Day 8 of NaPoWriMo brings us to two new prompts from our friends at NaPoWriMo and Writer’s Digest. The former’s prompt is to what is called a palinode. Basically you are retracting a view or an idea expressed in a previous poem. We tend to change our minds about things in life and maybe even decide to be more forthcoming or bolder, in general, which brings me to the latter’s prompt which is to write a poem about a dare.
As artist’s we give ourselves license to inject ourselves into others’ experiences and write as if they were our own. Persona poems, if you will. In many cases, it’s a cop out for something unfavorable that may have been written, that cannot be taken back and is actually one’s own thoughts. I’m retracting that idea in today’s poem. It’s short and (no so) sweet, a combination of the two prompts in that I am taking back the idea of the casual observer writing what he sees and am owning what I write. Maybe becoming more autobiographical. In this lies the dare:
on the quest for accord,
i’ve redacted my mind,
full of meiosis,
in attempts to inform my
poverty of action.
a lifetime, brushed under
the rug, to be forgotten
until that rug is finally moved
& the morgue is revealed.
Lloyd Binford (Bin) Ramke is a writer/editor who’s first collection of poems, The Difference Between Night and Day (1978), won the Yale Younger Poets Prize; The Massacre of the Innocents (1994) and Wake (1998) were awarded the Iowa Poetry Prize. He teaches at the University of Denver and occasionally at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, edits the Denver Quarterly, and is the author of more than eight collections of poetry. He is an avant-garde poet, challenging the reader with references and quotes in his work that reflect his process in writing which entails taking influence from many sources, literary, scientific, mathematical, religious, and philosophical. This process is one that I adopted early on before knowing of Ramke and when I read of his process it drew me to his poems, immediately. He works his influences into all of his pieces at the point in which they intersect. Even his most head scratching work has a clear emotional core. His process has always made it to where he always has material to pull from for a new poem, in that he never has to start from a blank page:
BY BIN RAMKE
So much I thought was only personal, like poetry,
like caring nothing for Caillebotte the man,
like arriving in Chicago by bus one gray morning
and having no place to go, going to the Art Institute
and the rain outside became nothing
next to the glorious gray of Paris, life-size.
The artist dead and all my life, I thought,
I’ve liked right things for wrong reasons.
My sojourn among meticulous dreams
continued. One summer I spent among smart children
taking lessons and abuse from the famous mathematician
who taught old words new: point, line, between.
And the long nights of teaching each other other words,
our fortunate failures. And the furious wind
blew down from time to time among us, hurricanes
which turned live oaks inside out like little minds,
mine, for instance, finding its fervent mode.
Remember that you, too, could live where men spit
while watching you and your mother pass.
That you want her for yourself alone.
Remember that those men are tall as God at such moments,
more mean. So walk among them, the afternoon cooling
within its limits, the mosquitoes taking
equally from black and white, true and false.
But there was a peninsula of time I lived on
when our family poverty left me
the couch to sleep on, the great clock
ticking terror through the night. Who can love
through his childhood insomnia? Only rain
could save me–those blessed gray
nights of noise, when sleep, like Ali Baba’s
quartered brother, was sewn back together.