A number of blogging friends have asked about the process I went through to create and produce my podcasted The Creator: A Poem for Three Voices and One Person and so I wrote this in an email to Bonnie and figured I might as well share it through the blog.
I heard the voices in my head, quite literally. I was working with my
students on Poems for Two Voices (see this link) and figured they were having fun and so should I. Two years ago, I wrote a very cool Poem for Two Voices about Math and Writing, and then the math teacher and I read it aloud for the entire school one morning. But can I find the poem? No. Can he? No. (I am very frustrated).
So I decided to write a new one about a few of the views that I have of myself as a writer (short story writer/music composer/poet), and then thought, I might as well be all the voices, too, since I am all of the writers in the poem. I used Audacity (free open source mixing software) for the sound layering and it seemed easier in my head than it was in reality.
First, I had to read the first voice part and leave enough time and gaps for the other voices. What I was doing was reading and listening to the ghost voices in my head as I read. The second voice had its own difficulties. I had to make sure the words fit the gaps that I left AND that when words were to be in unison, that I phrased my words as close to the first “me” as possible. Turns out that first “me” wasn’t so thoughtful about how words were articulated and I found myself cursing myself at my imprecision. Darn it!
The third voice was just as tricky, except now I had two other “me”s to be impatient with, and neither one of those other “me”s seemed to know what they were doing. It was quite a quiet argument brewing in my head. My original intent had been to mess with the voices with some effects to differentiate the “sounds” of me, but I didn’t have the time nor inclination at that point. So I am relatively happy with the final result but not completely happy.
And maybe I should have added playwright and made it a perfect square of four voices. 🙂
If YOU have a poem for multiple voices that YOU want to share, I would love to learn from you, too. Or maybe you should give it a try. I can also imagine (in the back of my head) how people could do multiple voice poems from across the Net, by sending Audacity files to one another … hmmmm.
Peace (with a process),
I just came across a mention of a site called QuickMuse, which captures poetry as it is being written by famous poets. They have 15 minutes to compose a poem based on a theme, or quote, or idea, and then QuickMuse captures the writing process, making the creation of a poem somewhat transparent.
Want to see what I mean?
Poet Robert Pinsky was given this quote:
“He was an intellectual. He used to read novels, poetry, history, stuff like that. And he could hold a conversation with almost anybody on all kinds of things…. He was real sensitive. But he had this destructive streak in him that was something else…. [H]e used to talk a lot about political shit and he loved to put a motherfucker on, play dumb to what was happening and then zap the sucker. He used to especially like to do this to white people.”
–Miles Davis on Charlie Parker
Now watch Pinsky write the poem.
And here is the finished piece.
Very cool, although how finished the poem is is a question, and how much did the pressure of the clock play into his writing process. It would be nice to read his reflection of the experience, too (or better, hear him podcasting his experience).
Peace (inside the poem of Charlie Parker),
I am reading aloud a new book to my older boys. It is the newest edition of the Magic Tree House series by Mary Pope Osborne. They are getting a bit old for the series but they still enjoy hearing them and I am going to hold on to that experience as long as I can. Anyway, in this particular book, the main characters — Jack and Annie — are back in the time of Ancient Japan, and they have met an older man who is respected by everyone he meets and they think he is a great warrior. What they find out is that he is a great poet and that writers were respected by warriors at a level not quite seen these days.
“Yes, the samurai greatly honor the art of poetry,” said Basho. “Poetry helps focus the mind. The samurai believe a truly brave warrior should be able to compose a poem even in the midst of an earthquake, or while facing an enemy on the battlefield.” — (p.61)
Peace (without the battlefield),
This is another poem in my effort to write and publish at least one poem every month for an entire year. This particular poem was inspired by watching my youngest son struggle to get his jacket on one day (poor kid).
Boy Versus Jacket
lights up his face
his arm struggling against the suffocating fabric
as the seamless entry shifts, disappears, shifts, reappears, shifts, disappears again,
so he turns on me
as if I were the one casting some invisible net all around him
– a sinister Spiderman of a sort–
confounding his efforts in an premeditated move
to listen to him scream.
If only he knew …
I watch helpless as he drops like a rock
prone horizontal to the ground,
legs kicking with a power all out of proportion to his age,
the wail of anguish suddenly pulsating up from his chest
out through his lips, and right into my brain.
