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Monday, December 20, 2010

Blogger buried in poetry avalanche . . . new poem found in the rubble

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Her family had warned her, but it made no difference. The stack of poetry books on the table by her red leather chair grew and grew, as if in competition with the Christmas tree by which it loomed. It happened gradually, as things do, one book pulled from the bookcase and added to the pile one week, two more the next, and then another, and another. Finally one day, the inevitable happened. It was just before Christmas, the house aglow with candle spirits. A spicy Cabernet had been poured. The woman in the red chair hunkered down for an evening's read under the alpenglow of her poetry mountain, the crackle and hiss of the woodstove in her ears. But alas, when she slid Keats out from the foundation, the whole damn tower tumbled and buried our poor sitting duck. When they dug her out, a miracle had occurred. She lived! And the volumes of poems had coalesced into a condensed Pompeii of a poem, layered and conglomerate. Two lines of poetry from each book had tumbled out from precisely the pages where their bookmarks were tucked, not one page in either direction, beautifully inscribed through some unknown alchemy on a page of freshly scraped parchment. And, these couplets were joined in exactly the order in which the books had been stacked (except that rebel Bukowski tried to get to the bottom after being on the top; he's a reverse elitist, you know).

Our bruised and concussed woman has requested the help of her blog friends to interpret the mystery revealed in these aggregated lines before she sends them off to Dan Brown. She feels there must be great portent after a near poetic death by suffocation. Please read the mystery poem and leave your interpretation (or get well wishes) in the comment box.

(You will find a list of poems, poets and the volumes of poetry in the Babel-rabble (or is it Babel-rubble?) at the bottom of this post, with links to the poems that are available online. There is a podcast of the poem here, which somehow begins to make sense of these joined couplets.


Avalanche Poem
          a conglomerate of couplets from fifteen poems by other poets

Twas the night before Christmas
when all through the house

The tastes come from afar
and slowly grow nameless on the tongue

There is a hidden sweetness in the stomach’s emptiness.
We are lutes, no more, no less. If the soundbox

Misquote me and cause confusion, there is a voice that
doesn’t use words. Listen

He says, “There is nothing left of me.
I’m like a ruby held up to the sunrise.

Once I looked inside
the darkness

as the shadows assume
shapes

The nights are not made for the masses.
Night divides you from your neighbor,

Once in a while someone will make a pronouncement
about the movement of the stars, the density of silence,

and in the wild transparency submerged
your celestial geometry of flight.

Those who have chosen to pass the night
Entertaining friends

What we call the beginning is often the end
And to make an end is to make a beginning

A quiet family, one mother one father one
toddler, around them the breath of the earth,

The house settles down on its haunches
for a doze.

O magic sleep! O comfortable bird,
That broodest o’er the troubled sea of the mind

- by the following poets . . .

Listen to a podcast of this found poem here, recorded by the recovering woman of the avalanche.

Couplets are from the following poems and books, in the order that the books were stacked (except for that rebel Bukowski), and only lines from poems at the place of each bookmark were magically contributed to the new poem:

"A Visit from St. Nicholas" - Clement Moore, Christmas Poems
"Summer Fruit" - Rainer Maria Rilke, A Year with Rilke
"Fasting" - Rumi, A Year with Rumi
"Being Slow to Blame" - Rumi, The Soul of Rumi
"The Sunrise Ruby" - Rumi, Rumi: The Book of Love
"The Hermit Crab" - Mary Oliver, New and Selected Poems
"Cornered" - Charles Bukowski, You Get So Alone at Times That it Just Makes Sense
"Human Beings at Night" - Rainer Maria Rilke, The Book of Images
"The First Geniuses" - Billy Collins, Questions About Angels
"Not Alone the Albatross" - Pablo Neruda, Selected Poems
"Violent Storm" - Mark Strand, Reasons for Moving
"Four Quartets" - T.S. Eliot
"Unknown" - Sharon Olds, The Unswept Room
"Afternoon in the House" - Jane Kenyon, Otherwise
"Endymion" - John Keats, The Complete Poems
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64 comments:

Vagabonde said...

