Saturday, September 27, 2014

My body is still on New York City time, but my life is back on Harmony time, and the upshot is: I am bleary. Today--bright, warm, color-laden--would be a lovely day to climb a mountain or go canoeing. But unless this coffee works better than it's worked so far, I will be blinking like a lizard on a warm rock.

At least I am thinking about poems. Since my reading this week, I have been pondering Jeffrey Harrison's "Encounter with John Malkovich," which he read that evening. I was already familiar with the poem, but hearing it in the air changed it for me. That so often happens, for better or worse, with poems. Some curl up and die in the air. Some unfold like lilies, which was the case with "Encounter with John Malkovich."

Jeff tells me that he originally wrote the poem in past tense but during revision changed it into present tense. That certainly must have contributed to the way in which this piece began to gather itself tonally and dramatically. It may seem like a minor switch, this tense thing, but the same thing has happened to me during revision: a poem will become new with a new verbal structure. Not only does the sense of time change; the sound of the poem changes because the alternate verb form requires different numbers of words and syllables, which in turn shifts the stresses of the lines and requires adjustments in word choice elsewhere.

Bur for me, the listener, all that verb information was an after-the-fact curiosity. The poem itself, which is long and meandering, held me--and continues to hold me, days later, like the tag-end of a song in my head.

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