Thursday, April 24, 2008

napomo treasure

Every day, I receive an email with a poem. As mentioned before, despite my apparent love for poetry, often when a hundred are thrown at me, only one or two will stick. I guess it's simply a matter of which topics and feelings I best relate to. Sometimes, though, the wordplay alone is enough to capture me, even if I don't wholly jive with the rest.

Today's email poem was "Balance" by Adam Zagajewski. It includes phrases such as "...a certain sort of snowy wasteland bursts from a surfeit of happiness" and "pale grass plagued by winter and the wind." I liked the idea of the alternate existence of being on a plane versus the harshness of reality once landed.

"The darkness of daily wanderings resumed, the day's sweet darkness, the darkness of the voice that counts and measures, remembers and forgets."

So I went a little further. Followed links to other poems written by Mr. Zagajewski (and translated by Clare Cavanagh). "My Aunts" is quite intriguing, but it is his "Self-Portrait" that most caught my ear.


by Adam Zagajewski
Translated by Clare Cavanagh

Between the computer, a pencil, and a typewriter
half my day passes. One day it will be half a century.
I live in strange cities and sometimes talk
with strangers about matters strange to me.
I listen to music a lot: Bach, Mahler, Chopin, Shostakovich.
I see three elements in music: weakness, power, and pain.
The fourth has no name.
I read poets, living and dead, who teach me
tenacity, faith, and pride. I try to understand
the great philosophers--but usually catch just
scraps of their precious thoughts.
I like to take long walks on Paris streets
and watch my fellow creatures, quickened by envy,
anger, desire; to trace a silver coin
passing from hand to hand as it slowly
loses its round shape (the emperor's profile is erased).
Beside me trees expressing nothing
but a green, indifferent perfection.
Black birds pace the fields,
waiting patiently like Spanish widows.
I'm no longer young, but someone else is always older.
I like deep sleep, when I cease to exist,
and fast bike rides on country roads when poplars and houses
dissolve like cumuli on sunny days.
Sometimes in museums the paintings speak to me
and irony suddenly vanishes.
I love gazing at my wife's face.
Every Sunday I call my father.
Every other week I meet with friends,
thus proving my fidelity.
My country freed itself from one evil. I wish
another liberation would follow.
Could I help in this? I don't know.
I'm truly not a child of the ocean,
as Antonio Machado wrote about himself,
but a child of air, mint and cello
and not all the ways of the high world
cross paths with the life that--so far--
belongs to me.
Oh, how lovely. I truly feel as though I know him better now. And what's not to love about phrases like "... a child of air, mint and cello...?" Wonderful.

Mr. Zagajewski's work evoked the idea of a six word memoir. You're familiar with this phenomenon? Here is a slide show from NPR that showcases a number of the memoirs. I've included one here, though the caption is very small. It is, "Naively expected logical world. Acted foolishly." It was written by Emily Thieler.

Sometimes, I think about trying to encapsulate my life in six words. Sometimes, it seems insurmountably difficult to squeeze it all into just six words. Sometimes, six seems all together too many words. Perhaps someday I'll actually give it a try.

Until then, the only attempts at creative writing I make are Tweets in the Westernized form of haiku. Hardly noteworthy. There is a Haiku Writing Center near my house. Ted keeps encouraging me to go knock on the door. I nearly did, the other day on my walk. But I haven't done it yet.

Just around the corner, tomorrow, is Jazzmouth: The Seacoast Poetry and Jazz Festival. Did I mention that jazz is one of my favorite genres of music? And you know about my love of poetry. Why is it I didn't read about this festival until yesterday? And Billy Collins is going to be there! Can I make it to any of the events? Tomorrow's show isn't sold out: I must simply decide whether or not to spend money on my ethereal longing at a time when employment eludes me. Might I go to one of the free sessions? Alas, I have already scheduled my weekend to the teeth. Could I rearrange the calendar to allow? Alas, it is previous rearrangement that has me in my current pickle -- the one which requires me to work all weekend.

Perhaps it is fitting that the poetry and jazz which I seek and which seems so close is so elusive, feeding my longing. Hmm. Perhaps.

I leave you with Mr. Collins. Not only is the animation a unique way to experience this poem, the subject matter hits particularly close to home for me these days. Frighteningly so. And it is that connection that gives poetry its potency. For me.

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