The poem I know because I read it so many times to our girls is the first one by Moore. Some of the other quotes are very pretty and I’ll locate the books to read them. I also have a pile of books, but by my bed and last night my cat jumped on it and it came tumbling down too – mostly travel books at this stage – ready for the next trip…. I hope you placed ice on the bruise parts of your body where the books hit you? Or maybe just go outside and roll in the snow..

Bonnie said...

Love your Babel-rabble Ruth! I will have to come back and read it a second time before daring to offer any interpretation. The human mind can form connections of meaning with almost anything so you have given us all a delightful, fun task.

I recall reading that David Bowie often received letters from fans saying they had deciphered the secret meaning or code from the lyrics in some of his songs. He then revealed how several were composed: he often cut up lines from a newspaper article or from his own letters or diary. He tossed the cut up lines around and then randomly formulated them into his 'deep' lyrics. Interesting how meaningful they can become to a person when set to throbbing musical strains!

I will re-read your codified compilation and decipher your secret message ...

This is like a prose rorschach!

Bonnie said...

Should read 'poetic rorschach' - I was thinking of words as opposed to inkblots!

The Bug said...

LOL - I can just see you buried in the rubble... I'm not sure I can give meaning to the result, but like Vagabond some of the couplets intrigue me - I'll have to check the whole poems out.

Kamana said...

oh i have been on the lookout for some good poetry books... i am looking at your titles and going straight over to amazon to see if i can place an order :)

The Solitary Walker said...

That post was such fun. Very clever and witty. I enjoyed it immensely. I liked your découpage - or perhaps I might say glacial moraine - of a poem. (Immediately Kathy Acker's cut-up techniques came to mind.) Glad you escaped with only minor bruising - you know, sometimes those tottering towers of verse feel they have a poetic licence to kill..! As for an interpretation, it's quite beyond me, but for God's sake don't approach Dan Brown. He'll only make the whole thing into a sensational, badly researched, poorly written bestseller, and you'll just feel jealous.

Margaret Bednar said...

...ah, love the above "poetic license to kill". LOL Will is home this week, maybe I will ask what he thinks of this. I shall do my best to rise to the challenge. (I just bought Rilke's "Book of Images".

Pat said...

You are quite the clever writer! I love your poem conglomeration! And your picture is great! I'm going to make my daughter read this! She loves poems!

Ginnie said...

To me, Ruth, the whole poem makes perfect sense, as though it were meant to come together just like that. :) You couldn't have done that if you had tried, and that's saying something. But then, YOU picked the couplets from each page in each book. YOU found the thoughts/words to connect them. There's synchronicity as well as sense to all of it. And I LOVE it. :)

Ginnie said...

....oh, but I forgot to say that I do hope you are okay. ARE YOU???

Oliag said...

How clever Ruth!

For me your poem conglomerate has managed to talk of the night and the voices in the night that keeps one awake and the peace that eventually falls when finally "...not a creature is stirring..." A song of the insomniac and the peace that comes with sleep:)

Gwei Mui said...

Thank you Ruth what amazing post

Bonnie said...

This configuration of unrelated (seemingly) couplets speaks to me of the fertile void available to us in the darkness of night, the silence of home, the density of emptiness, the voice of family - how the mind can claim this time of year's end to gestate on a new beginnings with all the inherent possibilities.

Great fun - you allow us to project our current preoccupations on your avalanche of verse!

photowannabe said...

Your conglomorate of words was like honey to my tongue. I loved getting lost in the waves of thoughts.
Thanks for sharing and I'm glad you survived the avalanche.

Dan Gurney said...

Wow, lovely conglomeration!
It feels so artful, like a collage, a mosaic of poetry. I love it. Thanks for sharing.

