poetry critical

online poetry workshop

Bathroom Scene

Sneakers stuffed
with wax lips the size
of ovaries.  My belly
bobs up and down
in the tub, bodacious
and pulsating beneath
barbed wire.  That kid,
looking in through
the window, oozes
a lens.

2 Jul 09

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(13 more poems by this author)

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ewww. what is this about?
 — Anachocolata

It's about language.
 — SodaKid

I understand your use of alliteration, but I'm at a loss of understanding the poem. sorry:)
 — PaulS

There's nothing to understand.  
 — SodaKid

sodakid, you're a good poet and I like your work--clue me in to what you are doing here.  the first stanza has me at a loss.
 — PaulS

There is no culturally relevant meaning, no story, and no coherent feeling that is maintained throughout this poem.  I have simply organized words into statements that communicate nothing.  Can the poem be enjoyed as just a combination of words and statements without a message?  Can a signifier, the written word made of visible markings and the spoken word made of sounds, be more important than the abstract meaning it signifies?  Can I place words together that, previously, have had no meaningful relationship with one another and thus forge a completely novel synthesis between the two?  Can this strange, unfamiliar synthesis of words and images provide the reader with pleasure, or does it only cause discomfort and revulsion?  Is this art?
I don't know the answer, but I'm playing with the idea.
 — SodaKid

i think this is probably one of the easiest poems i've ever read, sonicly.. words stand firm as i drip down the page, impressive!
 — syrossoul

Thanx.  That's what I was going for.
 — SodaKid

the minute you feel you have to explain yourself is where you lose your meaning, your motive, your art.
really sick sound poem (no sarcasm) & don't waste your time explaining to people who will never get it, they just aren't designed to get it somehow.
keep doing what you're doing.
 — iAMb

hahaha, i like you
and your stuff,

keep on writing
like this
or better.

; )
 — causeimbored


: )
 — fractalcore

: )
 — unknown

"the minute you feel you have to explain yourself is where you lose your meaning, your motive, your art."

I agree 100% with iAMb's comment in terms of the artist's relationship with his audience. However, in the context of a workshop setting, I think this approach is self-defeating and defensive. Isn't the very purpose of "workshopping" to drop the defenses, the artistic barrier, and share intent?

Knowing your intent adds a tool to the reviewer's arsenal; it also gives other writers ideas on approaches they might not have considered. It enriches both of us.

I like your meta-poetic approach to the subject matter. You say you have communicated nothing, but that isn't true; you say there is no coherent feeling, but there is; unless you picked the words out of a hat, I think you were invisibly guided by some aesthetic, and created something that is the product of you.

How did you choose the words?
 — griffinxi

I agree.  I think all artists, whether or not they realize it consciously, are "guided by some aesthetic" and ultimately their work is a reflection of themselves.  I did not chose the words in order to tell a story or for the purpose of communicating how I felt about something.  One of my processes when writing is to choose words out of a huge, running word list that I have.  It's a few pages of words that I like or that are interesting.  To me, the words themselves are more interesting than any meaning or feeling that I could construct around them.

I think that there is a coherent feeling and that something is being communicated through these word combinations, but not because I am trying to.  Those messages are always there, in the words, and any combination that you make with them changes the message.  The meanings precede me (the author) and precede you (the reader).  I have chosen to try and get out of the way and let them speak for themselves and see what they say.

My guiding principle was how they sounded together.  The melodic and rhythmic harmony as well was making sure that there were phonetic similarities between the words.  The first stanza is dominated by what are called obstruents, lots of airy "s" and "z" sounds.  The second by voiced stops "b" and "d" and voiceless stops "t".  The third has a few things going on.  The first line is still the stops "b" "t" "k" and "d".  "In through the window" is very airy and light, with all soft fricatives "th" "gh" "w".  "Oozes" and "lens", although they look different, both have the "z" sound at the end.

I hate mystery in art and I love explanation.  I want to break down the barrier between artist and audience.  This is especially needed in poetry, where writers think they are the center of the universe and that everyone should try and dissect their poems for what they are “really” talking about.  This distance, through mystery (which is just a deliberate withholding of information) between the artist and the audience, is elitist and contrived.  It has no function other than to hide the fact that a lot of artists have no idea why they make the choices that they do.
The thought behind the product is what should be looked at.  The meaning is lost if the audience has no idea what the artist was getting at.
 — SodaKid

I very much disagree w/ the fact that the audience becomes lost if the author doesn't clue them in to the intent. There's a big difference between being lost and being on a journey. The mystery-- while in some ways, I guess, an elitist smokescreen-- is also where nuance is born.

