Thursday, March 27, 2014

The Falling Bookcase

During this trip to California I am meeting up with people I haven't seen in years, in some cases, I haven't seen or heard from them in close to a decade. It is interesting to experience the memories that people have of you after a long stretch of time. Are you frozen in time to them? Have they imagined  future for you even if it matches nothing that you have done since you last saw them?

Today I met up with someone who heard me read poetry a long time ago in San Diego, when I was attending grad school at UCSD. We had only met a couple of times, but for him it was an important meeting because I was the first person from Guam, he had met, who talked about Guam in a critical way. He had heard me read a poem on Chamorros being a footnote to the American Empire. It is something that struck and stuck with him ever since. For me, I cling to moments like this, and I thread them together to create my personal necklace of relevance. It is so easy sometimes to feel like nothing I do matters and so every instance where someone allows me to feel like I did matter is so wonderful.

There wasn't really much we could talk about, except poetry, that was the main thing we shared. We discussed the aesthetics of it, something I had not done in a long time. For this person, poetry was music and so he constantly invoked metaphors of lyrics, harmony, melody and a unity of touching sound. I can understand these ways of thinking about poetry, but it is not something that I have really strive towards. For me, I am often jealous of those who can write and recite their poems in a way that achieves a rhythm and a musical dimension. I don't really do that.

In describing my own take on poetry, I asked this guy to recall if he'd ever watched a bookcase full of books tip over and crash to the floor. He said he hadn't. I said it could be anything, but imagine a chorus of elements careening toward the earth in a frenzied ballet. For me, poetry is writing a commentary on those cascading pieces. It is watching all those books tumble and making choices about which books you will name and which you won't. Which books will you link together to give meaning to what is happening. As you connect the motions, the books, the words, the feelings together is this momentum of life sad, angry, happy, romantic, insane? In my poetry, I feel l like I have achieved beauty when the chaos has a form that I enjoy. That watching those books fall takes on an extra level of meaning, and which I can perform for others, so that they can feel the hairs rising, the spines clashing, the pages ripping and the authors screaming.

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