Now, I have to ask. Did it really happen as haphazardly as you relate in your opening paragraph, or are you pulling our legs just a bit?

ds said...

A poem found in an avalanche--love it! It sounds (literally) as though you came through unscathed...and yes, I believe it to be a poem of and for the night.

Between you and Susan, "A Visit from Saint Nicholas" is never going to look the same ;)

Jeanie said...

Ha! I have a couple of closets like that, and a cupboard with tupperware, which fortunately doesn't hurt when it lands on your head.

Glad you lived and love the poem.

Catching up with you. I've missed blogging!

California Girl said...

Your imagination intrigues me. How do you think of these things?

Love the photo "A Mind of Winter".

Especially love the David McCullough quote. I struggle with the "think clearly" part...daily.

Merry Christmas!

George said...

Fun and creative, Ruth, but I'm afraid I cannot decipher the mystery from the Babel-rabble. As you can appreciate, however, I have a special fondness for the Eliot couplet, reminding us that "to make and end is to make a beginning," which, incidentally, would make an appropriate toast as we leave 2010 and ring in the new year.

Oh said...

first, I love the picture.
Then I love the humor (because I know you really are all right and not harmed by the avalanche) and Babel - rabble!!!! wonderful.

Now, to the mystery. Well, I've read it several times and I know that the beginning nearly ties to the end, or at least to the stanza just before the ending one, where the house is dozing. Now all I have to do is decipher the middle.
This always took me some time in lit classes. Except French lit where I could depose easily for some reason.

I don't know; I love a mystery. I love a poem which is, in itself always a mystery. And then you made a podcast?

You rock, Ruth!!!

Merry Christmas!

Nathalie said...

The story and the photo are as good as the final poem. How very creative.
But what really amazes me today is your top banner. I hadn't visited your blog in a little while so the banner just threw itself at me. I'm not sure why I find it so moving but it speaks to me in a very deep way.

No snow here yet, although it's all over northern France.

Merry Christmas to you!

Ruth said...

Vagabonde, oh you dear lucky resourceful woman, another trip! I still haven't read your most recent post, but I will today. I loved the one before . .

(My stack of books falling is as true as these lines of poetry magically appearing on the page. I saw the infernal tower and my imagination ran away with me.)

Ruth said...

Bonnie, thank you for your beautiful interpretation (the later comment). I really like it! Those are the same things I felt, the progression through the darkness and the rich world awaiting us, to start fresh each morning. I especially love the final lines from Keats . . . sleep really can work its magic over the troubled sea of the mind.

As for David Bowie, I understand and appreciate his way of finding words and attributing his own meaning. I have done this with my own poems and it's not only fun but also can be very meaningful.

Ruth said...

Hi, Dana, what happened in my imagination was quite traumatic. :)

There is some good stuff here in these poems, do check them out, and the volumes they're in.

Ruth said...

Kamana, I feel you can't go wrong with any of these! But then I'm pretty attached (ha) to my poetry mountain.

Ruth said...

Thank you, Robert, I'm so glad you enjoyed it. I had a lot of fun when I looked at that tottering tower and suddenly realized there might be a way to cut lines out of each book and gel them into a new poem. I agree with Margaret, the "poetic license to kill" is brilliant! :)

Dan Brown's success goes to show how much fun people have reading about mystery, especially when they hope some of it might be true. Thanks for the intro to Kathy Acker, what an interesting life and body of work. We all gather inspiration from somewhere else, nothing is truly original, whether we literally cut words and lines from another or not. Robert Kelly has taken Percy Bysshe Shelley's poem Mont Blanc and written new words and lines into, creating a new poem, which is very interesting.

Ruth said...

Hi, and thanks, Margaret. I agree, Robert's James Bond phrase cracked me up. Enjoy Will while he's home. I imagine the two of you being very creative. And I am quite sure you will enjoy Rilke's Book of Images -- beautiful!

Ruth said...

Hi, Pat! Thank you very much. If your daughter comes up with an insight into the mystery of this found poem, I'd like to hear it.

