Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Warfare on Words

By D. Ledoux Montgomery

The woman in the suit has her hair tied back
And is prowling about the room
Chopping up words with her
Very white teeth
As they emerge from her
Very wide mouth.

Actually’s backbone was just
Viciously crushed
Between her perfect incisors
And I can imagine the words’ innards
Dripping from her red lips –
The bruised u dribbling down
And splattering on the ground.
The comma following poor Actually
Is covered in pieces of t,
The gore of warfare on words.


Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Another Side of Edgar Allen Poe

"I am come of a race noted for vigor of fancy and ardor of passion. Men have called me mad; but the question is not yet settled, whether madness is or is not the loftiest intelligence -- wether much that is glorious -- whether all that is profound -- does not spring from disease of thought -- from moods of mind exalted at the expense of the general intellect. They who dream by day are cognizant of many things which escape those who dream only by night. In their gray visions they obtain glimpses of eternity, and thrill, in waking, to find that they have been on the verge of the great secret. In snatches, they learn something of the wisdom which is of good, and more of the mere knowledge which is of evil. They penetrate, however, rudderless or compassless into the vast ocean of the "light ineffable," and again, like the adventures of the Nubian geographer, "agressi sunt mare tenebrarum, quid in eo esset exlporaturi" (They entered the sea of darkness so they might explore what was in it).

-- from the short story Eleonora

Edgar Allen Poe is known for his horror and his mystery. His gruesome short stories like The Tell-Tale Heart and The Cask of Amontillado are easily his most well-known, and his poem Annabell Lee (which ends with his "lying down" at the side of his long-dead bride in her sepulchre down by the sea) is infamous and can serve to deter many readers from investigating further (after all, there are so many good writers and poets and we have only one life in which to read everything!!). I was also deterred by these factors, but at the same time I was drawn in by his lyrical ability, use of vocabulary in capturing emotions and images, and his love for the sea, the hidden wood, the imagined fantastical landscapes, and near-mad romances. Below is and example of his poetical style that affected me greatly in high school and early college.

"Dim vales -- and shadowy floods --
And cloudy-looking woods
Whose forms we can't discover
For the tears that drip all over.
Huge moons there wax and wane --
Again -- again -- again --
For every moment of the night --
Forever changing places --
And they put out the star-light
With the breath from their pale faces.
About twelve by the moon-dial
One more filmy than the rest
(A kind which, upon trial,
They have found to be the best)
Comes down -- still down -- and down
With its centre on the crown
Of a mountains' eminence,
While its wide circumference
In easy drapery falls
Over hamlet, over halls,
Wherever they may be --
O'er the strange wood -- o'er the sea --
Over spirits on the wing --
Over every drowsy thing --
And buries them up quite
In a labryinth of light..."

-- from The Fairy-land

The exotic nature of the wood, the fantastical multiple moons, the vocabulary (a labyrinth of light...the filmy moon...the breath from the pale faces)...what imagery! I love his ability to juxtapose such things as spirits in one line and drowsy things in the next. Who has ever imagined drowsy spirits? Perhaps I am being ridiculous. Who cares about an author's ability to combine fairies and sleeping pills?

Except that I do care.

Recall all the harshness you have read recently. If you've been reading recently authored novels in almost any genre, you've read real, harsh, hard-fact descriptions of things like rape. Perhaps you've read the intensely grisly details of a headshot. Or experienced the emptiness and abscence that accompanies a parent's apathy towards a child describied in ever more angering detail. More often than not, we are seeing a literary turn towards raw, burning descriptions of horrible experiences in such a way that the reader truly feels present. The reader is the victim, and while I have to applaud these author's ability to be so accurate, I have no stomach for it. It holds no interest for me.

And so I find myself returning to some of my favorite authors, those authors who originally inspired me to love writing. Poe can be gruesome, yes; but his gruesome is child's play next to the modern day hack-n-slash. And his gruesome is in some ways creepier. He might not disgust us as much, and we might not be as viscerally affected, but there's nothing like the feeling that you get after reading one of Poe's stalker stories. You almost don't feel comfortable leaving the book in your house. I usually end up stacking the Big Book of Virtues, the Basic Works of Aristotle, and the Bible on top of Poe's Collected Works. And then I walk into my bedroom and close the door. And then I put Atlas between me and the door. lol.

Anyway, I'll share one last tidbit from him that I particularly enjoy.

"I stand amid the roar
of a surf-tormented shore,
And I hold within my hand
Grains of the golden sand --
How few! yet how they creep
Through my fingers to the deep,
While I weep -- While I weep!
O God! can I not grasp
Them with a tigheter clasp?
O God! can I not save
One from the pitiless wave?
Is all that we see or seem
But a dream within a dream?"

-- from A Dream within a Dream

Introducing Anthony D'Ambrosio

A few weeks ago I said I'd begin posting other people's poetry when I started running out of my own. And though I have 4 or 5 poems in the works, none of them are going to be complete for a while. So it is now my pleasure to introduce to you a fellow poet: Anthony D'Ambrosio.

Anthony is another young Catholic fresh out of undergrad. While I might describe myself as a poet, he'd probably describe himself as a writer. He has, up to this point, written more poetry than I have, but he is beggining to focus on short stories. When he writes some prose that is short enough to post, I might be able to convince him to put it up here.

Anthony and I have spent the last few months trading our literature back and forth, commenting on and criticising each other's work (he owes me a poem back, actually...ahem). Stylistically, we are very different, as you will probably see. My poetry relies heavily on rhyme, rythm, and alliteration; he hates rhyme and doesn't use nearly as many traditional poetic devices, instead creating poetic tension through word choice, spacing, and strong imagery.

The below poem is probably his most forceful. Since this is his introduction, I'd like to start with a bang.

Or a Bam.

By Anthony D'Ambrosio

I begin
I beat his head. Beat into him all the strength
Left in me of the ancient days,
of dusk, of wind working wild ire
upon deep forests and untamed earth;
I begin
I beat the face of a man
like a leather skinned drum.
But his skin is supple,
And the pleasure given my hand
My stony fist
By the softness of his face,
His cheek, flushed,
My elbow,
and his eye, crushed
Oh it is so much more a drum.
It is the honey Samson drank from the lion.
It is an orgasm of justice,
an ejaculation of spittle-blood and
we throb together; gasping fire,
And I drink from him, my enemy
The sweaty, forbidden glory of Man.
I beat his head.


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