Posts Tagged ‘original energy


Rob Carney’s This Is One Sexy Planet (2005)

Over the next few weeks or months, I will post all my reviews (“Tom’s Celebrations”) that appeared in Redactions: Poetry, Poetics, & Prose (formerly Redactions: Poetry & Poetics) up to and including issue 12. After that, my reviews appeared here (The Line Break) before appearing in the journal. This review first appeared in issue 6/7, which was published circa mid-2006.


Rob Carney's – This Is One Sexy PlanetThe earth is beautiful, or was before war, greed, money, & the homogenous creations of the business world, & the earth still can be beautiful. This is an early premise of Rob Carney’s This Is One Sexy Planet (Frank Cat Press) [out of print], a premise sustained through the collection of poems.

In the opening poem, “Six Verses in Search of a Church,” we see this:

   For fingers came first, before grubbing after money,
         and our fingers speak the language of Guitar;

   for our minds weren’t ignited by gunpowder
         or factory assembled
         but remember the ocean,
         think like the wind;


   so it was and always will be
         that our lives arrive from music,
         Living in our bodies and loving is our song.

For the speaker of these poems, this is where the sexiness of the earth is. The sexiness is in the ability to present the urge to create through love or sex or artistic creation. But so what? Most of us have come to realize this, right? Yea, we have, but in this book, the poems with the mythic tones of original energy weave through the more conversationally toned poems of a contemporary man who enjoys nature & going to bars. And it is through this man that we understand & come to believe that the original creative energies are still in us & possible. The speaker is the manifestation of the mythic possibilities, & he lives the mythic possibilities through the allegories of the mythic poems. He is our possibility to create.

The weaving begins in the second poem, “If She Read It,”

   she’d like “Last Gods,”
         a poem by Galway Kinnell
                about sex on a rock in a river.

In the next poem, “Late at Night, When I Hear Some Distant Train,” we encounter the man living in the uncertainties of the allegories. In the opening poem, “Six Verses in Search of a Church,” a relationship was established with ocean & memory & with wind & thinking, but in the first five lines of “Late at Night, When I Hear Some Distant Train,” he is not sure whether he is in memory or in returning thought (the difference being that memory is experientially based, while returning thought is intellectually based).

   I half remember how the ocean sounds
   and half remember driftwood, scattered rain.

   Maybe it’s the desert – air so thin
   that things keep echoing and echoing

   up the canyons, out across the dark.

But eventually there is a resolution, an understanding in the second section of the poem:

   It’s like I’m half and looking for the rest.
   Or where there should be ocean, there’s a lake.

   Or maybe what’s past is only gone not lost
   and always washes up again, comes back

   taking the waves’ slow way around. Why not? –

A little later on in “If the Language of the Night Isn’t Sex,” he gets deliberately into the natural urge to create.
After pondering the title’s question for 14 lines & then assuming for argument’s sake that the language of night isn’t sex:

   so much of the night sky is empty
   we have to fill it with something. . . .

   What do you say we go make a constellation?
   What do you say we make two?

And in that ellipsis & stanza break he hears the title of poem & he recalls the previous poem’s (“This Is One Sexy Planet”) penultimate stanza:

   Or that yesterday dances with tomorrow
         and we’re all of us moving
               through the spaces in between. . . .

and realizes in the emptiness, the aloneness, that there is the human need to create, even if it is not sex. (It is a realization an erotic existentialist (if such a person exists) might have — if sex doesn’t exist, you still have to create.)

After a few more poems, we get to one of my favorite poems written in our new millennium — the seven-page poem,
“The Mother of the Mountains.” In this poem, all the weavings of myth & the contemporary, the thinking & the memory
& the ability to create come together. It is in this masterful poem where comparisons between nature & humans are revealed.

   It is here, in this dreaming, that the Mother of the Mountains
   is like us: full of love and aloneness.

It is in this poem that he & we learn that the union between humans & nature is possible, that we can communicate with nature, that memory & thinking can be one, & that creation is of importance. The poem & book ends:

   When people remember what counts most,
   they measure time by their children.


   tell the Mother of the Mountains something new.

   Tell her your story if you have to,
   but make it tie the river to the wind

   and lift up the green smell of moss
   and the memory of someone’s body

   you never got to touch
   and the jumping drum of your heart. . . .

   If one day you see a heron – a long blue stillness
   at the water’s edge, or a blue impossible flying –

   then the Mother of the Mountains did listen.
   And her answer is yes.




Carney, Rob. This Is One Sexy Planet. Grand Junction, CO: Frank Cat Press, 2005.//


The Afterlives of a Poem, or What Happens to Your Poem When You’re Done Writing It

I woke up early this morning thinking about what happens to a poem after you stop working on it, and there are four possible afterlives for a poem.

