Monthly Archives: April 2016

#221: Some Silly Translations for the 30th Day of the Month of April

I’m not really proud of my efforts here, only because it seems rather slight for a culminating poem.  I don’t speak Spanish, but my son and his school buddy Gracie are 4th graders in a bi-lingual immersion program, and they’re hanging out together on this last day of the month of April, so I enlisted their help for today’s napowrimo assignment: Write a poem in translation.  So, here’s a thing by Pablo Neruda, translated by 4th graders, and then translated again from the fourth grade into adult English using the google translator.

large

4th Graders:
Love is a trip with water and stars
and air and drowning
and _______ sand storms
love is a battle with
lightning bolts
umbrellas
two bodies for one dead skin

Mine:
Oh, love is a journey on water
and through stars; we drown in
its air and other rough weather.
Love is as fierce as lightning
upon two defeated bodies in honey.

Oh, jesus. That was terrible. I feel the need to redeem myself.  The other idea from napowrimo would be to take a foreign language poem for which you know absolutely nothing and to write a poem in English using words that approximate in sound the corresponding foreign words.  Let’s try that.  Here’s one from Tomas Transtromer:

Den halvfärdiga himlen

Modlösheten avbryter sitt lopp.
Ångesten avbryter sitt lopp.
Gamen avbryter sin flykt.

Det ivriga ljuset rinner fram,
även spökena tar sig en klunk.

Och våra målningar kommer i dagen,
våra istidsateljéers röda djur.

Allting börjar se sig omkring.
Vi går i solen hundratals.

Var människa en halvöppen dörr
som leder till ett rum för alla.

Den oändliga marken under oss.

Vattnet lyser mellan träden.

Insjön är ett fönster mot jorden.

Then Half For Dingo Henning on a Mottled Garden

More shame on you as you sit off,
angsty arbiter sitting off,
a gamey arbiter in flight.

That every jesuit in the frame
has spoken of this sickening junk.

Oh, very malnutrition common in dingos,
very astute satellite ears rotor router.

All things border on sick onions.
Vulgar stolen, a hundred tails.

Varmint ska in half open doors
some leader tilleth and runs for Allah.

Then, O Dingo, marks under floss.

That way lies the mellow trade-in.

Insomuch as it fosters a mottled garden.

 

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Poetry

#220: A Poem for Janine on the 29th Day of the Month of April

napofeature4

Do you remember, Janine,
when we were not yet
out of grade school,
how we used to play
at movie-making?
We had no cameras
or camcorders or iphones,
only our minds to record
the scenes conjured from
unbound imagination,
uninhibited and improvised,
film stars in a film no one
was watching nor would ever.
Sometimes we made your
sister be the monster and
we’d run away, but
other times, we took
ourselves and our project
very seriously.
I remember one scene
in particular. You played the
role of a mother and I was your son.
The context, the backstory,
the exposition is fuzzy, but I
remember that someone had
died, or there was some other kind
of absence, or an anticipation
of an absence: I remember now.
For some reason, I was leaving home.
There was no silliness or
childish theatrics; our intentions
were fierce and authentic
and whatever the words were,
the words we said to each other,
we believed them and allowed
ourselves to be moved.
I was saying goodbye to
my mother and we embraced
and we wept as if our lives
depended on it.
Maybe they did.

Leave a comment

Filed under Poetry

#219: A Backwards Story Framed as a Lesson on Fiction Writing for the 28th of the Month of April

napofeature2

The resolution might be that there is no resolution.
Let’s say for example that she can never be reconciled with her sister.
In the crisis moment we reach a turning point,
a confrontation, perhaps, or a situation from which there
is no turning around or escape and must ultimately change
things forever. Let’s say that as the woman challenges
her sister for allowing her daughter, the woman’s niece,
to borrow excessive amounts of money from her mother
and is met with denial and anger and abuse, the woman understands
that she must disown and disconnect this sibling
from her life entirely, and this is a choice she must
make for her own happiness and well-being and to protect
her 85 year old mother, susceptible to all kinds of manipulation.
A series of complications rachet up the drama of the central
conflict: secret meetings, lies from the grandmother
to her own daughter, insistences that everything is on the up and up
and lots of evidence to the contrary, unexplainable bills
paid for by the 85 year old, for example. First, one must
introduce a conflict, such as a situation in which a sister
who refuses to be involved in her mother’s life still
nevertheless wants to benefit from her mother’s largess
and need for approval from said estranged daughter, while
the responsible child, the woman, the hero of our story
plays interference on behalf of her mother and out of a sense
of familial justice. What follows may sound kind of formulaic,
but as you will see, for fiction writers looking for a sure-fire
framework on which to hang a story, it proves to be
quite serviceable most of the time.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Poetry

