Carol Adair (rubicon) Thu 16 Nov 06 09:45
I've been told that we never become fulling ourselves until both parents die. I was seeing both sides of time in that poem. A reaching back from the grave as you discussed here. And the feeling we all have sometimes of being buried alive by the very presence of our still-alive parent(s). It's a complicated poem. Back a bit, you said that writing a poem was like "an explosion in my brain". I wonder how that feels? And how in the world you can sustain that long enough to write a poem. Can you explain this using one particular poem? Maybe The Myans? I'll post it here. It's long but so, so worth the read.
Carol Adair (rubicon) Thu 16 Nov 06 09:48
The Mayans Take Back Yucatan It's the end of an ordinary day: along the Caribbean coast black mangrove roots thick, pulsing and moist knit the sea to the land; in the thatched houses near Chetumal fried beans simmer in iron pots and the mouths of the children are slick with hunger out on the Lagoon of the Seven Colors near ancient Bacalar where the Spanish fort still reeks of conquest and death moire' patterns suddenly appear out of nowhere quivering on the purple, violet, pink mirror of the brackish water that's the only sign only those slow circles moving out form the center of the lagoon as the earth shudders under them two thousand miles to the north the world has ended the circles on the lagoon ripple and overlap lip to lip like lovers' kisses crickets pulse the air cools an od man throws a net the sunset is especially beautiful a few weeks later they begin to round up the pale ghosts and repaint the temples a few rent-a-car agents are sacrificed some tourists put to tearing down the luxury hotels SUVs with California plates lie on their sides along abandoned highways and empty beer bottles glitter in the hot sun the loudest noise at this stage is the buzzing of flies in ten years the cenotes are full of clean water again the banana-billed toucans are back and the fruit bats have taken over the Hiltons rare black coral has reappeared along the coast of Cancun fat babies doze in the shade the universe has a new center a green navel soft and loose as a woman's belly after birth the jungle and the corn do their old dance together and butterflies swarm and multiply Each morning the Sun God smacks his lips comes out of hiding and climbs back into the sky.
Carol Adair (rubicon) Thu 16 Nov 06 09:49
<scribbled by rubicon Thu 16 Nov 06 10:15>
Carol Adair (rubicon) Thu 16 Nov 06 10:15
Sorry double posted that.
Sharon Brogan (sbmontana) Thu 16 Nov 06 12:08
Hi, folks -- I'm preparing a blog post inviting folks to the Well, and specifically to this conversation -- Could you remind me how non-members would go about participating? I actually hope to get in here myself, soon.
rubi (rubicon) Thu 16 Nov 06 12:15
email sent to Sharon.
Allegro ma non tofu (pamela) Thu 16 Nov 06 12:17
The Mayans...That poem felt like a scorpion to me, such a sting in its tail! Just when you're feeling all lulled and amused, like everything new and bad is disappearing, and everything old and good is reapparing, here comes the Sun God, and while he might not have been as ferocious as the chief god of the Aztecs, no sun god was ever benign.
rubi (rubicon) Thu 16 Nov 06 12:26
I think the Mayan sun god was just as bad. And he's licking his chops! Round and round it goes. And, as much as we like to tell ourselves stories about it all being our fault, Mr. Sun God is just waiting for another dinner.
asparagus before librarians (katecat) Thu 16 Nov 06 13:03
oh I didn't even think of that! that's great. I am interested in the Kansas vs. Oz motif that runs through these poems, and how it seems to connect with reality vs. fever, and Now vs. Then, and exotic foreign places vs. California. After awhile Kansas and its avatars start seeming like the strange places. (does that mae any sense?) Could you talk aboutthis a little even though I have done a rotten job of shaping this vague observation into a question?
Mary Mackey (mm) Thu 16 Nov 06 16:40
great questions. First let me talk about the explosion in the brain. The feeling is something like this: an image, idea, rhythm, or nonverbal thing with no form comes into my head and starts repeating itself. It's something between a loud noise and a flash of light. If I translate it into words and write it down, it often becomes the core or seed for a poem. Not every poem comes this way. Some start from the outside in. "The Mayans" started on the outside as I stood on the shore of the lagoon of the seven colors watching the water ripple and wondering what would happen if the world to the North--my world--went up in smoke or atomic fire. I saw the beauty of the old ways, the regrowth of the ocean and land, but I also saw the cycle of human cruelty. So this wasn't exactly an explosion poem, except at the end when the Sun God image burst into my mind in the form of a huge burning fish swiming through the sky. I know that sounds odd, but that's how the image came, flashing out of nowhere into my brain. The moment I saw it, I knew it was right.
rubi (rubicon) Thu 16 Nov 06 16:48
Mary Mackey (mm) Thu 16 Nov 06 16:58
The Kansas vs Oz motif: One of the original titles of this collection was "Citizen of Oz," and some of the poems originally had names that made reference to the Oz books (for example, the poem presently entitled "Atlas" was originally called "An Atlas of Oz".). You've pointed out the contrasts beautifully between the Oz and Kansas motifs. Oz is the mystical, non-rational level, perhaps the world created (or revealed) by fever; Kansas is the here and now, but it too is strange, it too is a place of displacement. If you look at it closely, the most ordinary object can become something alien and weirdly beautiful. I think I capture this best in "The Breakfast Nook" where a fork becomes: a long shining road that branches at the end into four paths that lead nowhere I often look at ducks and geese and sparrows and think: these things don't know the names we call them; and I often wonder how they see one another and how they see the world around them.
