9 jul. 2005

How does a poem come into being? The idea that one first has something to say and then tries to express it runs contrary to my way of working. For example, I recently purchased a book entitled The Thelonious Monk Fake Book. The idea came to me that I should write a poem with this as a title. It would be a fairly long poem, with individual sections named after various Monk tunes, in alphabetical order as they appear in this book. I thought of Kenneth Koch poems with a similar structure, but decided that I would make the individual poems slightly longer, and avoid obviously Kenneth-like moves within the poem itself. I also decided it wouldn't be a poem about Monk's music in any obvious sense, and that the titles of the tunes would generate the poems, but rather obliquely. I like the idea of a "fake" book for obvious reasons: fake suggests a certain fictionality, as well as referring to the concept of a jazz musician's "fake book." I also made some other decisions of this type, but without thinking too much about what any sections would actually say. You can see that I formulated many "intentions," but very few having to do with intentional meaning in the way this is usually conceived. The first section I've written, "Epistrophy," reads like a list of possible definitions of this word. A second, "Bemsha Swing," is narrative in which that phrase appears at some point, as an explanation which explains nothing. I also incorporate Ernesto's comment today: "Ahora se está muriendo gente que antes no se moría."

Everything about this poem is meaningful. In other words, every word is used because of what that word means. A person not knowing the meaning of the words I use would have no appreciation of the poem. Yet I haven't felt up to now that I was expressing a "meaning" formulated before hand. I wanted to use an example from my own work, not because I want to explain how I wrote certain of my poems à la Henry Gould, but because I believe that is how poetry is written. This has certain consequences for how poetry should be read, as well. The question is not what the poet wanted to say, but what decisions were made in order to produce this particular set of meanings. I apologize for the banality of this observation.

UPDATE: Re-Discovering, through this poem, the inner logic of the names of these tunes. Family resemblances, as it were. Nicknames for family members (LIttle Rootie Tootie, Boo Boo's Birthday, Jackie-ing, Crepuscule for Nellie), references to himself (Thelonious, Monk's Dream, Blue Monk, Monk's Mood). A dense system of poetic reference.

3 comentarios:

Laura Carter dijo...

I'd like to see "Blue Monk," if you did that one.

Jonathan dijo...


Not yet! That one will come right before Boo Boo's Birthday and after Bemsha Swing.

Jess dijo...

How about "Stuffy Turkey"? And "Sweethear of All My Dreams"? Those are two favorites. This project sounds hot.