My friend and I are trying something new with our poetry. (He is a writer of creative fiction and poetry with a very fertile and playful imagination. I am a writer of serious poetry, much of it issues-related or at least time-senstive, but rarely light-hearted.) The idea was to exchange poems, one for one, with no more than a 48-hour turn around. The only conditions we agreed on were two: We won’t comment on each other’s poems and we will stop after we have each written 100 poems. We are up to about 15 each. Here is a sample of three that I have written followed by a couple of comments on the poems:
Onion and woooo
Why did I just think of that Roman ruin
in that Welsh town we visited 6 years ago
right after I recorded my dream
about my raccoon?
And why did my tinnitus just go “wooooooo”?
And why did I just think of the back of my sister’s barn
that is all overgrown, where I pee sometimes
when I am visiting them
when I’m too lazy to go inside?
And why are the “O” and the “I” and the “N”
on my keyboard worn off
so the little light behind the tiles shines out?
It’s as if I’ve been writing “onion, onion, onion,
onion, onion, onion, onion, onion. . .”
Onion and Woooo
One day, best friends, Onion and Woooo
were recording a dream
and out of the blue they said to each other:
“Let’s visit those Roman ruins in that Welsh town we visited
six years ago.”
(Something you need to know about Onion and Woooo
is that sometimes they think and speak simultaneously.)
And Woooo said, “I don’t know,
I’m worried about my raccoon. His pen is rusty and full of holes
and he might be harassed by a bear while we are gone!”
Onion reminded him that he doesn’t really have a raccoon.
Only in their dream.
And Woooo said, “You’re right,
but before we leave I’m going to pee behind my sister’s barn.”
Onion said, “That’s just a memory Woooo. We are not at your sister’s.”
Then onion said, “We’re all packed, let’s go.”
And Woooo said, “Just a second, I want to write you an email:
He typed “Dear Onion”, and he couldn’t think of anything to say.
“Oh, that’s interesting”, said Onion,
“Why don’t you just keep typing “Onion
until you are blue in the face?”
So that is exactly what Woooo did. . .
I feel like a stand-up version
of the varietal that’s spicy and smooth.
It’s one of those days:
The tantalizing breeze wafts in from the deck
with hints of black olive and September in Vermont.
My coffee trumps the latest trend
treating my tongue with traces
of roasted chicken and banjo riffs
filtering through waves of cicada-blues.
Smell my cork today!
I’m feeling aged, consistent and smooth
and perfectly balanced for any occasion
(with nuances of cinnamon and toasted nuts).
(Government Warning: blah, blah, blah.)
My imagination is imported.
How about yours?
It’s obvious that these were fun poems to write. The “Onion and Woooo” poems are very different from each other. The first was a clunky effort to get something down on paper using whatever came into my head, for example, a dream, a random memory and the sound of my tinnitus – “wooooo”. The second “Onion and Woooo” poem is more creative and thoughtful and humorous. I have created these two characters that banter and have adventures. “Woooo” is named after the sound of my tinnitus and “Onion” comes from the three letters on my keyboard that are worn more than the others (O, N, I). I like the second of these poems much better than the first but I include both to show how my creative process, in this instance, was a little like whipping cream. In the first poem I used what I found in the refrigerator of my mind and the process was very mechanical. Let’s say, I went through the motions of opening the fridge to see what is there, removing the carton to the counter, and pouring the cream in a bowl. For the second poem, I was more involved but all I did was whisk or whip what I had in the first poem into a froth. That’s what it felt like – getting something from almost nothing. Both of these characters are almost completely imaginary, that is, they sprang to life from little more than an after-thought and yet they had personalities, a life of their own. (The titles of these two poems are the same except that “Woooo” in the second poem is capitalized because now it is not a sound but a name.)
In the second poem, “Viva fuerte” (fuerte, I believe, means “strong”, so “strong life”) I found inspiration for all but a couple of lines on the back of two bottles of cheap wine. In the first two lines, the phrase “a stand-up version of the varietal” is gibberish to me but that was a direct quote from the label and I liked the sound and obscurity of it.