But before I get there, let’s look at why we stop working on a poem.

One reason is that we think the poem is done. We’ve worked hard at it, had fun with it, and had a good conversation with it, and now there is nothing left to work on or converse with and the only fun left in this poem is reading it over and over again and feeling good.

Another reason we stop working on a poem is because we realize the poem is going nowhere. Oh, you went into the poem with good intentions, but along the way, you and the poem both realized it just wasn’t going to work out or there was too much awkwardness with it, and you couldn’t overcome all the obstacles. It’s kinda like going on a first date, and when you meet the other person, your fly is down, and then an hour after you eat, you realize you’ve had a piece of spinach in your teeth for the last hour, and you also told a joke that you thought was funny, but it turned out to be offensive. At this point, you realize the date is not salvageable, and you part ways.

A third reason for stopping work on a poem is that you no longer know what to do with the poem or the poem is being stubborn and not helping you help it. This type of poem can actually be a worthwhile poem. It’s doing good things, it sounds well, it has meanings you understand and that are just beyond you, and it has good energies. It’s not a bad poem. It’s fine. You could share it with people and they would like it and a journal might even publish it. But still it seems to be lacking something, but you don’t know what it is. This type of poem is like the date where you have a good time filled with good conversations and laughs and that lasts for hours and late into the night, but it feels like it was an only hour, and you walk her home, but she doesn’t give you a good night kiss. “What?” you ask yourself. “I thought everything was going well. What happened?” And so you walk away having had a good time, but you are confused. Maybe there will be some clarity tomorrow. Maybe tomorrow you will get a kiss. But for now, it’s time to be alone.

A fourth reason for stopping work on a poem is that you have come to an impasse. In this situation, you know what is wrong with the poem and you know it can better, but you just can’t figure out how to make it better at the moment. You know you will, but you just can’t figure it out right now. This is the poem you set aside on purpose and let your unconscious work on it for the next few days or weeks. This is the date with whom you play hard to get. You let the other person do the work. “Maybe I’ll kiss you at some later date . . . if you’re lucky.”

So however it has come to be, you stop working on a poem. You always stop working on poem, unless you are working on it in an unconscious manner. But there always comes a point when you put down you pencil or pen or walk away from the typewriter or keyboard. When this occurs, there are four afterlives or possibilities for the poem between now and the next time you look at.

The first afterlife or possibility is that at some future time you will return to the poem and it will be even stronger than you remember it. The sounds will be cleaner and underscore meanings and emotional content, the imagery will be crisper, the leaps will seem downright natural and universal, and it will be clear and sound and feel true.

Another afterlife is that the poem doesn’t change at all. It’s exactly the same as you left it and remembered it. It’s done nothing.

A third possibility is that any problems you had with the poem have somehow sorted themselves out, or at least some of them. This is a magical moment. And you feel delighted and relieved. This poem might still need a little work, but the big work has taken care of itself.

I’m not sure how those three afterlife possibilities occur, but they do.

The Afterlife of a PoemThe fourth afterlife is the one that woke me up, and I think I know the causes of this afterlife possibility. The fourth possibility for the poem after you stop working on it and then return to it sometime later is that the poem gets worse. We’ve all experienced this. We all know this feeling. In fact, from what I’ve heard from most people is the poem being worse is the typical afterlife result of a poem. But why does the poem get worse, especially if when we left the poem we thought that it was a strong poem. Especially after we had such a good time with it and we got a kiss good night.

Here is what I think happens. When we are in the act of writing a poem, we are gods that know everything. We know what each word means or how we want it to mean, we know how each sound is contributing or how we want it to contribute, and we know what the images are doing or how we want the images to perform. In fact, there are certain words, sounds, and images that act as pillars for the poem. These pillars hold up the poem. (Yes, all the words, sounds, and images are pillars holding up the poems, but some bear more weight than others.) These pillars are initially filled with personal meanings and associations and/or immediate associations. The pillars also contain immediate energies that arise from a poem in its first drafts. While we are in the first composition of the poem, we can create all sorts of magic to make those pillars stand tall and firm. If they wobble a little bit, we just wiggle our fingers at them and cast the magical spell “Stay.” And the poem stays. What we are doing here is imposing on the poem. We are hovering over the poem and controlling it. When we walk away it will, of course, collapse.

