Poetry, Plays, and Poncy D*****rs (Good Morning!)

Yesterday I managed some serious work. I finished Chapter VIII of the fairy tale, which means that I'm starting Chapter IX today, and that I'm two chapters away from finishing the entire poem. I'd shout "woohoo!" except that I'm already, slightly, mourning the end of this insane project. I've pulled my hair out for months over this poem, and now that I'm faced with the prospect of not having to write the poem . . . I feel a little lonely. Does that make sense? I'm not gonna go all Tori Amos on you and start talking about my poems like they were people, but lonely is the word I want to use. Of course, this is typical of me: thinking so far in advance about something that I'm saddened by the prospect of it ending WHILE I'M STILL IN THE PROCESS OF EFFING WRITING IT.

And I have two more chapters to go, which will be no small amount of work, particularly since the last chapter is a definite three-part-er.

Also, yesterday, I managed to pick up again, for maybe the thirty-third time this sabbatical, Plays Two by Glyn Maxwell and finish "Broken Journey," which is his verse play based on/adapted from Kurosawa's Rashomon and a short story by Ryunosuke Akutagawa. As is the case with A.R. Ammon's A Coast of Trees, I keep misplacing the book and then wanting to reread everything because it's been so long since I actually glanced at the pages. (I have some serious clutter problems in my house. I need a sabbatical just for Conquering Clutter. Or maybe those Hoarder's people should pay me a visit.)

Anyway, I have a long list of verse drama I made for myself before I began my sabbatical, and there are two questions I want answered through reading all of it: "Why write a play in verse?" and "What makes a verse drama less a play-in-prose and more poetry?" Maxwell's "Broken Journey" answers this question pretty well. It begins with a monologue that has its clever moments, twists in the language, and does manage to stay in iambic pentameter when you examine the monologue as a whole (the first 10 lines of the play feature 4 lines that have more substitutions than iambs, so it can throw you off if you're scanning and expecting pure blank verse). But then there are other monologues, other moments in the play, notably the ones spoken by Chloe, that come across as poetry, and not just metrical speech. This was so cool to experience -- in a totally dorky way -- the moments when you're reading the play and all of a sudden you realize, "hey, I'm in the middle of a poem!"

My biggest criticism would be that there seemed to be fewer "poem" moments when there was dialogue, but this may be an invalid criticism considering the following:

1) I've read the play only once and that's simply a first impression. Further study of the dialogue may, of course, result in the discovery of more "poetry" moments
2) I suspect that creating a poem constructed from two very different voices -- and in particular, creating a lyric poem, or a lyric moment within a narrative poem -- is extremely difficult to pull off. After all, for the play to be a successful play, different characters need to have very different voices. So . . . how does one create a successful contrast between lines of dialogue while maintaining a lyric intensity and cohesiveness?

I want to be able to do the latter in my own verse drama. So I'm searching for good models. Shakespeare, of course, is one of them, but I'm looking to the Modernists and later for examples. Something with more contemporary language, and with the fragmented approach and attitudes of Modernist and post-Modernist and post-post-Modernist or whatever-the-fuck-you-want-to-label-crap-written-between-1920-and-now.

In the earlier part of my sabbatical I read books of poetry or books of criticism focused almost wholly on metrical verse. Now I'm going to move into reading verse drama as I begin to write it, and I'm totally psyched at the prospect. (I cannot, cannot, stomach writers who claim not to read while they're writing, particularly those who "don't want to be influenced." What a bunch of poncy douche-ers.)

(Er, sorry about the language. Poncy douche-ers get me all riled up.)

And late last night, just after I'd finished reading "Broken Journey" and before I went to bed, I was struck with a couple of thoughts about how to construct my own verse drama, which I dutifully jotted down and will be adding to the collection of notes I'm amassing as "evidence" of my sabbatical work. Also, I need to jot things down because, if I don't, there's a 99.9% chance I'm going to forget it. My brain forgets good ideas almost as easily as it dismisses the fluffy, insubstantial ones.

Now I'm off to begin herding my children into breakfast mode and getting-dressed-for-school mode, as well as brush-your-teeth-without-poking-hitting-or-otherwise-annoying-each-other mode and get-in-the-car-we're-late mode. It's a lot like herding cats, only with much more futile screaming, and tears. Many tears. (Not from them; from me.)


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