A Literary Meme to Begin the New Year

Rethabile tagged me over the Christmas break, and as Stephen Covey says, “Put first things first,” so I will.

Question one: Why do you write poetry (or literature) at all?

Other than breathing, eating, and making love, writing seems the most natural thing for me to do. According to
The Gospel of Thomas , "Jesus said, 'If you bring forth what is within you, what you have will save you.'"I believe that. I believe each person on this earth has a natural gift that s/he is born with and s/he has come here to express that gift.

But some of us lose faith because we allow others (more in the next few weeks on this) to convince us that we will never be able to breathe, eat, or get the opportunity to make love to anyone if we follow that gift. So, we abandon our natural gifts for money and/or to gain power. This is how we hurt ourselves, our family, and our community. We succumb to fear and instead of creating a paradise, we create a wasteland.

Question two:

What is your favourite poem? You know, the one you'd have loved to have written, the one by whose standard you base all other works of art. If your life depended on answering this question, what poem would you suggest to the person holding the knife to your throat?

There are several poems I’ve always wished I could have written: “The Star-Apple Kingdom” by Derek Walcott; “Epitaph” by Dennis Scott; Shar by Kamau Brathwaite, and “Ode to Brother Joe” by Tony McNeill.

Question three: According to you, what is the state of poetry today? Is poetry flourishing or dying?

The primary mission of this blog is to promote the work of Caribbean and South Florida writers, so I will stick to those two areas.

Writing from South Florida and the Caribbean is vibrant and healthy. Twenty years ago, it wasn’t like this and I had my doubts. But look at what The Caribbean Writer, Calabash, and the Miami Book Fair International have done and you will have a good idea of the growing number of writers and readers.

Question four: What kind of poetry (or literature) do you dislike, and would not consider buying?

I dislike poetry that is careless* or written by people who seem to ascribe to this syllogism:

I am a poet and anything that I write must be a poem.

I have written X.

Therefore, X is a poem.

*By careless I mean a writer who does not consider either the connotative or the denotative values of words or relies purely on sound or sense.

Dennis Scott is a careful poet because he combines many virtues. His poem, “Epitaph,” begins: “They hanged him on a clement morning.” Besides the delicious vowels (sounds) and the historical and sociological elements, there is also the sense that Scott brings to the poem. With just one word, “clement” we have irony, a weather report, and a sense of (in)justice. It’s a wonderful poem.

Question five: Between the styles of Come (by Makhosana Xaba) and word speaks (by Kojo Baffoe) which do you prefer? Care to tell us why? Obviously, Makhosana and Kojo aren't required to answer this question.

I prefer “Come” because of the playfulness. Poetry is about transport. It’s like a dirty joke—saying one thing and meaning another. "Come" is a love poem, but she never uses the word “love.” Instead, she shows us what a lover does and feels. The words become an “event in consciousness.”

Question six: What was the last poetry book you bought?

Wise Fish by Adrian Castro

Question seven: Where do you go for poetry on the web?

I don’t look for poetry on the web. I look for interesting writing on the web. All of my links are interesting blogs and that’s why I’ve listed them.

Question eight
: Do you talk poetry (or literature) with friends and family? "Hi honey -- Hey, I read this incredible poem today.

I talk to many people about poetry, fiction, film and art. The regulars are my wife; my brother-in-law,
Frank; my kids (we just saw Children of Men and we can’t stop talking about it), and my mail carrier, Eladio. Last Saturday, Eladio and I had a great conversation about Eliot’s poem, “The Hippotamus,” Derek Walcott’s, Dream on Monkey Mountain, “The Communion of the Body in Caribbean Literature." and he offered the most lucid interpretation of my short story in Twelve Poems and A Story for Christmas that I've heard or read: "Nothing frustrates a father more than a child who refuses nourishment." He did most of the talking. I just listened.

Question nine: What one piece of advice would you give to a beginning poet (or writer in general)? What would you tell them to do or not to do?

I’d tell them to read
John Baker’s blog.

Question ten
: What line comes to you after the following two verses (in other words, please write the third verse -- these are spontaneous lines from me and are no part of any poem I'm writing or will be writing).

When the light from the lantern

beamed and fell upon the child,

she drew the sheets over her eyes.

I hope I’m not being careless, but spontaneity only works in the first draft of any work. The rest is revision.

In the spirit of the meme, I am tagging Fragano and eemanee



John Baker said…
Hey, look at that . . . I'm in a meme.
Stephen Bess said…
This was nice! Thanks for sharing this. Good to see you back my friend. :)
Glad to be back, Stephen!
Rethabile said…
This is wonderful. I encourage everyone to visit the links as they complete the answers provided. Thank you for doing this (this is utterly selfish on my part).

I'd also like to echo Stephen, "I'm glad you're back."
FSJL said…
Eek! Now I have to think about this.
Professor Zero said…
A really nice post. Inspiring.
Thanks, Professor Zero! I've been dropping by your place, but I haven't left any comments--mostly because anything that I could say would be superfluous.

eemanee said…
I was AWOl for a while. finally responded to the meme.
Every ting is all right.


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