Thursday, August 16, 2007

About Images

I've been aware for some time of shying away from images in my poetry – if that's possible - and opting instead for inhabiting characters, telling their stories, focusing on rhythm and rhyme, for how a poem sounds is where much of its magic lies, for me. I thought I was well outside the fold with this lapse of image – they are what critics comment on, after all, and students get told to look for, since they body forth 'themes', another subject I hope to talk about soon. Then browsing yesterday, I came across these lines from a poem by Marie Ponsot, whom my friend Ricky and I went to hear read at Poets House in NYC a few years ago. (Thanks again, Ricky.)

To see clear, resist the drag of images.
Take nature as it is, not Dame nor Kind.
Act in events; touch what you name. Abhor
easy obverts of natural metaphor.

Of course the poem moves on from there into some fine images, but the lines say what I was thinking so good, I had was to share them. And check out de lady rhyme and riddim... Hot, hot, hot. Look on those spondees roughing up the pentameter. Long time since I buck up spondees doing them thing so good. And a likl rhyme there, just leggo from her pen, unexpected so, like a googlie. Very nice.

from "Pathetic Fallacies Are Bad Science But" in SPRINGING: NEW & SELECTED POEMS (New York: Knopf) 2002, p 33.

The second poem in the book, "Drunk & Disorderly, Big Hair", done in dactyls (Who writes a poem in dactyls? Who CAN write a poem in dactyls?) is worth buying the book for.

Poll results: of five voters, four thought Louise Bennett should be declared a national hero and one didn't. I'd love to hear the reasons of the one...

Stay out of strong winds. Likklemore.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

The Creole and How and What I write

This is my first post on this blog. Best to just jump in. I'll come back to this subject again, and I think it's a good place to start. I don't think of myself as writing for anyone, on their behalf, because they can't speak for themselves. I believe all of us have things to say – aloud, or in secret, to ourselves. They may be incorrect, misguided, stupid, rash, slanderous, and we may say them in a stumbling, hapless way, and regret them after we've said them. They may of course also be brilliant and well worth saying and unforgettable once given voice. But for sure we have things to say – all of us. As for the community of people who speak in Jamaican Creole (JC after this) or Jamaica Talk or Patois or the Vernacular, whatever we call it, they have always seemed voluble folk to me, people with ready tongues to say many things, people who wield language with relish and imagination and energy and a unique sense of humour. Much of what I write, poetry or prose, is a gift from that earliest community of speakers who in a relatively short space of time created this language, quick and brisk after the slavers brought us across the Long Water, and a gift from all those speakers who have used it since then. People and events, jokes and stories, images and ideas not only come quick to me when I use Jamaican Creole; they also rejoice me in a special way, one that I'll try to describe some other time. Just one story now, tonight. My second book of poetry, DE MAN, which is the story of Jesus Christ's crucifixion told entirely in JC, was written under a deadline of sorts. Lent had started, I'd promised the poem for Good Friday, and I hadn't written a line. Then the first line came to me: "Unoo see my dying trial!" and I knew that the whole poem would come, and that it would arrive in time. And it did. It's a poem that I'm proud of for many reasons, one of them being that a long line of speakers, mouth by mouth, ear by ear, down through "these many historical years" (see "Blessed Assurance", a poem for Louise Bennett, in CERTIFIABLE, published by Goose Lane Editions) caused it to come to be. Sure. I know. You can say that of any poem, about any language in which poems are written. But I know why I say it about this poem in this language. I'm saying thanks. I owe those thanks. Pam Mordecai. 15 August 2007.