Ruth said...

Yay, Boots, I'm happy you agree that it makes sense!

Yes, I am fine, though in my imagination I could have been much, much worse . . .

Ruth said...

Oliag, I relate to your interpretation! :)

Ruth said...

Thanks, Gwei Mui!

Ruth said...

Hi, Sue! I'm gratified that you agree with me about these words being honey on the tongue. When I read them aloud, I just had to record them. Good writing is a pleasure. Each of the poems these lines came from is beautiful and I love reading them aloud.

Ruth said...

Dan, how great, I'm glad you enjoyed this found poem.

It happened exactly as I wrote . . .

. . . sort of. Well not exactly. More like . . . I saw the tower of books and my imagination started . . .. The absolute true part is that I found two lines from poems that were at the bookmark in each of the 15 books. It went quickly as I built each choice off the last choice, and it really did feel random and coincidental while also somewhat intentional.

Ruth said...

DS, I was intrigued by the progression of night in this found poem. Hey, we could begin a Found Poem meme. :)

Ruth said...

Hi, Jeanie! I missed you too, was just wondering what you are up to yesterday. I hope you get some extra time off this week and next. It's quite wondrous to be off two full weeks.

Ruth said...

Good question, California Girl. When I come up with an answer to your mystery question, I'll let you know. :)

Thanks, that "A Mind of Winter" photo was on a very big snowstorm day at my university a few years ago. And the McCullough quote is a simple and true statement that I like a lot too. Merry Christmas to you and yours, CG!

Ruth said...

Thanks, George. Yes, I see George in those Eliot lines, and what a good toast they are for the new year, you're right! I'm looking forward to more Eliot, and other, beautiful conversations with you in 2011.

Ruth said...

Hello, Oh. Thank you. How interesting that you find French easier to depose (great word). For me, this found poem is more about the mystery of the night than any direct meaning we might look for. Of course poems don't have to mean anything, that was just me getting carried away with the imaginary moment and Dan Brown silliness. I made a podcast after reading these lines aloud and loving the sound of the words and the feel of them. So much of learning to write better is reading and listening to better writing!

Thank you so much, Oh, and Merry Christmas to you and yours!

Ruth said...

Bonjour, Nathalie! It's wonderful to see you. Wow, I'm touched by your response to the banner, thank you. Maybe you feel my love of winter, which goes very deep in me. Poor Europe is really getting intense winter weather. I hope you will stay warm and safe.

Merry Christmas, Nathalie, and Happy New Year!

who said...

Ruthi, I cannot really get into all the iffs ann annz, are you the juniorist mother? (the youngest mother? as written according to traditional American English)

Ruth said...

Yep, Dusti, that's why they call me Junior . . .

:)

Shari Sunday said...

I don't know what has happened to my comments lately. I must stick around and make sure they get posted. I love your poem better each time I read it. It is a great Christmas poem, speaking of peace and silence and an inner knowing beyond words, and comforting and sweet in the end.

Ruth said...

Shari, oh, too bad. I know you said something last time too. I got rid of word verifications and everything too.

I'm glad you came back to re-read the poem. I've been doing the same, and there is something special about these lines put together, some resonance that I really don't have anything to do with, except that I happened to grab lines and link them. Like you I'm finding comfort in the silence of it.

Jane Lancaster said...

Ruth..beauty abounds in this post. The photo and the idea.. And the introduction to new poems and blogs..thank you so much for this generous treat.

Ruth said...

Well thank you, Jane, I'm touched that you found such things here. I was intrigued by the blogs where I found these poems too. There are always so many tangents, and you never know which ones will shape your life . . .

neighbor said...

Ruth, this is such an amusing post ;-) I like poetry soup!

Ruth said...

Hi, Neighbor. Thank you. I'm glad you like it. I'm finding that the flavors are blending nicely over time too.

Terresa said...

Love this avalanche of words, from many of my favorite writers, no less.

