Anne Bean

I make delicious words. // I make words delicious.

Category: Poetry

An Erasure

Here is an erasure poem I did in my writing group a while ago. I found it while cleaning up paperwork on my desk. It came from an article about football. Football is not where it ended up. Here’s the text if I were to format it like a poem:

Every shudder of injury for the usual reasons

adds a third layer of dread.

Conjecture about his eventual return.

The when. The what-if. The where does that leave you know who.

This is the act we’ve reached now

the breaking collarbone, the absence, the relief

elevated him to legend

Better know a crazy person of the day

In the late 1700s, a poet named Christopher Smart was put in the looney bin. Why? Because his religious zeal had increased to the point where he was not only praying, frequently and loudly, in the street, but he was forcing random other people to pray with him. They decided to give him a nice room aaaaall by himself with pen, paper, and apparently his cat, Jeoffrey.

And he wrote poetry. He wrote one line a day, so the story goes, of this enormously long poem. Sections of the poem have been preserved and are AMAZING. I’m sure it was considered completely crazy in the day, but I think it’s, well, hilarious for one, but also pretty brilliant. David Wagoner calls this “the first draft of HOWL”.

Here are the first few lines:

For I will consider my Cat Jeoffry.
For he is the servant of the Living God duly and daily serving him.
For at the first glance of the glory of God in the East he worships in his way.
For is this done by wreathing his body seven times round with elegant quickness.
For then he leaps up to catch the musk, which is the blessing of God upon his prayer.
For he rolls upon prank to work it in.
For having done duty and received blessing he begins to consider himself.
For this he performs in ten degrees.
For first he looks upon his fore-paws to see if they are clean.
For secondly he kicks up behind to clear away there.
For thirdly he works it upon stretch with the fore-paws extended.
For fourthly he sharpens his paws by wood.
For fifthly he washes himself.
For Sixthly he rolls upon wash.
For Seventhly he fleas himself, that he may not be interrupted upon the beat.
For Eighthly he rubs himself against a post.
For Ninthly he looks up for his instructions.
For Tenthly he goes in quest of food.
For having consider’d God and himself he will consider his neighbour.
For if he meets another cat he will kiss her in kindness.
For when he takes his prey he plays with it to give it chance.
For one mouse in seven escapes by his dallying.

…and it goes for some time in that vein, finally ending with:

For God has blessed him in the variety of his movements.
For, though he cannot fly, he is an excellent clamberer.
For his motions upon the face of the earth are more than any other quadrupede.
For he can tread to all the measures upon the musick.
For he can swim for life.
For he can creep.

“He can tread to all the measures upon the musick?” I KNOW WHAT THAT MEANS! This poem was destined for internet fame:

…I could go on. But instead, I think you should go read Smart’s poem.

Slow Poem.

Here’s my first go at writing a slow poem:

Age Twelve, Sharing a Room With Grammy

When you’re old, your hands and feet are blocks of wood.

She sits slowly, easing down over calcified knees.

Her bent index finger is a post to wrap a shoelace on

muscle memory ties the bow, certainly not the gnarled paws

that are all she has to work with.

A slip of her hem: I glimpse her calf.

Her legs are all veins and bruise.

Every day, she says,

Every day I wonder how I got so old.

I shrug. I am out of words.

I sit next to her, on the hotel bed.

Sometimes I think about death. What happens after…

She sighs.

Who am I kidding?

You die, you rot.

This is one of a larger series of (at the moment being written) poems about my grandmother. Apparently I mostly write poetry about my family. I guess I don’t really write fiction about them, so bits of them had to come into my writing somewhere.

For reference, slow poetry tricks include: Monosyllables, lots of stressed syllables in a row, and repetition.

Tomorrow: Revisions!

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