Imagery that Sees–Anis Mojgani’s Songs from Under the River

Have you ever encountered a writer and you thought, “I think we’d be best friends”?

That’s how I feel about Anis Mojgani. I started watching his spoken word performances on Youtube a few years ago, and he mesmerized me. (If you’ve not heard any of the poets that came out of the Bowery Poetry Club in NYC, you’re missing out.)
His poetry has quickly become a standard by which I judge all other poetry, both written and spoken, so naturally I was ecstatic when I finally was able to purchase one of his books of poems.

Songs from Under the River is a book of 36 poems, both old and new to his career as a poet. As many are originally spoken poems, they are often several pages in length with long line lengths and fairly prose-like punctuation.

One that breaks that particular form is “Church” which begins

“In the broken comma of dawn,
I become my father.
I once maybe wanted a house.
A red, wooden one.
With a fence
a hill
a wife.”

In poems such as this one, he simplifies his language, but he still uses it in interesting and almost dream-like ways with the phrase “broken comma of dawn.”

Much of his language is dream-like and highly specific as well, which I really appreciate.

Detail, for me, is probably top of the list when it comes to good writing. (Right under, don’t use the word “heart” in a poem.)

In “In My Library There are 17 Books” he writes:

“I have devoured so many forests.

There is so much cedar wood in my belly.

So much sawdust on the floor of my love.”

First of all, a belly full of cedar wood is probably one of the best images I have ever read. It’s sensory, unique, tender.

I love his writing because it’s confessional, intimate… he makes the reader feel endeared and open, and that is something I would love to be able to do with my writing.

Here’s another example of how stellar he is at writing image, in “The Fisherman:”

“He lights one candle on the table

and peels the skin of his fish with his fork and knife,

peeling it back like a bedsheet.”

A little grotesque, yes, but you could see it, couldn’t you?

I think our written words should seek to make people see, truly see. If we’re not opening literal and metaphorical eyes, what are we doing?

To learn more about his writing, performing, or to read his blog, visit http://thepianofarm.com/.

You won’t regret it.

 

Read on, write faithful.

Abigail Joy

The Balance of Trust

I’ve been in workshops off and on all semester for my final writing class before my graduation in December (eek…how fast it approaches, how that December 13th date both excites and terrifies).

The project that I have been workshopping is a sequence of poems documenting this past summer of my life. While most of these poems are fairly simple in content, dealing with family and home and love, a few are a bit more complex.
I spent a couple of weeks in Israel in May, so a few poems deal with some issues and experiences I encountered in Israel. I’m no expert on Jewish or Israeli culture by any means, but a two-week excursion, a semester-long preparatory class, and four years living in a markedly Jewish area of northern Ohio had given me a frame of reference.

The first poem I wrote about Israel is titled “To the Western Wall,” and in it I make brief reference to the ancient Jewish priests who once filled the temple. Here are those lines:

This war-torn
Foundation, revered stone
once supporting a heavy
Presence—a room ringing
bell and pomegranate.

I approached writing this knowing that priests in ancient Jewish custom wore robes that had embroidered bells and pomegranates on the hem, which had symbolic significance that I wanted in my poems.

But my classmates again and again commented, “what’s up with the bell and pomegranate?”

Okay–I do not expect my workshop group to have a knowledge of obscure Jewish custom. However, it got me thinking: how much do we trust our reader to research and look for allusion so we don’t have to compromise the integrity of the piece or treat a poem like it’s a lesson to the reader?

I’m not sure I have the answer to this one. What do you think? Is allusion okay? Or is it often too obscure to be appreciated?

I think I lean towards trusting the reader to do their homework, to research, so poems can be rich with depth.
It’s also important to be as clear as you can, though. A one-word allusion is probably going to go over even the most competent and researching readers.

And perhaps it’s as simple as including notes or an epilogue in the back of a collection. I think I support almost anything that allows language to reign in a poem, for the turns of phrases to be beautiful allusion if you want them to be.

What do you think, writers and readers of the blogosphere? Where’s the line of trust with readers?

Keep up the good work, friends.

Abigail Joy

Surprising Details- “The Garden Room” by Joy Katz

I’ve had a theory for quite a while now that one’s home reflects the living done there. As a Christian, I believe that our actions and lives have spiritual effects beyond just ourselves. And I think it’s reflected in the spaces we spend the majority of our free time.
I think if we paid close-enough attention, we could feel peace, strife, love, boredom in the homes of people with whom we spend time.

Perhaps this is a bit too metaphysical for a Saturday afternoon, but I couldn’t help but think of this as I read Joy Katz’s chapbook, The Garden Room this morning.

The book is a series of 29 poems and one introductory poem that all have to do with interpretations of physical objects within a house. Poems include “Color of the sheets.”, “A desk.”, “A ceiling.”, and “The Unmade bed.”

Rich with metaphor and personification, these poems inspire me as a writer to view ordinary objects through a creative/unusual eye and revise…revise…revise until the language is absolute perfection.

One of my favorite poems is “Color of the walls.” and I love the imaginative personification that colors the last couple of stanzas. Here’s my favorite section:

“the teapot must remain serious, the table may not approach.
Archaic torso turns away into the corner.
The rugs occupy themselves with the story of their making,
Chairs, in quorum, decide upon the nearness of
important things,
like capital punishment. Good chairs.”

As one of the more whimsical portions of the chapbook, I love these lines ability to build a sort of rapport between the reader and the house, so then later on we can hear what the house has to teach us in poems like “The Made Bed.” that immediately follows:

“It makes us believe we are clean, too.
It breathes slowly, evenly, like Gandhi.
If this is true, then what kind of mind must I have?
Surely not disordered.”

I walk away from this chapbook amazed at the power of language to transform the way someone views ordinary common things by stepping away from the crutches of common metaphor and belief. That is something I would love to adopt as a skill into my own writing.

I strongly urge you to pick up a copy of this lovely book. It’s delightfully unpredictable, and its figurative language gets underneath your skin.

To peruse her lovely website, visit joykatz.com.

I also encourage you to spend some time thinking about how your life is influencing your context, positively and negatively. A little self-reflection never hurt a writer.

Keep pushing yourself to write surprisingly and thoughtfully about the often overlooked. It may lead to some incredible work.

May your words come smooth and Writer’s Block stay far away,
Abigail Joy