You should always be trying to write a poem you are unable to write, a poem you lack the technique, the language, the courage to achieve. Otherwise you are merely imitating yourself, going nowhere, because that’s always easiest.
The Dream Songs – 177
by John Berryman
Am tame now. You may touch me, who had thrilled
(before) your tips, twitcht from your breast your heart;
& burst your willing brain.
I am tame now. Undead, I was not killed
by Henry’s viewers but maimed. It is my art
to buzz the spotlight in vain,
flighting ‘at random’ while Addison wins.
I would not want war with Addison. I love him
and Addison so loves me back
me backsides, I may perish in his grins
& grip. I would he liked me less, less grim.
but he has helpt me, slack
& sick & hopeful, anew to know what man –
scrubbing the multiverse with dazzled tonight –
still has in store for man:
a doghouse or a cave, is all we could,
according to my dreams. I stand in doubt,
surrounded by holy wood.
This post marks the four hundredth blog of fourteen lines, forty percent to my goal of one thousand blog entries. I thank all of you who visit this space, whether a single time, once in a while or regularly. I hope our shared experience of reading and enjoying poetry connects us in some way to a global thread of shared humanity.
I find Berryman an inspiration on persistence. That may be an odd thing to say about a man who jumped off a bridge, but he had harbored that longing to end things on his terms for a long, long time before he finally acted on it. He did the best he could and continued his voyage as an artist for nearly 8 decades, no small accomplishment given his tendency towards self destruction. There is nothing at all to do with this Mr. Bones and that Mr. Bones. Or is there?
I recently attended a retreat where I was not allowed to talk, use a cell phone, computer or technology of any kind for 3.5 days. It was a very rewarding experience, something I would eagerly do again. It was good to reacquaint myself with the silence of my own mind, to retreat back to my childhood tech-less self. What a terrible curse we have placed on the generations that will know only screens, smart phones and blinking flashing things, all commanding our constant attention. The curse of 24 hour news cycle and the constant barrage of information. I promptly went out and bought a singing bowl, to make a deeper commitment to daily meditation and silence.
The experience also made me ponder the words “retreat”, “recollected”, and “reparations.” It also made think deeply about the word play of “spouse” and “espouse.” Is this what poets do? Geek out on words bumping around in our skulls when we are told we can only use our inside voices and not our speaking voices. When was the last time you couldn’t or didn’t speak to another human being for a whole day? Did it invigorate you or did it test you? Did you want to scream, tell a joke or sing or remain silent when it was over?
The Dream Songs – 223
by John Berryman
It’s wonderful the way cats bound about,
it’s wonderful how men are not found out
It’s miserable how many miserable are
over the spread world at this tick of time.
These mysteries that I’m
rehearsing in the dark did brighter minds
much bother through them ages, whom who finds
guilty for failure?
Up all we rose with dawn, springy for pride,
trying all morning. Dazzled, I subside
at noon, noon be my gaoler
and afternoon the deepening of the task
poor Henry set himself long since to ask:
Why? Who? When?
— I don’t know, Mr. Bones. You asks too much
of such as you & me & such
fast cats, worse men.