While in the most romantic sense a writer may be nothing but a tool to channel the results of his unknown choices, he is generally not accepting of that role. He always attempts to control what he's creating; he has the final say. If he's the instrument of fatalistic forces, then perhaps not responsible for what the poem is, he's most definitely responsible for what it isn't.
 — griffinxi

Incidentally, due to your interest in the sonic elements of poetry, there's a poem called "Stradivarius Sediments" I came across not too long ago that you might be interested in, by AnnMarie Eldon. I think it might be right up your alley.
 — griffinxi

I find poets who don't want to explain their work to be rather pretentious.  It's a great compliment when someone asks a poet or artist to explain their work, otherwise, it's really ego-centric, like saying, "I'm in the know, you poor dumb fuck."  There is no point to trying to enjoy reading a poem that the writer says has no meaning.  This is a poetry workshop, a place where we can pick apart poems to see how they work, not a place where a writer can sit smugly back and gloat over the fact that no one gets it.  Name a famous writer whose work is too obscure to read.  
 — unknown

Very cool! What is pretentious is those who hide and are ego-centric to where they feel as if they're the arbiter of creativity which is like saying "I'm in the know, you poor dumb fuck." And a poem "reading a poem that the writer says has no meaning" is in itself creative and enjoyable. "This is a poetry workshop, a place where we can pick apart poems to see how they work, not a place where a writer can sit smugly back and gloat over the fact that" you can insult a poet's work and hide behind being "unknown." "Name a famous writer whose work is too obscure to" leave their authorship?  anti-unknow
 — Redlander

Well, I think Emily Dickinson is extremely obscure and very educated people have trouble understanding her work.  Many people give up trying to read her poems.  But their onbscurity is what is fun about them.  They are like puzzles.  It is less about what she meant and more about all of the different ways that those combinations of words can be interpreted together.  You end up learning more about language and how our culture ascribes meaning to certain terms based on our history.
 — SodaKid

I understand what you're getting at with the pretention-- certainly everyone has their take. I like not being told the meaning (unless it's a workshop); I don't like being robbed of the joy of discovery.

If I was asked in a reading environement the meaning of my poem, I would attempt to be as vague as possible, but I wouldn't blow the person off. I don't understand people who go to a magic show and demand to know how all the tricks are done. Sure, I agree it's a great compliment wanting to know more about someone's work; but what's the benefit of expounding it to death, of spilling its innards all over the table? (Again, I'm talking in a traditional reader/writer relationship, not in the context of a workshop).
 — griffinxi

He sits down with holy fears.
And waters the ground with tears:
Then Humility takes its root
Underneath his foot.

Soon spreads the dismal shade
Of Mystery over his head;
And the Caterpillar and Fly
Feed on the Mystery.

(William Blake)

But yes, I agree that poets who do not want to discuss the meaning/color of their poems can come off as somewhat pretentious.
 — Haxxen

I love mystery in art, and often decline to explain, on the principal of interference of perception.

Though enjoyed the specific guidance you give through this construction of sound, form, intersection.

The explanation has more value than the poem, but then there wouldn't be one without the other, eh? ;)
 — Feminoid

I often think that the actual art is more like a piece of propoganda for the thought or process behind it.  It's like a representation of a much larger idea, and should only be looked at as a representation, a commercial, a logo.  This is especially true in abstract and conceptual art.  That's why I like Pollock, not necessarily for the actual paint on canvas, but because you know when you look at it that Pollock valued only paint on canvas and not any secret message that the paint was somehow "communicating".  He was into the concrete, visual elements of color and texture and really nothing more.  If I didn't know about that type of philosophical approach to his paintings, I wouldn't be able to appreciate the actual work.  I think most artists of the modern/absurdist/dada/postmodern periods fall into this category.  We are all just advertising some general idea with our art.  Well, at least I am.
 — SodaKid

"Whoever wishes to devote himself to painting should begin by cutting out his own tongue.”
--Henri Matisse
 — griffinxi

The whole idea of mystery, or obscurity being pretentious, is off the mark, in my opinion.

I could give you point by point, A B C walk-throughs of all of my poems, or other writings, but apply a hands off approach, in the main, and like it that way :)
 — Feminoid

agree with your ideas on art and pollock, soda ...
 — Feminoid

Actually, if I were a really skilled artist I would be able to somehow include a key to reading this poem the way I wanted it to be read and wouldn't have had to explain anything.  The poem would lack traditional narrative meaning and you would know it and know why.  So maybe I just need to figure out a way to have that be apparent.  Maybe the title is bad because I say it's a scene, but then it turns out not to be.  
 — SodaKid

Good thoughts-- whatever view you may have on it, I think the true bravery in art comes in when you are able to say, "%*$& it," and do exactly what you want, for the reason you want.
 — griffinxi

Soda, regarding your last post, I agree 100%. It's not taht you aren't a skilled artist-- your selection of words is crafted-- but if your intent is deconstruction, I think the deconstruction must leap out at us, must be irresistible. That's a tall order. I don't know how to achieve it, but I will think on it...
 — griffinxi

Your key might be 'form' Soda, keys traditionally being patterns of the locks they fit into.. to 'unlock' this to the eye, it needs specific markers for the combination you have laid as the pattern here.
Some other poets here do it, fractal, for example, clearly designates formal markers to meaning, and understanding, and form.
 — Feminoid

Okay, well let me work on this for a while and maybe I'll post a new version some at some point.  I have lots of little experiments I'm doing, so I don't know when I'll get to it.  But I think you're right about the form and it needs some type of markers.  I might be better off just making new stuff that utilizes those ideas.
Oh and Griffinxi, I did check out AnnMarie Eldon and I do love it.  I think she clearly exhibits the ideas and processes behind her work in the work itself, without external explanation needed.  It is really cool.  Thanx.
 — SodaKid

Take a look at my re-posted poem Soda, for an overly constructed form, with a pure design on speaking what it is, the paint on the canvass ;)

no need to comment or rate .. just see what you think of this as visual key .. a design for the eye.
 — Feminoid

sorry the poem is named Transhuman.

 — Feminoid

I like what you're doing here. You clinch it with the last sentence - it ties it together.
 — aerol