she does (again with an extra syllable at the end of the penultimate line) in her finale:
If I hurry, I will dance with my father before the sun sets,
my slip|pers click|
on a | thin lay'r | of rain.
|Earl the Squirrel's Rule #13|
While over-interpreters take up classroom time ascribing more and more obscure meanings to "Origin and Ash", let us examine a poem that is like catnip to geeks but would never appear in a professional 'zine.
First, it's in meme format: graphics without an accompanying text file. This being the case, most institutional editors would see the ".jpg" file extension and not bother clicking on the picture.
Secondly, it is technically imaginative, an expression that translates to "gimmicky" among professionals. This explains why you won't see evidence of new prosodic concepts, including curginas or cada líneas (of which this is both), in academic writing. To wit, if we rearrange the linebreaks we see that it is iambic trimeter throughout, albeit with an abbreviated denouement.
Ros|ie knows | the night
is a | forgiv|ing thing.
She takes | her daught|er's corn|er,
pos|ing just | a lit|tle
clos'r | to the | street light.
It's a | school night | for Lynn;
someone | will have | the child|ren|
in bed | by ten.
Metrically speaking, we could say that the final rhyme, "ten" and "children", promotes the "-ren" to a lame foot. In any case, the ending comes short and sharp.
|Earl the Squirrel's Rule #12|
Thirdly, the sonics, including rhymes (e.g. "street light" "school night"), don't make random cameo appearances, as in "Origin and Ash". They begin in line 1 and remain throughout.
Fourthly and fatally, "Paradise Has No Colonies" follows the traditional fancentric aesthetic, as illustrated in Rule #12, rather than the Postmodern writer-oriented one captured in Rule #2. At first glance, it is a sympathetic picture--literally--of a prostitute and her extended family. The technique keeps these words in our minds and, ideally, brings us back. Only when we examine the breaks do we see the storyline unfold with each line (hence the genre's name, "cada línea"), viewed in isolation, encapsulating a different facet of their lives.
Rosie knows the night = Experience
is a forgiving = Redemption
thing. She takes her daughter's = Incest
corner, posing just a little = Artifice
closer to the street = Environment
light. It's a school = Education
night for Lynn; someone = Humanization
will have the children = Childbirth
in bed by ten. = Pedophilia
¹ - This distinction can become blurred when, for example, owners run the publication through a [more or less] private non-profit organization. The real test is the aesthetic/demographic they serve.
1. Institutional Poetry
2. Independent Poetry
Your feedback is appreciated!
Please take a moment to comment or ask questions below or, failing that, mark the post as "funny", "interesting", "silly" or "dull". Also, feel free to expand this conversation by linking to it on Twitter or Facebook. Please let us know if you've included us on your blogroll so that we can reciprocate.
If you would like to follow us, contact us confidentially or blog here as "Gray for a Day" please befriend us, "Earl Gray", on Facebook.
We look forward to hearing from you.
Earl Gray, Esquirrel