Friday, April 4, 2008

The first really hard day

I'm a zombie today. Just got out of bed--and the clock on this blog is not incorrect. I'm supposed to go for a sleep study soon, but in the meantime....

And I've felt nothing forming. Very little in the wee smalls, the dropping-off time: there was something about a broken glass, but this time by not writing it down I lost it altogether, it seems.

So back I go to the Richard Thompson-related poem I was reluctant to mess with yesterday. It starts something like this:

I picked up your fallen string
and wrapped it around my wrist.
It smelled like blood and tarnish
and if I reached too far, the winding end
scratched its autograph on my flesh.

I did indeed once pick up a broken guitar string and try to wear it as a bracelet. And it didn't work as well as I'd hoped, as a sort of hip alternative to a band T-shirt; it was kind of scratchy.

By the time I got a few lines into writing this bit, though, I found myself adding a dark tone to the situation. I must have been thinking of fans "reaching too far." I have not done this: not with the guitar string and--for all of my enthusiastic fandom--not, often or dangerously, with my feelings.

But that turn in the poem had me thinking of a real incident in which, waiting in line in the snow for a show at the Bottom Line, I encountered a guy who was very wound up (guitar peg imagery!) and "waiting for Richard." My friends and I were making uncomfortable jokes about John Lennon, etc. Then Richard, who I'm pretty sure didn't know me at the time, came down the street and I blurted, "It's Richard!"

And as soon as I said it, my mind went to a very dark and fearful place: What if I'd called him out for the guy who was waiting for him? Because the guy who was waiting, even though he was very probably not Mark David Chapman, did not seem like a pleasant person with whom to interact.

As Richard walked swiftly by--guitar in one hand, small amp in the other, tightly smiling and avoiding all eye contact--and went into the club, I saw that Waiting-for-Richard Guy was gone, maybe to use the loo at McDonald's. He came back shortly after and was very upset when we told him he'd missed Richard.

Back to the poem: I had some notion of "poeticizing" this story. I had, for example, the image of the guy wearing dingy gray circles into the snow as he paced, again echoing the idea of something "wound up."

But for the most part, I couldn't--I can't--get this past the sort of journalistic retelling. I don't think just putting something in broken lines makes it poetry. I care a lot about music--sound, rhythm--in my poetry, and I wasn't feeling it here.

I'm also extremely loath, even in this commentary, to be linking myself with some freaky fan or linking either of us with Thompson. (Although I do like the image of the guitar-string bracelet as a sort of combination talisman and control: "this far, no farther.")

That said, I'm not happy with what seems to me to be the obviousness of the imagery. I don't care for too much one-to-one-type metaphor--although I had a hell of a good time with it in the "baggage" poem of two days ago, which is probably my favorite of what I've written so far.

In short, the whole thing is feeling labored to me.

Which represents an issue for me in my poetry, in general. I can generally come up with reasonable early drafts. Getting past them is a problem, because I don't want to sand off everything that's jagged and unexpected and perhaps beyond my understanding on the way to getting something "finished."

Maybe I'll try something else, later today, if I can ever wake up and get my other tasks done.

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