#218: Long Lines for the 27th of the Month of April

England - English Summer Woods

Because the spring beats its rhythm in the head of the school kids anxious for the arrival of Summer break,

because teachers are either counting the days or trying to hold them back, having way too much shit to do and not nearly enough time to do it,

because there’s the promise of music blaring from the stereo inside so that it can be felt outside in the yard while the kids play frisbee,

because we can bring beach chairs to the zoo for outdoor concerts and fireworks displays that sound like warfare even though we’ve been trained not to think of it that way,

because the bbq comes out of its detention in the garage and will live on the front porch for the next five months where it will be fired up every other day,

because the mowers will be out polluting the neighborhood with their beautiful ugliness, the smell of gasoline mixed with cut grass in the air like a rose,

because the trailers will be hitched and pulled to their idyllic destinations on the coast or in the woods where the campfires burn and campers sip bourbon from plastic cups,

because all camp is in session, horse camp, trackers camp, sports camp, band camp and camp of all camp for you, Mr. Jarmer: writers camp,

because the bugs will be out in force having skated through a stupidly mild winter completely unscathed and ready to rock and roll,

because we welcome the heat even while it frightens us and kills our grass and burns our skin,

because we can see the stars, we say welcome summer, come summer, bring it on, baby.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Poetry

#217: Poem on the 26th of the Month of April

48236f3d5fc9b12033ad54fce02f977f

My head is empty of poems;
instead it’s full
of Shakespeare,
trying to hold on to
my lines even though
the run is over.
I found myself
running some of
them today for
no other reason
than to see if I
could do it. My mind
is full of The Flaming Lips
because I’ve been
listening to them again
almost non-stop
and that’s why I’ve
made no progress
toward the G section
of the collection.
My head is full of
excitement about
drumming again.
And it’s full of dread,
too, because of
how behind I am
in my grading
as a result of that show
that sucked up
all my spare time
and for which I
have no regrets
because I am sure
that the sacrifices
I made in teaching
to make room to do
a Shakespeare play
more likely than not
made me a better teacher.
Sometimes I believe
(or know) that grading
is the least important
part of what I do and
that acting, drumming
and writing poems, all
those things that are
best for me, are also
the best things I could
be doing for my students.

 

1 Comment

Filed under Poetry

#216: This is just to say

Question-mark

This is just to say
I came home from work today
and had nowhere else to go.
No rehearsal, no show.
I moved straight into relaxation,
writing a poem my only obligation
and even that, I put off until now;
just goes to show you how:
having time now for almost anything I’d like to do,
I choose instead next to nothing, and wouldn’t you?

1 Comment

Filed under Poetry

#215: The Actor “Decides” the Last Scene is Four Lines Too Long and Does Some Spontaneous Editing On Stage

R&J Cast

Moving through the last show of the run,
it was hard to contain my happiness.
Through the first four acts I felt downright
giddy. It was difficult to suppress the smiles
and there was a kind of laughter inside,
too flattering sweet to be substantial.
I was happy the run was near an end but
simultaneously I felt a deep gratitude
for this great gift of an experience.
And I was having a great show,
my best performance to date, I thought.
But, lo, behold, in the last scene when
the Capulets and the Montagues all
descend on the crypt where the bodies
of Paris, Romeo, and Juliet lie, I knelt
down by my dead daughter, and then,
taking in the carnage and picking up
a cue, I was to deliver my penultimate
speech in the play:
“O heavens, O wife, look how our daughter bleeds.
This dagger hath mista’en, for lo, his house
is empty on the back of Montague and
is mis-sheathed in my daughter’s bosom.”
But, lo, alack the day, I was silent.
No words came from my mouth,
nor was I even aware that words
should be coming from my mouth.
I was aware, though, of a strange silence
on stage. I looked up at the actor playing
the Prince, and I thought, dude, say your
flipping line! But then my wife, dear
Lady Capulet, delivered the lines that
come immediately after mine and in that
moment I knew. So it was especially
difficult then, in the last 10 minutes of
the show, to stay out of  my head and
connected to the scene. Consequently,
after having had the best show thus far,
it ended for me in the worst way possible.
I know that’s not really true.
I know it could have been worse, and
that this Actor nightmare is nowhere
close to being the scariest.
The great boon, here, though, I realize,
is that very few people were aware of it.
A few cast members, perhaps, and not
a single audience member. Even if there
were people out there who knew the play
well enough to track the missing four lines,
they might have just chalked it up to a cut that
had been made pre-production, on purpose,
like. Nevertheless, the audience response
to the last show was overwhelmingly positive,
and afterwards, most of us found our way
to a cast party where the kids behaved
like happy puppies, the adults sipped
wine in the kitchen, and the Italian food
to celebrate the Bard’s birthday was abundant.

