On Poetry, and Other Things

So my second semester of grad school finished out with two Ay Minuses, one Ay Regular. I’m fully convinced that there is extreme grade inflation due to the AM in Modernism, a class that met five times less than all the others, that I attended even less frequently, and for which I read essentially nothing. I’m also fully convinced that there was grade deflation for Experimental Women’s Poetry, my other AM, a class for which I read every single thing, participated like it was going out of style, administrated the blog, and attended out-of-school events. The AR was in the Fiction Workshop, which doesn’t mean much considering someone wrote “Microbe Waves” to describe the thing that nukes your leftovers.

But it really doesn’t matter! Good grades in an MFA program are only helpful if you want to get a job teaching as a grad student. Otherwise they’re like dating a secretly gay male model: Awesome to look at and flaunt to your friends and colleagues, but ultimately useless to you. Straight As do not a better writer make.

Anyway, I chose better classes this semester: Rennaissance Literature, Translation, and Poetry. The first two are going to be great, but the third is giving me extreme anxiety. Crazy as it may seem based on all the beauty that flows out of my mouth, I don’t think I’ve written a legit poem since I was forced to in my high school creative writing class, and even then it was not so much a poem as a free verse rant based on Ginsberg’s “America” (probably entitled “To Ginsberg: America”). I decided that I should take a stab at it in the off-season.

The thing is, I feel that poetry is kind of douchey. Either poems are about something miniscule or grand, both of which are sizes that are associated with pretention, in more fields than one. Yes, there are poems that I like, but on the whole, whenever I read poems, I just end up pissed off. I also tend to be irritated by poets. They’re either too happy or too sad, probably because they have to limit themselves to one emotion because the damn poems are too short. I feel like poets probably have an obnoxious drink that they drink and refuse to drink anything else, cultivating an eccentricity. Basil Hayden on the Rocks with a twist on an espresso plate, or something.

so I wrote a sestina. For those unaware, a sestina is a poem wherein the words follow a pattern in which certain lines have to end with the words that ended the lines of the original stanza. In other words, if the first six lines end in 123456, the second stanzas six lines must end with 615243, the third in 364125, etc etc etc. Elizabeth Bishop was decent at sestinas.

An emptiness pervades my cup of tea.
Pervades, perhaps, is not quite what I mean,
Nor cup of tea, but rather I should state
That all I have remains devoid of all.
I have but nothing nothing do I have,
Which pleases me but saddens me as well.

Upon the street I walk, not bad nor well.
I sip a steaming paper cup of tea
Which lists among the few things that I have.
A life which has been nothing short of mean
Has ravaged my possessions (some – not all),
Existence scattered far across the state

The country continent town city state.
Your claim to destination, just as well
That numbers, cards, certificates are all
We have to show: how do you take your tea?
Oh, coffee is it? You know what I mean
Two sugars and whole milk are all I have.

I’m taking stock of everything we have.
I realize it’s a volatile state
Of being that I’m in – not nice or mean
Or anything so simple, easy, well –
A complex red concoction mixed with tea,
Green stars, blue stripes, forever wave they all.

So what if I did tell you that was all
retaliation? You will never have
A chance to brew a proper cup of tea
For someone in a melancholy state
Or maybe one who’s just not feeling well.
It’s over, though, is what I really mean.

Though trying hard, I realize it is mean
To ask for all – not half, not some, but all –
The world to enter deep within. I mean
For universes, skies, and stars as well
All countries, towns, lakes, continents, a state
Of non-possession leads to having all.

So open wide, look up to light, all well
To mirth, to hate, to people good and mean

To birch bark, wine, to water, whisky, tea
Today we lose we win we do it all

A chance to go within and this to have
A chance to leave into a higher state.

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