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Sunday, April 4, 2010

good news from the other world

I spent much of yesterday evening learning to edit video on my MacBook, using iMovie to add title screens and credits to the video from my reading last week. I've watched the video only once in its entirety, and I'm fine with my performance. There are a couple of things, though, that I'd change if I could ever learn to control my body.

When I get excited about what it is I'm saying, I tend to flail my arms, knock into things, spill drinks on the floor, etc. Anyone who knows me can attest to this fact. Well, I have a new feature to add to the flailing, and it is what E. affectionately refers to as my "pterodactyl hands." For some reason, I contort and curl my hands up as I gesticulate wildly. So this is something I'll need to work on. The other part I'd like to change is, well, too embarrassing to mention, but I'll do it anyway. Call it penance.

There's a point in my poem "Theodicy" that has the word "trying" in quotation marks, as in, "eighteen months of 'trying' become eighteen months / of failure." When I got to the "trying" during the reading, I...made, well, I made air quotes. I didn't know I'd done it. I swear. During our drive home, Emily told me I'd done this, and I almost didn't believe her. But now there is video evidence.

Thomas Lux w/o air quotes
I'm not against air quotes in poetry readings per se, but I think it's hard to do it well. This is an odd thing to day, but the only person I've ever seen do it well is Thomas Lux, and I think this is because it's part of his whole performance schtick. Saw Goldbarth make them once, too, and, if you know his poems, you might think that'd work, but not so much.

This is a long way of saying that I've been watching myself read my poems and speak about poetry, and about faith and doubt, and I'm realizing how convicted I am by what I said. The experience was encouraging and stabilizing.

The problem with doubt, for me, especially on days like today, Easter, is that it makes me feel left out. Waking up this morning, I thought I felt like I was missing something, but that's just not it. Today, I feel like I haven't been invited to something. Or like a boy whose been told to "be still," or "to be seen but not heard".

And so, I go to the poems....

Here's a favorite Easter poem. Who better to turn to when feeling like this but Father Wright?

from Looking Around

It's only in darkness you can see the light, only
From emptiness that things start to fill,
I read once in a dream, I read in a book
under the pink
Redundancies of the spring peach trees.
Old fires, old geographies.
In that case, make it old, I say, make it singular
In its next resurrection,
White violets like photographs on the tombstone of the yard.

Each year it happens this way, each year
Something dead comes back and lifts up its arms,
puts down its luggage
And says—in the same costume, down-at-heels, badly sewn—
I bring you good news from the other world.

One hand on the sun, one hand on the moon, both feet bare,
God of the late
Mediterranean Renaissance
Breaststrokes across the heavens.
Easter, and all who've been otherwised peek from their shells,

Thunderheads gathering at the rear
abyss of things,
Lightning, quick swizzle sticks, troubling the dark in-between.
You're everything that I'm not, they think,
I'll fly away, Lord, I'll fly away.

April's agnostic and nickel-plated and skin deep,
Glitter and bead-spangle, haute couture,
The world its runway, slink-step and glide.
Roll the stone slowly as it vogues and turns,
roll the stone slowly.

Charles Wright
from A Short History of the Shadow

And here's one from last week's reading. It's a really old poem, like about 10 years old. And though I'm told you can really hear a difference between the old poems when I read them and what what I'm writing these days, I'm also told that my ear is still the same, that they still sound like me, and that's good to know.

I hope to post more clips soon, once I get them all edited down. Right now, though, I'm just working on adding the tags to the longer play version so that I can get them burned to DVD and mailed off to those folks who requested them. I'm going to try to get that done this week, but with a busy week of teaching and grading, plus AWP on the horizon, it may need to wait a bit.


Luke said...

Enjoyed watching the clip. My dad was the Chaplain at Cornell for about twenty years and one time I asked him about the opposite of faith (thinking that surely whatever it was could accurately describe my religious leanings). He said: "Most people think it's doubt. It's not. The opposite of faith is certainty. Doubt is that which gives faith meaning." Anyway, done preaching for the day. Travel safe to AWP, hope to see you out there.

Josh said...

Luke, thanks for that reminder. I'll have to think on that some. I wonder if a more precise term for me to use would be "skepticism," though that doesn't seem to capture the emotion, the yearning, the wish, that I intend when I say "doubt." Really I'm trying to avoid the partisan ruts of religion and atheism. I do agree with "Doubt is that which gives faith meaning." During the Q&A, one of the questioners asked, "Do you have faith in your doubt?" I have to say the answer is "yes."