But this collapse doesn’t have to happen. Before you leave the poem, you need to stand outside of it and really talk to the poem. You need to ask a word, image, sound, or rhythm something like, “I know that if I say ‘bison’ I will think of the animal and meat and some of those cave paintings in France, and those all have special meanings for me, but will the reader be able to experience those things? Will my unique experiences confuse the poem? Are the associations to ‘bison’ mine own or are they more universally shared? Will anyone else think of meat or paintings or will they just think of the animal? or might they even think of other things like a baseball team?” In addition, some of the associations that you have during the writing of the poem you might forget when you return to the poem after some time has passed, and that is why the poem becomes worse. You have become the reader who is not intimate with the meanings that only you knew at the poem’s composition. The poem is not speaking beyond you.

This means before you leave the poem, you have to make sure those pillars are solid and coated in stainless steel. They have to endure. And the pillars also have to be real. They can’t just exist inside of you or in some “imaginary gardens.”

Charles OlsonAnother reason a poem gets worse after you leave it is that it loses energy. A poem in its early stage has lots and lots of energy. It’s a “high-energy construct,” as Charles Olson called it. There’s excitement in writing the poem, and sometimes the writing-excitement energy can be confused with the actual energy of the poem. If the actual poem doesn’t have much energy and the energy you are experiencing is just because of the excitement of writing it, then after you stop writing and then return to the poem later, there will be less energy than you expected and the poem will seem worse.

But there’s also an energy discharge, and this one is harder to explain, but I’ll call it original energy for now, but I’ll provide more subtle definitions below. A poem always radiates energy. The stronger the poem, the more energy it radiates it and the more sparks it can provide in peoples’ lives. The problem is how to contain that original energy of the poem. Each poem starts off in a high-energy field. (Well, many do.) The poem screams to be written. It’s knocking on the doors to your brain and heart and soul, and saying, “Let’s write. I’ve something new to add to the universe that will change people.” or “Let’s write. I’ve something cool to say.” That energy and the energy that results when you write the poem are the energies that are hard to sustain. The energy slowly leaks out. This is why a poem can also seem worse after stopping work on it and returning to it later. These are the hardest energies to sustain during revision.

Allen GinsbergIn fact, in my experiences, revision tends to revise away that original energy, especially too much revision. I think this is why Allen Ginsberg says to “revise lightly.” I like that advice, but for me, it’s slightly different. For me it is “revise quickly.”

I used to work on poems for days or weeks and sometimes years. I used to revise and revise and revise. In my revisions, though, by the end, the final poem never seemed that great. Oh sure, there were all these technical pyrotechnics, but the poem was no better for it. The poem just showed that I knew some poetic techniques and that I had learned something about poetry. The technique had become the poem. The poem was without energy or with little. The energy that was there was me saying I wrote this poem and from me reading it. But this is not the point.

I’ve found that once I’ve stopped working on a poem, it became really hard to come back to it because I couldn’t remember the original energies. “Remember” might not be the best word nor “original.” Maybe it is that I could not feel the the impetus energy. I can’t feel the impetus energy. Impetus energy being the energy that caused the poem. Original energy being the energy of the poem as it is being written.

So what I’ve learned to do is to revise quickly. I think all my years of enduring revisions have prepared me for this. But now I need to revise quickly. I need to contain that impetus energy before it goes away. I need to condense days, weeks, or years of revisions into one moment. I need to be able to quickly determine if a word, image, or sound is going to go beyond my personal associations and be relevant to others. I need to make the language crisp now. I need to make sure all the harmonies are tight now. I need to make sure the rhythms rise and fall in the best spots now. I need to contain all this energy now so it will endure, because if I come back to it later that impetus energy will be gone. There will still be original energies and they will radiate, but the impetus creative energy will be gone.

Quantum Foam

Quantum Foam

It’s kind of like the Big Bang. I can’t see the Big Bang, but I know everything that happened shortly after. I know the quantum foam that appeared at 10-72 seconds after the Big Band and the inflation that occurred at 10-41 seconds after the Big Bang, but I can’t see the Big Bang anymore. It’s gone. I can feel original energies, but I can’t feel the impetus energies.

Of course, this revision technique is unique to me. I know others who can revise for lengthy periods of time and still maintain energy in the poem. But I do think energy leakage is the reason for a poem feeling worse after you come back to it some time later.

Still my revise quickly method is applicable to everyone, or at least worth consideration. When you revise, be aware of what the poem is doing. That is, is it doing something immediate and personal and something you hope it to do or is it doing something enduring and universal? If it is the former, don’t leave the poem until it is doing the latter. Make sure you have strong pillars. Analyze your energies. Are the poem’s energies coming from the excitement of writing or are they the genuine energies from the poem? If the former, don’t leave the poem until the energies are the latter. Always try to revise to keep impetus and original energies. Do not revise away impetus and original energies.//

The Cave (Winner of The Bitter Oleander Press Library of Poetry Book Award for 2013.)

The Cave

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