A poem from a few years ago, though one I’ve revisited again and again. Last year I attended a workshop at the Kachemak Bay Writer’s Conference in Homer, AK and there was a fantastic session called, Borderlands: crossing genre lines and creating new forms which was taught by Eva Saulitis. I brought “Medicene” to the workshop with the intention of re-working it and sharing it with the group. The poem changed shape drastically during this workshop as did the poem “A Sudden Decision” which follows.
(inspired by “Adaptation” a film based on The Orchid Thief by Susan Orlean)
Last night, a man in a movie told me, “as a screenwriter you first have to identify your genre” and I want to know, does the same apply to writers less concerned with the screen? did Shakespeare fashion himself a dramatist and perhaps scoff at the acclaim given him by poets everywhere whom heard their own voices become magic when singing sweet soliloquies in their sleep?
poets dreaming in mid-summer
beneath hot sheets-
I’m not usually one to ponder greatly things said by men in movies but this one
pressed the urgency of examining questions of genre because this film, as do all mind flexing films, defied the very classification the characters
suggested we take
a closer look
what can be said about a movie about a screenwriter trying to adapt a book into a movie? our writer tells us, “the writer is telling about the first cell division on the first day of life on this planet and that the viewer’s existence is entirely dependent on that first adaptation.”
a writer, a mirror, endless sky and swamp
the allusive ghost orchid
and what can be made of
my own drifting of form
from wide paragraphs of prose
cascading verse-like spells
do I fashion myself
if a poem
can be salvaged
from the dusty ruins
of an abandoned short story
then yes, I can
call myself a poet
and know that
are a hardwood heart
hacked from the rotten bark jacket
of a mountain ash
fallen in a hillside creek
water washes away excess
scavenged from wet hillside forest
taken home to dry
dry hardwood becomes
and hot air
in a black iron box
snap and swirl
soot smoke moat
pen in hand castle
laid across paper bark
on the stone hearth of the stove
But what about Bukowski? What genre better suits the telling of his
L.A. nightmare? His whores? His fuckmachines?
I’ve read his poems, stories, novels, my mind full of raw realism,
the pain of his living dead dreamers spitting dead end dreams
into bourbon bottles full of piss.
I refuse to sort these images into files according to genre. I have read the man’s words, words.
perhaps Alexi’s work is a better example of what I’m so fired up about
the first words I find on the cover of Alexi’s short story collection are poetry…
Tonto and the Lone Ranger, fistfight in Heaven
not just a title
but an invocation
what I want to know is
When Sherman Alexi applies for a job
what does he write down as his previous employment
Indian? Poet? Storyteller?
I call Alexi a medicine man
making words, magic and medicine
the Movies got hold of
some of his words too
made them into a film full of
Indians telling stories
that some believe
and others turn their backs too
one Indian says to another, “Dammit Thomas, why are you always talking like a goddam medicine man?”
Thomas Builds a Fire talks like a medicine man because
WORDS ARE THE MEDICINE!
One need not wrap such precious objects in junk called genre.
His was a sudden decision, though not hasty, as he took one step
across the line
dividing the world
but when remembering his transcendent dance, such a simple two-step, he could only recall the colors in which his eyes painted the world, not the medium chosen, only the color.