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A Hundred Gourds 2:3 June 2013
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page 6    

There to Here: Conversations with John E. Carley


| Introduction | page 2 | page 3 | page 4 | page 5 | page 6 | page 7 |


From There to Here (continued)

— by John E. Carley


Cinquain c 1995
leaping
squirrel looping
across saturate lawn
these short days could be better spent
sleeping

One of the attractions of a fixed form is that it confers legitimacy. And let's face it, if you were called Adelaide Crapsey you'd want all the legitimacy you could get. As my attention span shrank down past the Triolet I entered the weird world of syllabics.


Senryu c 1995

esoteric forms
are like being in the shit:
the depth is crucial

Sigh. It is 5/7/5. The genre is correctly identified. The line breaks are strong. Does any of this make a difference? No.


Grigio Sterminato (Endless Grey) c 1996

viral miasma
perpetual rain
-
livid as zinc
amorphic swarf stuff
wads my cranial slaughterhouse
grey

Word association can be a powerful beast, and this poem seems to rattle a few chains. Is it just me, or is there the slightest hint of call and response here? Or perhaps better, of set up and amplification? This isn't exactly juxtaposition, but it does go some way down that road.


Riddle you Round (a circular Tetractys) c 1996

run
River
to the Sea
your father Sky
will lift you, tease you, riddle you round, so...

It is sometimes not understood that when syllabics define the metre, the coarse measure, of a poem the broader rhythm will stand or fall depending on how well syllable length and amplitude are combined with pause structure. Whether or not that justifies the Tetractys or the Fibonacci series is another matter.


Drift c. 1997

                                butterflies
                       boats
and sea weed ~
                       everything
                                        drifts

Concrete short verse. Determined as it is to shunt everything to the left, html has murdered an entire genre of poetry. But nobody cares enough to do anything about it. Ommmmm.


Untitled c. 1997

four geese sleeping
a three legged dog
two men, one shovel
no particular order

Unlikely as it may seem this poem takes observations in sequence. I had begun to assemble the raw material for a suite of long poems describing the local countryside. The happy coincidence of untitled proved that, with careful selection, the relationships between images might not need spelling out. So I'll justify that last line on the grounds of symmetry.


Dunglark c. 1998

dunglark
wheelheap
skybarrow

wheelheap
dungbarrow
skylark

skyheap
dunglark
wheelbarrow

wheelbarrow
dungheap
skylark

Dunglark is an exercise in dyslexia. Experimenting with more compact verse I had begun to notice that certain combinations of words or short phrases could exhibit a kind of mobility or modularity which generated multiple readings. The realisation that poetry might well be non-linear belongs to the blindingly obvious category of revelation: only blindingly obvious once it has been revealed.


Trentina #2 c. 1998

beyond the nothing
blanket of hill-fog
thought again begins
to form - a pylon
trees, some cows, a wall
solid in my mind

Una Trentina is Italian. It means something like A Sweet Thirty, the thirty in question being syllables, six lines, five to a line. I dreamt up the idea and wrote a score or more before realising that the five syllable line was too rigid to permit a natural turn of phrase. Form was dictating function. The particular poem itself may be of interest though. It was written on a foggy day and describes the moorland as it emerged from the murk. To that extent it is real-world observational, but the landscape works as a complex metaphor for the nature of cognition. Whatever that means.


zip #12 1999

my breath distends        the night's meniscus
                 no thought          breaks the surface

Ooops, another complex metaphor for the nature of cognition. Perhaps more to the point, this is a zip: 2 lines, 15 syllables, a floating line break, one caesura per line. Take an interest in syllabics, ditto short imagist poetry, ditto flexible but fixed form, add any number of angry (and nasty, and stupid) people shouting that it is impossible for English haiku to be anything other than three lines of free verse, and presto, you get a zip. This haiku analogue, as I referred to it, was so well received that I was accused of racism. If there’s anyone out there who can explain how, can they please get in touch. Actually no, don’t bother, I don’t care either way.


zip #1 1999

slowly I search     a field of flowers
       find nothing     but beauty

Of course the solution to the haiku/not haiku conundrum lies more in execution than in subject matter or verse form. But, in so far as it is not trying to be a complex metaphor for anything in particular, #1 here is probably more haiku-like than #12. That pay-off line-break is still contrived as hell though: nothing / but beauty. Ughh!


Para-thematic Quartet, the first four of Winter 2000

not a living thing
in this flat white sky,
a jackdaw calls

tinsel round the nut-roast
once again

Santa spies
a cute young elf
beneath the mirror ball

Windows™ crashing
on the stroke of twelve

The millennium bug. So much for all those experts. If non-standard approaches to haiku were controversial so was the status of linked verse. On the basis of moths and flames I found myself drawn to experimentation, in this case with words like para-thematic.


zip tanrenga #4 2001

                              at my back     the sunset
and the slow wave of the city     breaks

blowing free     the grey hairs     bid goodbye to me

Lots of people writing haiku in English also wrote tanka. Perhaps it was the greater level of juxtaposition between the two parts that directed me more towards solo tanrenga - a pointer to a later preference for linkage based on the Basho school.

In order to write zip links I had to invent a short stanza. In terms of form it's gratifying to see that, with the passage of time, the long stanza really does seem to work. As to the short...


Tobacco Road, closing movement 2002

Uncle Arthur
bladder bursting
fiddles
with his button flies

the taste of cockles
vinegar
and wrack

in the bulkhead
rows of rivets
burn away
the morning dew

a fractal city
spinning webs
of math

somewhere
down Tobacco Road
a click
on 'interracial'

immortal
as the King
of Rock and Roll

These four and three-liners are Quatrain and Tercet, according to my archive notes, complete with caps. More to the point though, Tobacco Road is a solo piece, and the overall structure is free form, but the style of linkage and continual evolution are straight out of the Big Boys' Book of Basho. What we see here is link and shift, the sine qua non of Shomon haikai no renga.

So begins my lost decade. In a trice I had abandoned solo verse, seduced by the puzzle of the fragmented way linked verse had struggled out from Japan.

There's no need to go into the grisly details. The internet is full of my bleatings and pontifications. There are even some elsewhere in these pages. But a couple of matters arising may be of wider interest. One is collaboration itself. Poetry isn't necessarily a lonely furrow. If you haven't tried writing collaborative verse I urge you to give it a try. Like everything else in life it can sometimes fall flat. But a good experience will be a revelation.



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