Meanwhile, his sworn enemy – the winter jacket – waits on the ground
patiently – waiting for another round against the boy
and already silently declaring victory.
Listen to me read Boy Versus Jacket Boy Versus Jacket
You can also read and listen to the other poems in this series.
Peace (with poetry),
I just got a poem of mine published at a site called The New Verse News.
The poem, called Incognito: Front Lines, was written for a friend of mine who was in the Middle East as a military police officer and the poem was inspired by the publication of some written memories of soldiers in The New Yorker magazine. Thousands of soldiers are taking part in a large project to document the experience of the war in Iraq through writing and the magazine published bits and pieces of some of that writing. It was very powerful and shocking, and emotional unnerving.
I wrote my poem this summer and then used the e-Anthology to get feedback from the National Writing Project teachers to revise it, and so I thank everyone who helped me along the way.
You can read a copy of my poem or listen to it, too. Incognito
Peace (for real),
This is the second installment of a poem for my OnPoEvMo Poetry Project.
There’s a poem buried in my backyard:
something left behind by someone else
who used to live here —
someone whose coffee cups are now just broken shards forced to the Earth’s surface
every spring by the frost heaves,
along with discarded bones from some old dog or wayward cat
or maybe a perfectly good person whose time just ran out.
I wouldn’t exactly call it treasure – these ceramic, organic tokens from the past —
except for the poem:
the poem that remains buried there in the fertile soil
– I can hear its Siren call late at night when my mind races
and my pen only writes in the ink of invisibility and forgetfulness —
I have the map but the shovel?
The shovel is nowhere to be found.
Listen to me read the poem Buried
(This is the first installment of my One Poem Every Month for One Year project)
Talking Billy Collins Blues
I called on Billy Collins last night
And he asked me outright if I was disturbed
To which I replied,
Yes, slightly, sorry for the intrusion
but how do you write a poem every month for a year
And where do I look for lost words — the ones I have misplaced with time?
Billy slipped me a piece of paper when we were done talking
leaving me alone with nothing much but that paper.
I could just make out some red ink scribbles and a few doodles
when I held that thin skin of a tree up to the light
and let the paper become a translucent buffer between me
and the muse.
I held Billy Collins in my hand for hours,
nursing him like the last drink of the night when daylight is looming,
afraid to even look
because if it did hold the key then my search would be over
and why write poems after that?
So I crumpled Billy up and tossed him into the street bin
(apologizing profusely for being so impolite)
and I chased my own shadow all the way back home
in the darkness of memories.
And that’s when I really began to write.
Listen to me read my poem Talking Billy Collins Blues
I wrote a poem in Binary Code.
Can you read it?
(See hint below)
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To read my poem, copy the code and head to Digitalicious
to convert to words.
As part of the ongoing SixWordStory project I have launched with the tech folks in the National Writing Project network, I got inspired to create a Found Poem that uses all of the words posted so far in the Wiki adventure.
Are you curious about what I found?
Head to the Found Poem and/or listen to me read the poem.
At a workshop on creating a student-centered Poetry Cafe during this past weekend’s Best Practices in the Teaching of Writing at Western Massachusetts Writing Project, a participant told me that I just had to “discover Taylor Mali” and so I went searching for him and found his home on the ‘Net.
Taylor Mali is a slam poet, a teacher, a fast-talking preacher of words that flow from inside the soul, an advocate for education, and intense dedication to the cause of language flowing off the tip of the tongue for the old and the young … (hmmm, slipped in some of my own flow there for ya) and his strange yet very admirable mission is to use poetry to recruit teachers into public schools. He has set a mark of 1,000 teachers (he’s at 145 and tries to keep track of them via a blog).
Mali has gained some fame with his poem “What Teachers Make” and on his site, he notes how many unauthorized versions are now scattered throughout the Web, with little or no reference to the author/poet.
“Am I disappointed not to have received credit for writing this poem that has inspired so many? Used to be. But the truth will always come out in the end. And if I had to choose between inspiring teachers anonymously or not inspiring them at all and, I would choose anonymous inspiration every time.” — Taylor Mali
So go to his site, listen to his voice on his podcasts, read his words and, if you are inspired, buy one of his What Teachers Make pens to support the cause of the conversion of poetry, language and teaching. And if his words inspire you to enter teaching, let him know so you can be counted, too.