This Space Intentionally Left Blank

I came home today to a rejection slip from The Cincinnati Review, so I am now two submissions and three new poems in the hole.

I was recently invited to a storytelling evening called SOOP (Stories of Our People) and it was very, very nourishing for me. I find it all too easy to get hemmed in by how words sit on a page, to forget the joy of orality inherent in good poetry; readings are too often dry, poems too often prose with arbitrary line breaks. Meter is out of fashion, rhyme is practically a terrorist act. Most of the oral side of poetry seems to have funneled into poetry slams, which have their own rituals and fashions and are in some ways so divorced from so-called “literary” poetry it’s sometimes hard to imagine a common ancestor.

Not so at SOOP. In particular, one gentleman recited (well, performed, I suppose; “recited” doesn’t begin to describe it) an amazing, swooping piece that began with a Housman quote and then veered off into an unfettered bacchanalia of words, unadulterated revelry in the wine of language. I spoke to him afterwards and found out that he’s an actor in New York who has only recently started writing as a way of generating new material for himself. Astounding. I gave him my email address, and I hope he writes to me, because I’d love to see what his writing looks like on the page instead of coloring the air.

Also: an epic tale of a senescent pirate hunting a shark for replacement teeth, told in perfect meter and rhyme—used largely, of course, to comedic effect, but it was such a joyful performance feeding such hungry ears. Everyone there loved it. So much of the material people performed, even the free verse and the uncategorizable screeds, seemed anchored in a love for words and the things they do to one’s mouth, their bite and spill.

The entire evening was a whisper reminding me that it’s okay to get lost in the music of words, it’s okay to write something that has no purpose but to feel good in the mouth and running down the chin. It’s okay to leave sense behind, to outrun the need to explain or make a point or plant an idea. It’s okay just to make music, it’s okay just to make noise. It’s okay to be heard and not be understood; hell, it’s okay to not even be heard by anyone but oneself.

As long as the joy is in the screaming, the singing, the telling. And then, if people do hear, they’ll understand all they need to.