13 nov. 2005

A poetic voice that's unafraid, fearless. That's a concept I found recently in an essay by Alice Notley, from a book of her essay which I bought in New York last weekend. I take this as, unafraid to be itself. Don't try to write other people's poems, because that is a losing game. Nobody else can write your poems as well as you can. (If they can, you are in trouble.) Imitate all you want, but even if you imitate it will end up sounding like yourself eventually, because you won't be a perfect mimic.

That's what "Mayhew's Mood" is about. Learning to be unafraid to speak with my own voice.


The recent Field has a few poems by my aunt, Lenore Mayhew. Also, a nice little cluster on Jean Valentine. I was moved by Lenore's poem "Absence," because I took it to be (possibly) about the death of my own father, her younger brother--and others in our family. This year we've lost another from this family, my aunt Martha Leigh. My father's sister, but also one of my mother's closest friends. Lenore was always my favorite aunt, probably because she wrote poetry. I remember as a child coming across a book of poetry by a writer named "Poe," and noticing that he had poems featuring names of my two literary aunts, Helen and Lenore. There seemed to be a magic in these names--Poe (as in Poet), Lenore, ahd Helen. That magical coincidence is still my earliest and strongest association with poetry. I'm pretty sure these were the first poems I read. I wondered whether Poe became a poet because of his name, or whether my aunts were writers because they had names from Poe's poetry. I'm pretty sure I was about nine or ten.


First Intensity has some Jordan Davis, Theodore Enslin, some posthumous work by Gustav Sobin. It also has some local poets like Irby and Roitman. I had a nice talk the other day with Lee Chapman, the editor and publisher of FI. She has never asked me for poems before because she did not know that I wrote poetry. It seems odd, but when I first met her I believe that I was very self-effacing about my own work. This is not the first person who didn't know I was a poet--a person I know from the poetry world, I mean.

5 comentarios:

A dijo...

check out notley's 'white phosphorus' sometime.

and, no offense, but you're spouting some pretty conventional workshoppy nonsense in 'only you can write a poem like you' and 'imitating is a losing game' and all that.

i would strike that and say 'imitating is a learner's game'. also, there may be a difference between imitating and being derivative. who writes without imitating? even if they are imitating themselves.

eeksypeeksy dijo...

> you're spouting some pretty
> conventional workshoppy nonsense

It may or may not be conventional (the only workshops I've been in had lathes and drill presses) but it's not nonsense and it may be worth repeating, especially to people who (despite whatever people in workshops say) are desperate to be original but who are trying to outdo the competition at the competition's game when they should be making up and playing their own games.

Jonathan dijo...

I thought the standard in workshops was to imitate the anonymous norm. They may say "be yourself," and that might sound platididinous, but that's not really honored in the observance. It's more about "kill your babies."

You can imitate and you will still be yourself. I was refering to to imitating out of fear that what you really have to say will not be acceptable.

Laura Carter dijo...

Workshops are not mirrors of each other. I've never been discouraged from imitation in a workshop, and the encouragement I've received about "finding my own way" of writing have been somewhat liberating to me. But that's my experience. Coming After's pretty good, huh?

Laura Carter dijo...

Typo: "encouragement...has"