Saturday, June 13, 2009

I knew I Couldn't Be Anything To You But An Aspiring Lover

Beatriz, a good friend of mine, also an accomplished writer and current graduate student pursuing her Master's, and well, my own personal hero, recommended new poetry to me earlier this week. Surely I'd heard of Sandra Cisneros and all the hype of The House on Mango Street, but haven't yet had the opportunity to read any of her work. The very next day, right after leaving work, I picked up a copy of Loose Woman, a collection of poems by Cisneros. Let me just mention that I have very little to no self control when buying poetry, I tend to buy several books at a time because well, let's just call the bookstore my candy store. I could actually lose myself in a bookstore for hours, I try to hit Myopic in Wicker Park at least once a week, but it's always so crowded with tourists when I go. This week I was forced to go my local B & N, not quite the same experience but they had what I needed. I was definitely tempted to buy almost 8 books but narrowed it down to only three, in addition to Cisneros' Loose Woman, I picked up Jack Kerouac's Scattered Poems and Kenneth Koch's New Addresses. And I have to say, it's been a wonderfully fulfilling week for me.

To begin with, nothing could have prepared me for Cisneros and Loose Woman. People tell me my poetry is sexually driven and raw (which I don't believe in the first place) but after having read Cisneros my hold over my own sexuality in conjunction with my writing is not even comparable--I feel like I'm incapable of harboring my sex, my memories and myself. I'm certainly not discouraged by any means, but wholly inspired and in search of something I'm not sure yet what. All I can say is that I don't know quite what it is about Cisneros' writing but as Beatriz put it, "That is the one book that I feel I could eat three times a day and feel full and sustained."

I briefly thumbed through Kerouac, I personally don't enjoy him as much but bought the book as gift to my brother who really does like him. There are collaborations with Ginsberg and other New York School poets, but again I didn't really keep that one for myself.

In my very first writing workshop class, our lecturer had us read Kenneth Koch's "Making Your Own Days." This is the one book I cannot find anywhere, I actually try not to think about it too much because it makes me really sad. The book can be purchased sure, but it was through that literature, through that class and in the notes I took so adamantly in the book that I fell in love with poetry. And I fell hard, it was only several months after that realization that I also grew to despise it. My affair with poetry is a tumultuous one, with anything I feel passionately about, there has to be flaws. I think it's because it sobers me to the knowledge that I can't take it for granted because if it always came easily to me, where is the challenge? Where is the moment of relief and gratification in completing a work? I guess it's all subjective though since I learned early on that a poem is never ever complete, that it is in fact always going through drafts. I admire that poetry changes with the writer, the moment the words tumble onto paper we're naked and unarmed, telling you all exactly what we feel and how we feel it.

But shockingly and again I digress, back to Koch. I bought New Addresses, and cannot stress enough how full I feel--my senses are sated, overwhelmed at times but in the best ways. There are two poems that I cannot stop reading, two poems that I read again and again from the moment I wake in the morning and again right before I fall asleep. Let me first explain that an address poem is exactly what it sounds like, the writer chooses objects, memories, anything really to speak to simply as if they were a person listening--they are directly addressed to in the poem itself. I first heard "To Orgasm" (one of my all-time favorite poems hands down) as an undergrad and new that Koch was a genius. I complain all the time about being happy and unable to write and Koch was the only poet who I knew actually negated that stereotype. I'll share with you an excerpt of "To Orgasm:"

Someone was there, later, to join me and you
In our festivity, a woman named N.
She said oh we shouldn't do
This I replied oh we should
We did and had you
After you I possess this loveable
Person and she possesses me
There is no more we can do
Until the phone rings
And then we start to plan for you again

(Lines 11 - 20)

However, as much as I enjoy that poem, I've fallen hopelessly enamored with another one of his address poems, "To The French Language." It's a poem I read nearly 5-10 times a day, either in succession or spaced out throughout the day. I love the way it sounds when I read it to myself aloud, I've even locked myself in my bathroom with it, and sit perched atop my sink and listen to the words clearly echo around me. I'm a woman obsessed, no joke. I think it's also because I love the way French sounds even sans poetry interspersed with it. It's just beautiful, it makes me feel beautiful; it's a poem I imagine reading to a lover, while we're in bed, dressed only in wrinkled sheets.

Overall, it's been a fantastic week of poetry and life, love and writing. But then again, poetry is life, love and writing, is it not?

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