Wednesday, April 22, 2009

twenty-minute writing exercise #1 - ars's poetica

So, in preparation for graduate school, I’ve started to dust-off some old poetry books and readers I’ve slid underneath my bed or hidden between old issues of GQ and Details. To my providential delight, I came across a copy of The Poet’s Companion, by Kim Adonnizio and Dorianne Laux, a book that was given to me by an ex-boyfriend the first Christmas we spent together. It’s a quite ingenious beginner’s manual for those serious about writing poetry. In it, there’s a chapter entitled "Twenty-Minute Writing Exercises."

For the first one, the rules are simple: write an ars poetica (about writing), it’s cold outside, identify the time of day, use “we,” and use the word “florid” or any word in an unconventional manner provided by a friend or obtained haphazardly. My good friend Julie Goetzen suggested the word “triumphantly.” The ex-boyfriend’s initials are A, R and S. I dedicate this exercise to him.

(Please keep in mind that this did literally take 20 minutes. I usually need at least a few days to edit down my gratuitous effusiveness and nostalgia.)

ARS's poetica

“To Robert - The best poet I know, and the greatest boyfriend in the world”
-ARS, Christmas ’04, written inside the cover of
The Poet’s Companion: A Guide to the Pleasures of
Writing Poetry by Kim Addonizio and Dorianne Laux,
from which I took this writing exercise.
I acknowledge that one or both of those statements aren’t
remotely true or, at least, are grossly overstated.

Though we can’t see
our breathing, exhales
floating up out of nostrils
or the mouth into the atmosphere,
we know it is cold
outside of this apartment.
We know that
the other is breathing.
The darkness outside
is the same as it is in.
We read with our fingers the dots
and dashes of our bodies--

the nipples . moles . pimples .
follicles . the scars . like Braille

like a tree with initials
jaggedly chipped into it
meaning something like for eternity.

We write words on each other’s backs.
A Zen sand-garden, the triumphant strokes
of a moment. This is how I write

poetry. The poems I write
are written across your skin,
I read the verse
back to myself
with my palm flat
against you and memorize.
Your breath is in every measure.

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