Take the poem “Qualm”, from A GENERAL (Norton, 97 pages, $26.95)by Ari Banias:
Patient. Gets angry and is told “be patient.”
Birds with orange heads and dusty bodies hovered over power lines.
Poet explains a patient is “a sufferer.”
Underneath the highway tunnel, an overturned chair in the dense weeds
towards which a misplaced tenderness arises.
There’s a believable joy in setting a pattern and then breaking it, the way Banias goes on three lines ending with a nested two sentences. But the extra gap remains. The gaps suggest that the link between observation and perception is fragile – there is a sort of Humean doubt in the poem about causality. That misplaced tenderness wasn’t necessarily due to the overturned chair.
The poem continues to piece together and accumulate impressions, paired images (“Where a light hole in the cloud closes / inner pant legs and shoes and life jackets flare up on the beach”) and factual statements (“My mother lives above this beach. She watches them.”) And the poet’s thoughts (“Four drops of old paint / on the window pane I look / look at, not see through ”…“ Open date comes out as a tablet, / one side mirror / one side powder. ) ). I love how this method mimics memory and evokes both the scene and the mood – a mind in space-time, a person in motion during the day.
In “Fountain,” composed in the same style, Banias describes the vague, not entirely unpleasant alienation of an unfamiliar place: “A motorbike passes by, French police sirens / you say sounds innocuous and we both laugh bitterly. / I haven’t seen a woman slap a child in a while. / A truck is backing up and the alarm goes on for hours one morning. / Porn on a handheld device, its small echo in a room / with bare floors and very little furniture. Once again there is a pattern, and a pattern that breaks: streams of images and then the poet’s consciousness intersect, with surprising insight or the question: “You only know how to love? someone else / like someone who knows how to paint those windows red?” “I don’t know this word for because. / So each action is disconnected from the other. ”
There is a passage in Rilke’s “Letters to a Young Poet” that I have thought about often since I read it. In his first letter to the student who wrote to him for guidance, Rilke offers the most direct special instructions on how to write a poem:
“As if no one has ever tried, try saying what you see and feel, love and lose. … Describe your sorrows and desires, the thoughts that pass through your mind, and your belief in some beauty – describe all of these with sincere sincerity, silence, humility and when you express yourself, use the things around you, the images from your dreams and the objects that you remember. “
There are countless ways to write a poem, but this recipe is timeless and perfect – describe your sadness and desires of course, but let the poem thinkand provide it with Things. The specific combination of objects, ideas and emotions that make up a poem is a preparation for all one’s lyrical decisions.
https://www.nytimes.com/2022/01/25/books/review/elisa-gabbert-lyric-decision-poetry.html Deciding on the lyrics: How poets envisioned what would happen next