Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Sheryl St. Germain on The Stars,the Snow, the Fire

A director of the MFA program in Creative Writing at Chatham University, Sheryl St. Germain had a recent article in The Writers Chronicle speaking of John Haines memoir. An interesting passage was that she felt she was "reading a poem disguised as an essay, a poem that changed into comfortable clothes, invited me in for a drink, a poem whose language promised me the depth and nuance and metaphor and music of poetry..."

The poet in me naturally considers the intriguing inverse as a nifty gauntlet to hurl at ourselves. Who would be considered the great poets among us who compose an "essay disguised as a poem?"

I think Khalil Gibran's "The Two Cages" is one of the great classics in this area. There, within 46 words we have an immensely profound essay on the human and cosmic experience.

Because Asian poetics tend to go either excruciatingly epic or striking in their brevity such as the haiku, ca dao, kanshi, sijo or ci, for example, it provides a distinct challenge.

One might well argue that the majority of Basho's haikus could be considered such,or perhaps Li Po's "A Farewell To Secretary Shuyun At The Xietiao Villa In Xuanzhou." Saymoukda Vongsay is reaching towards it in her poem "When Everything Was Everything."

Now, we could also take St. Germain's passage to the full inverse and ask what would an Asian American essay disguised as a poem be like, especially one that "changed into formal wear, snubbed you for happy hour during New Year's, whose language promised you shallowness and breadth and literalness and unimaginative atonality..." but here it would be improper for me to suggest candidates.

I tend to advocate that a form should be its form. A poem is a poem for a reason and not merely a short story with punctuation and layout problems. A movie should be something that would translate poorly into a book. A book should do what movies cannot. Still, all forms of art do well to learn from each other, and now, I'm off to consider how Lao Americans might truly push this concept in our poetics.

No comments: