Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Longish Poem Thing

I've been working on this woodpecker poem for years now and it is all I can seem to work on. I tell myself I need to write and all I can do is write in some way toward this poem. It started in a class called Collage and Collaboration. We would do cut-ups and well, all kinds of things. I'm not really a fan of collage or collaboration in general, but it was fun to get out of my normal way of writing. So for my final project in this class I found many different quotes and bits of other poems that had something to do with extinction and interwove them with stuff I had written. I had a few poems already, but I mostly wrote from the quotes.

About this time there were reports of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker in Arkansas so much of the poem was geared toward the IBWO. I had always been intrigued with the IBWO and hearing that it might be back excited me. But that was about it. The class ended. I titled the poem "Notes On Extinction" and went about my business.

But then I got a call from a friend, a world class birder, who had taken a trip down the Choctawhatchee River and had seen an IBWO. Now, if it had been anyone else I would have laughed in their face, but instead I started planning a trip to the Florida panhandle. So I get down there, camp, kayak, listen, watch, camp, kayak, so on and on and out of nowhere I hear a double knock, and then another and that's it (A double-knock should be distinct to IBWO). I drove home to Chicago and have had that double-knock knocking in my skull ever since. So now I have about a thousand different thoughts for this poem and I can't seem to make it work.

I keep thinking that maybe I need to go back, that I need to see the place again to gain some kind of perspective. I think that where I want to go with this poem is where I want to go with my poetry. I feel like if I can break through all of these ideas into something bigger I will have done something, but the chances are actually pretty slim for that happening. Which is ok with me. I enjoy writing this so it isn't like it is all for nothing.

Here are some quotes I have interspersed throughout the poem-thing.

"The sense impressions of one-celled animals are not edited for the brain. This is philosophically interesting in a rather mournful way, since it means that only the simplest animals perceive the universe as it is." --Annie Dillard from Pilgrim

Eastward and over the cypress swamp, the dawn,
Redder than meat, break;
And the large bird,

Long neck outthrust, wings crooked to scull air, moved
In a slow calligraphy, crank, flat, and black against
The color of God’s blood spilt . .
--Robert Penn Warren

". . . men came to Funk Island to kill auks solely for their feathers.
The crews built stone corrals into which they herded hapless Great Auks. Each summer, men boiled vats of water and threw the live birds in to loosen the feathers for plucking; that accomplished, the corpses were either thrown to the wayside or used as oily fuel for the fires. . ." from Hope is a Thing with Feathers

Behind the nothing & number of what
We are, the billboards’ blank amnesias,
That wake of all we were still trembles:
First nakedness & summer & that hush,
Its hymen no more than a cuticle
Of cattails bordering a marsh,
And beyond it, the hem of the darkest wood.
--Larry Levis

“Let us make man in our image, after our likeness; and let him have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.” -- Yahweh

and so on and on

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