Saturday, January 14, 2012

The Poetry Game

When I get together with my friends Michael and Phoebe, we often find ourselves playing the Poetry Game (which Michael picked up from his Aunt Sharon, a pastime she acquired from the late poet Ruth Stone one Christmas in Vermont). Like the best games, it's simple but inexhaustible. Everyone chooses a word or devises a rule (we call them shoves) that all must incorporate into their own poem. We write for about a half hour, usually over a second round of coffee, then re-assemble to share what we've come up with. Not a bad way to spend a morning with friends.

On their last visit, we played and came up with these three shoves:
1. no abstractions
2. address the poem to a "you"
3. the second word of each line should rhyme with the last word of the line before it.

A Dream is Not an Abstraction

You were here again with me on the road
we strode up the hill past wormy fox-nibbled
apples dribbled in dew wind-fallen embrowned
above town along the shoulder walking the loop
you stooped and lifted a spotted yellow apple
a sun-dappled rotten orb to your mouth your teeth
and breath were poised like road crews
shoveling bruised heaps of land
pouring sand and hot asphalt over bodies
broken bodies buried beneath the intersection of tongue
and hunger you looked at me and it was night
dogs bright with cidery bellies howled moonward
without words you held my hand and pointed
at disconjointed stars and said you’d like to gather
them rather than see their diminished blue specks ball them
up then form a fist of light like a bunch of grapes
to place in one of your paintings to dangle there
like a chandelier against the dark hill and you and I
became like that painting so much scraped oil
the howling dogs there too with blue
and a few touches of grey at the edge like a Chinese scroll
landscape rolled into sky and you looked at me and asked why
then I turned to you and stood alone under stars that
had scattered back into their original places
the face of the moon was like a yellowing apple again
and then you were here as you had been beside me on the road

While I don't consider this a "poem" yet and perhaps it won't ever be, it was useful play. What I came up with is still too shackled within the shoves, kind of trapped within the occasion of the game itself, and language has yet to burst free and grow in its own direction. Plus, I'm not really sure why I didn't include punctuation. Still, I'm glad to have made some of these images that may be useful in other attempts down the road. Who knows? Essentially, it's a reminder that exercises can be fun and practical and maybe I should do this sort of thing more often.

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