Thursday, October 27, 2011

Ironically, I Love Ambiguity (but what, exactly, do I mean by that?)


somewhere back in the early 1980s, I seems to have a poetic mind. I don't even know what a poetic mind is. Of course, perhaps, it would depend-as Bill Clinton would say-what your definition of the word is is.

Back in the earlier times of this blog, years ago, I was able to write out a poem. the substance of that poem I don't remember, but I do know that it was fueled by fear, by anger, and by pride. My love of words and my love (ironically) of my own anger gave that one, last poem some substance. I'm not necessarily saying that it was a good poem, only that it was entertaining enough to keep me writing.

I'm not currently in psychotherapy. I can't say if writing poetry would be therapeutically good for me or not. I just know that there's a part of me that wants to be able to tap into that part of my brain again. I think I remember the day that I started to feel the freeze. A chill swept over my brain, and for one fleeting moment, okay, a few hours, I was able to tap out one more poem.

I'm not going to look for the poem, here. It really has little significance for me. If writing is truly that significant in my life, perhaps my last moment of poetry should simply be noteworthy on that account alone. But, I'm too busy thinking about this chill.

Years ago I found myself in a laundromat, and on the door was a note explaining that the laundromat will be closing. I already felt a bond with this place, a closeness to the glass, the tile floors, the quarter devouring machines. I believed that it was perfectly placed right in that part of town. I knew it's quiet times, and I knew it's busy times. This was a relationship I developed over years, and I felt as if a bomb dropped on me. (in the months that followed, I discovered that the laundromat simply changed hands, and never actually closed)

This laundromat operated right near San Jose State University, and right near my little studio apartment on S. 8th St. movement of people, the swirl of energy, mixed well with all of the people from the neighborhoods nearby; parents came in with armfuls of children and station wagons filled to the top with clothing to be washed. I remember well hovering over occupied machines, watching the seconds ticked down on them, and waiting for my opportunity to leap. This was an important part of my week, sad and true.

So, this day I decided to write a poem. I didn't know was going to be an important poem to me. If I had only known I might have found a way to guard it, protect its, and make sure that it would stay available to me in the coming years. But I didn't know, and I didn't protect it. So, almost 10 years later, I can only remember forty syllables of the poem, just enough to keep this sadness alive: forty syllables, four lines, the beginning of my last (my only?) sonnet. Like a meditation it was alive for me in the moment, and I couldn't find a poem more expressive of how I felt, and what I thought at that exact time.

I showed that poem one day months, maybe years, later to a person for whom I cared very much, and she read my thoughts. I knew better than to ask her what I wanted to ask her at a time when it was clear her silence meant something disturbing. Yet, I had to ask her what she thought of what I wrote. Without directly addressing the question, she told me that she does not like poetry, and remarked that it was after years of college that she developed this strong dislike for poetry.

She said that every poem seems to have unnecessary layers of meaning, and is fraught with an ambiguity that makes poetry reading very unpleasant for her. So, here it is for me, eight years later. I've written one substantial poem in all that time, and I never explained to her that there are no layers of meaning in my poem. I'm just not that deep. What I wrote about is what is, and I am still absolutely delighted in the creation of those words. She didn't give my poem a fair shake, because she hated ambiguity. Sad to think that it was on the one poem so simple, and so absent of ambiguity that she failed to see it for what it was.

I'm so tickled by this explanation that I just might start writing again. I'm glad I shared this with you. Wow!

Thank you for reading.

4 comments:

Santa Cruz Nick said...

Too bad that the person you cared about didn't care for poetry, that's a deal breaker.
I used to read poems at open readings and slams at various times throughout the 90's, it's fun because for me poetry is pure expression. For prose and drama I do lots of rewrites, but for poetry I leave it the way I wrote it, if I make any changes it's during the writing. Just over a decade ago I had a real good reading up at UCSC, haven't written much poetry since.
Hope you remember the poem you wrote.
The playwright Robert Anderson said that poetry is the mathematics of literature.

Keith said...

but then this dame
comes up behind me see
and says,
"you and me could really exist."
"Wow!" I says.
Only the next day
she has bad teeth,
and really hates
poetry. --Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Coney Island of the Mind (1955)

Anonymous said...

An appreciation for ambiguity cannot be overstated! It speaks well of a person who can see and accept ambiguity. Simpler minds want everything to be as it appears, with no layers, no depth, no questions. It gives one a sense of security, perhaps, a feeling of control over things that really can't be known.

But in reality, we know very little. And things are rarely as they appear. To recognize and accept the ambiguity is to appreciate diversity, to accept that our narrow perspective of the world is not the only perspective, and that there is much to be gained by seeking to understand others' perspectives.

I hope that you continue to "defrost"... and overcome the writer's block... because I love to read the things you write!

Keith said...

I spent my whole day out about, spending time with the people at occupy san jose. How fun to show up and find this anonymous piece of validation sitting in my e-mailbox. I thank you for the kind words, and I fully intend to keep writing.