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inkwell.vue.287 : Mary Mackey, Breaking the Fever
permalink #26 of 150: 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.
  
inkwell.vue.287 : Mary Mackey, Breaking the Fever
permalink #27 of 150: 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.
  
inkwell.vue.287 : Mary Mackey, Breaking the Fever
permalink #28 of 150: Carol Adair (rubicon) Thu 16 Nov 06 09:49
    <scribbled by rubicon Thu 16 Nov 06 10:15>
  
inkwell.vue.287 : Mary Mackey, Breaking the Fever
permalink #29 of 150: Carol Adair (rubicon) Thu 16 Nov 06 10:15
    
Sorry double posted that.
  
inkwell.vue.287 : Mary Mackey, Breaking the Fever
permalink #30 of 150: 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.
  
inkwell.vue.287 : Mary Mackey, Breaking the Fever
permalink #31 of 150: rubi (rubicon) Thu 16 Nov 06 12:15
    
email sent to Sharon.
  
inkwell.vue.287 : Mary Mackey, Breaking the Fever
permalink #32 of 150: 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. 
  
inkwell.vue.287 : Mary Mackey, Breaking the Fever
permalink #33 of 150: 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.
  
inkwell.vue.287 : Mary Mackey, Breaking the Fever
permalink #34 of 150: 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?
  
inkwell.vue.287 : Mary Mackey, Breaking the Fever
permalink #35 of 150: 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.
  
inkwell.vue.287 : Mary Mackey, Breaking the Fever
permalink #36 of 150: rubi (rubicon) Thu 16 Nov 06 16:48
    
Wow!
  
inkwell.vue.287 : Mary Mackey, Breaking the Fever
permalink #37 of 150: 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.
  
inkwell.vue.287 : Mary Mackey, Breaking the Fever
permalink #38 of 150: 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? 
  
inkwell.vue.287 : Mary Mackey, Breaking the Fever
permalink #39 of 150: 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
inkwell@well.com, and we'll post your question or comment for you.
  
inkwell.vue.287 : Mary Mackey, Breaking the Fever
permalink #40 of 150: rubi (rubicon) Thu 16 Nov 06 17:53
    
Thank you David. And Judy. Nice question!!
  
inkwell.vue.287 : Mary Mackey, Breaking the Fever
permalink #41 of 150: Clare Eder (ceder) Fri 17 Nov 06 00:51
    <scribbled by ceder Sat 18 Nov 06 15:20>
  
inkwell.vue.287 : Mary Mackey, Breaking the Fever
permalink #42 of 150: 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.
  
inkwell.vue.287 : Mary Mackey, Breaking the Fever
permalink #43 of 150: midget gems (riffraff) Fri 17 Nov 06 08:16
    

and which is now safe to enter, after a years long reign of terror
  
inkwell.vue.287 : Mary Mackey, Breaking the Fever
permalink #44 of 150: 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.
  
inkwell.vue.287 : Mary Mackey, Breaking the Fever
permalink #45 of 150: 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?
  
inkwell.vue.287 : Mary Mackey, Breaking the Fever
permalink #46 of 150: 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?
  
inkwell.vue.287 : Mary Mackey, Breaking the Fever
permalink #47 of 150: asparagus before librarians (katecat) Fri 17 Nov 06 08:49
    
slipped by a QUITE fascinating question or two
  
inkwell.vue.287 : Mary Mackey, Breaking the Fever
permalink #48 of 150: 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.
  
inkwell.vue.287 : Mary Mackey, Breaking the Fever
permalink #49 of 150: 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.
  
inkwell.vue.287 : Mary Mackey, Breaking the Fever
permalink #50 of 150: 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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