* listing with blaise cendrars

This week’s poem – “Chinks” by Blaise Cendrars – reminded me of an early lesson about list poems, namely how most poems can easily slip into lists. Whether it be a series of phrases, images, or movements, lists can sneak their way into poems, usually in threes (note how even in this sentence about lists there is a list of three within it!).

Mind you, there’s nothing inherently bad about this: usually it’ll happen naturally and have its own rhythm. Finding ways to subvert this human tendency towards *ahem* “listing” in a poem is always a challenge.

In the poem below, I was moved by the way Cendrars is able to create a pocket of human action between lists. The tension created between nature images and the speaker’s silence in the poem’s narrative adds energy to both.

* pieces, in *
* pieces, in *

Chinks – Blaise Cendrars

Sea vistas
Waterfalls
Trees long-haired with moss
Heavy rubbery glossy leaves
Glazed sun
High burnished heat
Glistening
I’ve stopped listening to the urgent voices of my friends discussing
The news that I brought from Paris
On both sides of the train close by or along the banks of
The distant valley
The forest is there watching me unsettling me enticing me like
a mummy’s mask
I watch back
Never the flicker of an eye.

translated by Dick Jones in qarrtsiluni

***

Happy watching!

Jose

* prose poem buzz & Max Jacob

Poem of the Moon

There are upon the night three mushrooms that are the moon. As brusquely as the cuckoo sings from a clock, they rearrange themselves at midnight each month. There are in the garden rare flowers that are small sleeping men, one-hundred of them. They are reflections from a mirror. There is in my dark room a luminous censer that swings, then two… phosphorescent aerostats. They are reflections from a mirror. There is in my head a bumblebee speaking.

*buzzoverkill*
*whatcha thinkin’?*

And because I like working in threes, here is one more foray into the prose poem – this time with the renown French poet Max Jacob.

In talking about prose poetry, one must always acknowledge the fact that the tradition began in French literature.  Here’s the quote from Charles Baudelaire that, if you haven’t run into it yet, will possibly make you a believer:

Which one of us has not dreamed, on ambitious days, of the miracle of a poetic prose: musical, without rhythm or rhyme; adaptable enough and discordant enough to conform to the lyrical movements of the soul, the waves of revery, the jolts of consciousness?

Since these famous words were given to the world, many have laid open their dreams and given back their versions of poetic prose.

The poem below is one of the first prose poems I read that really had me nodding my head saying: yes, that’s it, that’s what you do in a poem.  I love the way it captures that moment of jolt when you look closer at your surroundings and see something you’ve neglected to notice.

***

The beggar woman of naples

When I lived in Naples there was always a beggar woman at the gate of my palace, to whom I would toss some coins before climbing into my carriage. One day, surprised at never being thanked, I looked at the beggar woman. Now, as I looked at her, I saw that what I had taken for a beggar woman was a wooden case painted green which contained some red earth and a few half-rotten bananas …

***

Happy bananas!

Jose

* pic found here.