Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Transparent Poems and Poems that are Journals

Poems are journals
I’ve always been interested in poems that have some degree of transparence to events and feelings, water over weeds in a stream bed. I noticed this first with the Chinese poets and it led me to an interest in Zen. When I first read Basho, in Brisbane, I think, I remember that my body relaxed, which was something it was in need of. I could see that anything in life could be included and there could be accuracy as well as a feeling for the moments when, no matter how humble our activities, we know that we are moving through vastness. So these are poems that are a certain kind of journal. Here is Basho,
Holding wheat ears
To support myself,
I say goodbye

Wordsworth’s, “Upon Westminster Bridge” is an English example.

This City now doth like a garment wear
The beauty of the morning; silent, bare,
Ships, towers, domes, theatres, and temples lie
Open unto the fields, and to the sky;
All bright and glittering in the smokeless air.

Wordsworth is more interested in flash than Basho. He is impressed by how impressed he is by the scene; he wants it to mean something grand. Then he pulls it off, he does convey something grand. The similarities are there too. Both poets are tourists who notice what their minds are doing. For them, what you think and feel is the point of going on a journey.
You know the kind of thoughts you tell a friend? There is a different kind of thought, that is not about making my case or loving someone, or sharing my state of mind. This kind of thought gropes towards what it’s like to be alive. For example, a haiku, Durham, January 09.

It rained in the night,
I was part of that. At dawn
again, winter rain.

Through poems like this I keep an erratic journal of the thoughts that I don’t quite understand—the thoughts outside my usual thoughts. They don’t have a punch line. I like the idea of a spirituality without a moral too. Here’s another way of doing a poem journal, also without a moral, which is just to describe the surfaces.


We sailed out of Sausalito.
There was no wind, then a lot.
We sailed to San Francisco.
A queue of freighters came in through the Golden Gate against the ebb.
One of the ships had big cranes on the deck and was obscured by smoke.
It looked like a ship from the London dockyards a century ago.
We came back around Angel Island.
We did more than nine knots.
In Raccoon Straits there was a tribe of seals and hundreds of sea birds.
The seals barked.
The wind died.
We saw a whale. It had barnacles and dark flukes. It was heading for the Golden Gate.
We saw the whale again.
A boat was adrift. We took it in tow.
When we docked the owner found us. He wore shorts and a Hawaiian shirt.
His boat pumps out the heads of the boats all over the Bay; the business is called MT Head.
He promised us a free pump out.
We had espresso.
We took out the other, smaller, boat.
The wind came hard in gusts. We lay over and came back up.
I learned how to tighten the back stay to pull the mast back and change the shape of the sail.
Then we sailed fast.
We sailed up Richardson’s Bay.
Divers were working on a sunken boat.
We could see just the mast.
We cleaned our boat and checked the rigging.
I had a flat tire.
A man in a Land Rover had a flat battery but I couldn’t drive to him to help.
I changed my tire.
We ate fish tacos.
We talked.
We didn’t solve anything.
We walked around the night harbor among the boats.
I drove home.

Let me know about poems that you think of as journals.


Jordan said...

I think of my journal as a poem.

Lone Oak said...

Welcome to the blogosphere! I saw a link to your blog on James Ford's Monkeymind.

I recently read David Young's "Du Fu - A Life in Poetry". Young arranged Du Fu's poems in a chronological manner, along with commentary on the details and background of Du Fu's life. I found this poetic journal approach really put a whole new perspective on Du Fu's work. A number of the pieces I was familiar with from other collections but had not appreciated as part of a larger story, a presentation of a life, in fact.

David Clark

reelingman said...

(smoking cigarettes or taking the subject line and running youdecide hello hello hello of course if im not speaking grammatically or semantically correct i by all means want to know about it)
so this girl
told me a story last night
with all the stars in the sky
and the rain drizzling once in a while
i didn't have anywhere to go particularly
and I had a bit of
so i settled back to notice
what the form and shape of her story
here in the town common would take
it turns out
to be a twisted tale
of longing and
a strange shape
maybe i feel asleep
during parts and large peices
all i really took from it
was that I was hungry, and should go get some dinner
and that birds migrate home, and
that's not a bad thing
thats to put a sheet over the whole thing
but i dont care
the junkie girl that couldnt let go of the fix when
haven was offered
and the crazy wisdom historian
that refused to listen when the
woman told him
that her heart belonged to another.
anyway, it wasn't the
greatest tale
so i thought I would share it
as a transparent
can i get a witness?