Merry seasons to you & yours, Ruth, and may you have time enough to love and visit and read and wander through verse...

Tess Kincaid said...

Wonderful casserole of poets. Your poetry book stack is nearly as tall as mine! Merry Christmas to you and yours, Ruth.

Loring Wirbel said...

I have a bigger problem - there are so many insanely great poems being written on a daily basis by prolific online poets like Kushal Poddar, Gillian Prew, Carolyn Srygley-Moore, that I've almost given up reading printed poetry. Gillian asked Kushal why something hadn't been published, and he said, "But it has, right here, the paper is all but irrelevant."

Marilyn's publishing a chapbook of mine in February, but I almost see that as irrelevant, per Kushal.

Loring Wirbel said...

Oh, and I do love me some couplets, yes indeedy-do!

Bella Rum said...

I'm so glad you survived the avalanche. What a nice, little gift for us.

I always think we need more book shelves. It never occurs to me that we should get rid of some of our books.

Merry Christmas, Ruth. The very best to you and your family.

Bella

Deborah said...

What a perfectly wonderful, delightfully original post, dear Ruth. I have never read anything like it!

I do enjoy the way your mind works, and am glad I didn't miss this gem as I have done so many others lately.

Wishing you and your family a very joyful Christmas and a New Year filled with love.

XX Deborah

wishiing you

Lorenzo — Alchemist's Pillow said...

I am still plumbing the depths of the avalanche to find the meaning in the buried poem and I almost have it. I need just one more ingredient: could you please send me a sample (a gallon will do) of the spicy Cabernet?

Ruth said...

Terresa, I remember you mentioning The Unswept Room more than once.

Merry seasons to you and your beautiful family, Terresa. I wish you the same leisure of time and space to read delightful words . . . maybe with your children for one.

Ruth said...

Thank you, Tess. Your book stack is taller! Holy cow. Merry Christmas to you and yours at the manor.

Ruth said...

Loring, not being one who is having a book published (wow! that's terrific -- Congratulations!) I quite agree with you about online publishing. :)

I'm certain Marilyn will notify me on Facebook when your chapbook is out, so I can be first in line to buy it.

Merry Christmas, Loring. Love to Carol!

Ruth said...

Hello, Bella. It's an oddity, isn't it? I have the same mentality about more bookshelves (and no more space for them). I have two more stacks like this on my dresser. I'm thinking of taking some to the bookstore where they now sell used books and give store credit to those who bring in the books. Or a book drive.

Merry Christmas to you and your husband, dad and family!

Ruth said...

Oh thank you, Deborah. This was so much fun for me I may do something like it again. I really like collage of all sorts, and recycling good strong elements that make a new beautiful thing (like quilts).

A very Merry Christmas and resplendent New Year to you and your family.

Ruth said...

Lorenzo, I'll have it delivered. And maybe if I could arrange to get the poem to your kindle you would find it more illuminating . . .

:D

Susan said...

I have no other words to say, only BRILLIANT! I wish I had half the mind that you do. And operating most times on very little sleep. I loved the back story as much as the poem. :)

Ruth said...

Susie Q, you're such a doll. I would say I'm brilliantly WEIRD! :D

I'm glad you enjoyed this. I did myself, quite. I think you would have fun compiling a poem from found bits too. Our minds just work that way. :)

Will "Never Grow Up" said...

I get from this poem that those warm and fuzzy christmas feelings are a veneer to cover up our own guilty consciences. Christmas is supposed to be a time of giving, love, and self reflection, but how many of us actually do this? The frequent dark imagery and wording gives the piece a cynical edge. Upon the first reading, it is easy to read this as a standard, happy christmas poem, but I don't feel it truly is. There are more layers to this poem than that. In fact, the initial good cheer that covers the darker tone of the poem adds to the meaning. We comfort ourselves with a facade of holiday joy to protect us from our own troubled minds.

Will "Never Grow Up" said...
This comment has been removed by the author.