Leave a comment

Filed under Poetry

#214: Lord Capulet Interrogates Michael Jarmer in a Closing Night Sonnet

First things first: Happy birthday, Bill! It’s been a super rough year. The loss of Bowie, Rickman et. al., and just days ago now, the devastating loss of Prince, makes one super conscious of the fragility of life, especially when our heroes fall, heroes who seemed to us untouchable and timeless, almost god-like. But now, involved as I have been over the last 8 years of my life in a close relationship with the Bard from Stratford-apon-Avon, I am reminded how great art never dies. Right, Bill? “So long as men can breathe and eyes can see,” or ears can hear, “so long lives this, and this gives life to thee.” Bowie, Rickman, and Prince are still with us and every time we spin one of their records or see one of their films,
they are very much alive and well, just as Shakespeare is still, 451 years later, alive and well.

So, to celebrate the timelessness of great art, the final performance of Romeo and Juliet, to be a good napowrimo student, and to inadequately express my gratitude for all three, I pen today a sonnet, another persona poem from Lord Capulet. I fought a great battle against adding two more syllables in that final line. Iambic pentameter wins the day.

William-Shakespeare-portr-007

Lord Capulet Interrogates Michael Jarmer in a Closing Night Sonnet

So what did you to me bring forth and what
did I give you? Imagine that we are
one soul: why must I hate Montague gut?
And why, dear actor friend, is this young star,
this boy Paris, of such interest to me?
And why must I insist Juliet wed?
It’s clear, we don’t need his royal money
and did I not say those too early bed
are marred? It’s true, I contradict myself.
I know, in part, I hoped to quell her grief;
instead I heaped it on. Her mental health
disturbed, distressed. So actor, please, be brief:
Your task demands that you do know me well;
What kind of father makes for daughter hell?

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Poetry

#213: Ode to Tech (a prose poem)

Ode to Tech

They spin a revolving stage that weighs hundreds of pounds a dozen times every night, some with their bare hands. They sit in the dark wearing headphones whispering cues and following script. They perch in the heat near the ceiling behind hot spotlights that focus the audience’s attention in every single moment, or they seclude themselves inside a booth in front of a console where they operate the faders for light and sound. They sew buttons. They keep track of everything. They know the show better than some of the actors. And they are quiet. In long stretches of the play when nothing needs to be done, they read novels in the dark. They wear black so no one can see them.

No one can see them.

They are heroes, every one, and to commemorate their contribution, someone has drawn lovely cartoon portraits of each team as if they were members of rock and roll groups: The Revolvers, The Lighting Crew, and Da Booth. At curtain call, they’re off stage, or otherwise out of sight, while the cast gestures off left and then out toward the top of the house to direct the audience’s applause and appreciation. I sing the praises for these invisible stars of the show, without whose help, there would be no show.

1 Comment

Filed under Poetry

#212: Rosaline Goes to an Old Accustomed Feast

napofeature2

Today’s napowrimo suggestion is to write a poem in the point of view of a minor character in a folktale or myth. I choose neither. Because Shakespeare:

Rosaline Goes to an Old Accustomed Feast

I was on the guest list and I decided to go
even though I knew he would be there.
I wanted no awkward moments but I trusted
there would be none. I think I convinced him
that between he and I there could be no hope
of anything like an enduring relationship,
let alone the kind of fling thing
for which these boys in Verona are so keen.
I let him down as easily as I could, or rather,
I devised, I must confess, a diversionary tactic,
one against which there could be no response
or argument. I told him I have sworn
that I will still live chaste, forever celibate,
no monkey business, that soon I would be on
my way to a nunnery where the concerns
of worldly desires and the dangers of menfolk
would be far away. This was a lie. Frankly,
I’m really looking forward to the mystery dance,
but, truth be told, even though he’s pretty good
looking for a Montague, I won’t do it with him.
I just don’t like that guy. He’s flighty,
too much like a boy, his friends are creepy,
and by the looks of his behavior at the Capulet
shindig, he’d be about as faithful to a woman as a
honey bee to a single daisy. Never have I been one to gloat,
but truthfully, Paris is the man that floats my boat.

.

1 Comment

Filed under Poetry