POCAB DeCal, Assignment #7
I mentioned that one way of getting off the subject, of feeling yourself from memory if you will, is to use words for the sake of sound. Now I must use four lines from an earlier poem of mine, simply because I can’t verify any other poet’s process. I know what mine was at the time. There are the first four lines of the fourth stanza of an early poem called “At the Stilli’s Mouth.”
With the Stilli this defeated and the sea
turned slough by close Camano, how can water die
with drama, in a final rich cascade,
a suicide, a victim of terrain, a martyr?
When I was a young poet I set an arbitrary rule that when I made a sound I felt was strong, a sound I liked specially, I’d make a similar sound three to eight syllables later. Of course, it would often be a slant rhyme. Why three to eight? Don’t ask. You have to be silly to write poems at all.
In this case the word “cascade” fell lovingly on my ear and so, soon after, “suicide.” I wasn’t smart enough to know that I was saying that my need to see things dramatically was both childish and authentic. But “suicide” was right and led to “victim of terrain” and “martyr,” associative notions at least, but also words that sound like other words in the passage, “martyr” like “drama” and “water,” “victim” like “final’ and “Stilli” (Northwest colloquial for Stilliguamish, the river). Instead of “suicide” I might have hit on “masquerade,” but that would have been wrong and I hope I would have known it. I might have simply because “masquerade” sounds *too* much like “cascade,” calls attention to itself, and to my ear is less interesting. What I’m trying to tell you is that by doing things like this I was able to get off the subject and write the poem. The fact that “suicide” sounds like “cascade” is infinitely more important than what is being said.
It isn’t of course, but if you think about it that way for the next twenty-five years you could be in pretty good shape.
-- The Triggering Town, Chapter 1
Please complete *two* assignments this time, since class was canceled on Monday.
Assignment #1: Freewrite for 5 minutes, with one caveat: if you make a sound you feel is strong, a sound you like especially, make a simliar sound three to eight syllables later. "Freewriting" means that you keep writing for five minutes, without pause, ignoring grammar errors, punctuation errors, spelling errors, or the urge to sound sane. You might prefer to write this on a physical piece of paper and type it up.
Assignment #2: Pick three paragraphs you found the most interesting from The Triggering Town, one paragraph each from each of the three first chapters of the book. Then write a 200-500 word essay on why you thought the paragraphs were interesting.
Send me a copy of my responses.
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