QUESTION FROM JUDY STONE (davadam) Thu 16 Nov 06 17:46
Judy Stone writes: I'm intrigued by your saying that you feel like a different person depending on what language you're speaking. I'm wondering whether your personality (or perhaps persona is a better word) changes when you change genres: Are you braver as a poet, or a novelist? In which role are you angrier? Happier?
David Adam Edelstein (davadam) Thu 16 Nov 06 17:48
And I have been remiss in my hostly duties by not mentioning earlier that anyone who's not a WELL member who'd like to participate in the discussion, as Judy did, is welcome to send an e-mail to email@example.com, and we'll post your question or comment for you.
rubi (rubicon) Thu 16 Nov 06 17:53
Thank you David. And Judy. Nice question!!
Clare Eder (ceder) Fri 17 Nov 06 00:51
<scribbled by ceder Sat 18 Nov 06 15:20>
rubi (rubicon) Fri 17 Nov 06 07:30
Ceder, it isn't rude, but your poem could get more attention and time if you posted it, instead, in the WELL's poetry conference where we talk about poetry and look for new poems.
midget gems (riffraff) Fri 17 Nov 06 08:16
and which is now safe to enter, after a years long reign of terror
rubi (rubicon) Fri 17 Nov 06 08:42
Mary is there really a "a lagoon of the seven colors"? Or was that a vision? I'm thinking how the "Myans" poem comes back to those ripples over and over. "moire' patterns suddenly appear out of nowhere quivering on the purple, violet, pink mirror of the brackish water" and "the circles on the lagoon ripple and overlap lip to lip like lovers' kisses" It is a poem of elements, water being a great presence.
rubi (rubicon) Fri 17 Nov 06 08:45
So, here's kind of a non-poetry question I always want to ask people "of words". (Since you are a writer, poet, teacher - I can that of you as such a person, no?) What do you think you would be, Mary, if you had never learned to read and write? And how does that person, under the words, affect your writing?
asparagus before librarians (katecat) Fri 17 Nov 06 08:48
it's more than safe, it's wonderfully welcoming now. Go post that poem there! I am very interested in the answer to Judy Stone's question, but I wante to follow up also on what Mary said about Kansa and Oz, because she touched on one of the things I find most exciting about this thread in the poems, which is the way that Kansas becomes strange too. The poem "Every Day I Lose Another Piece of Kansas" describes a Kansas that is like another planet or another dimension, and then takes a sharp turn into rejecting a certain . . . I don't know whaty, Kansas attitude. It's interesting, because I feel like the wind and sunsets of Kansas aren't lost at all--what has been lost?
asparagus before librarians (katecat) Fri 17 Nov 06 08:49
slipped by a QUITE fascinating question or two
Mary Mackey (mm) Fri 17 Nov 06 09:34
Ah, a lot of questions this morning. Let me start with Judy's: do I feel like a different person when I am writing poems and novels? No, as long as I am writing and speaking English, I feel like the same person. Poetry, as I have said, is more an explosion in the brain; a novel is more of a story that I start telling myself in my head. The creation of the novel plot is a much longer process, involving interwoven plots and characters and can take a lot of time to complete. Often I go down narrative side roads that lead to dead ends; and I frequently begin to tell myself stories that don't pan out. I have long lists of these unused stories just in case I run out of ideas some day. I'm not happier writing poetry or writing novels, but I am unhappy if I am not writing. I touch something inside myself when I write that isn't available under any other circumstances.
Mary Mackey (mm) Fri 17 Nov 06 09:34
Is there a Lagoon of Seven Colors? Yes, indeed there is. It's near Chetumal, Mexico. It is really an extraordinary sight at sunrise and sunset.
Mary Mackey (mm) Fri 17 Nov 06 09:35
What would I have been if I had never learned to read or write? Interestingly enough, I think I have had two experiences that gave me a glimpse of what my non-literate self would have been like. First, before I could read or write, I told stories to other children. I loved telling stories and they loved hearing them. (I also discovered that if I stopped at the exciting points, the would give me candy to go on. That was quite an inspiration). So the stories were always coming to me, but I couldn't start writing them down with any coherence until I was eight or nine. Sometimes at that age, I lacked the ability to distinguish between fiction and reality, so from time to time I got my mouth washed out with soap or got parked in a corner for "making things up." Mark Twain captures this beautifully in his hilarious essay "On the Decay of the Art of Lying."
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