May 20th, 2002

abstract butterfly

prolixity as a virtue

I always liked the words prolix and prolixity.
Because I am a prolific writer, and because my
most "intellectual" writing tends to be really drawn out and long (i.e., prolix), I was delighted when I first heard the word. I was no longer merely wordy or run-on. I was *prolix*. It sounds like really cool technology.

I once had a poem published (in a typical grant-driven magazine so small and ordinary that they would even publish poetry like mine) with the title "The Word Mordant". The first line of the poem was "Webster lists no meaning/for the word mordant". It's not a bad poem, but it's based on a fallacy. You see, I thought I had made up the word "mordant", but it turns out there is such a word as "mordant" (caustic, biting). It's just that the collegiate dictionary I was using was too limited to list it.

I've always felt a bit like that about life--I'm using an abridged reference, and all the cool words are in the unabridged version that eludes my grasp.

I see my poetry book has now garnered a bid of one nickel on ebay.com. This is gratifying news. The bidder is even from another country, and hence, in m limited Arkansas-derived understanding, is instantly cool. In Arkansas, we felt like if a prophet was worthy of honor, he'd move to someplace good at that sort of thing. Based on the last 3 ebay auctions, we can say that the book is worth at least a nickel, but less than two dollars. That seems about right to me. I'm just praying that bidding frenzy before Tuesday drives the price up north of a quarter. Ebay auctions are fun and funny. Sometimes the book has even generated a "bidding war", and driven the price up a bit. I believe it's high auction was in the 5 dollar region. One bidder must have bid on it 10 times, to be "primed out" by twenty five cents by a sniper(the ebay term for one who bids at the last moment to win an auction, after laying behind the weeds until the end). Of course, it's just between me and my journal that if folks know me, the best way to bid on a book is by asking me for one. Once in a while, a stranger will ask for a sample of poetry prior to bidding. I always wonder about this, because a sample of one bit of heavenly creampuff confection from me doesn't mean that I didn't use whole cloves by mistake in my next batch of gingerbread men. I once tried putting a poem in the ad copy, but I've found that the best ads are largely numerical in nature. Don't tell me what it is, just tell me the word count.

My old college friend J. told me she loved reading my silly free verse about weak chess players because it was so much like me. It's a curious identifier...being tagged as someone who would write this form of bad poetry. A charge to keep I have, though, so
I'll treat it as a gift.

One thing I've noticed is that no matter where I write, my narrative voice is almost exactly the same. gregwest98 has known me for decades, and I believe that he would have been able to look at this journal having no idea what it is and tell it is mine. I suppose this means I'll never be a novelist, but I might make a good solipsist.

Being prolix has its disadvantages. It's just a few weeks ago that I felt the best way to continue an established and pleasant correspondence with a long-ago old flame was to detail in an e mail my recollection of the entire history of our relationship which spanned 19-25 years ago. I typed and typed and typed. When I was done, I had a prolix, humorous, charming work of art. It would have made a nice entry into a "private" journal to which even I was only allowed access if I could define the word "prolix". Unfortunately, I sent it. Sadly, the initial reviews focused less on the ironic turns in the plot than on the particular tilt in favor of one of the characters which was perceived in the narrative. I tend to be someone who thinks that one can talk about anything with anyone, if one merely uses the right tone of voice. But I am reminded of that Doris Lessing tag about how the fundamental mistake of western civ. is the belief that if one understands a problem, one has solved it. I am just intrigued that I could stir up something in the past--why bother, when there are yards to mow and boxes to unpack and scissortail flycatchers hovering overhead?

As my wife said, it's *history*, just *history*. I myself feel that as we both ended up married and happy elsewhere, it might have made more sense to continue sending e mails about books, movies and wildlife. But it is a fine line--does one bottle it all in, or does one say those "that hurt" stuff, even after all that time? I don't know, but I'll bet I could write a prolix essay about it.
  • Current Music
    supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, by Mary Poppins
abstract butterfly

worthless words workshop

During my college summer in London, in 1980, not that long after Ian Curtis had died, a fellow Arkansan student and I went to a poetry group we read about in the weekly "things to do" mag, Time Out. Its name was the Worthless Words Workshop. When we arrived there, a dozen or so fellows were there to sit around a conference table and share poetry. The first man read a poem. It was a very nice poem. When he had finished, the woman who came with me, a casual acquaintance from my home university studying to be a TV reporter, began a poetic critique along the lines of American graduate school English "workshops". A deathly silence ensued. Soon we realized the truth of things. This was to be poetry without judgment, without criticism. We all sat and listened to poems, mostly free verse, across a universe of themes, across a spectrum of "talent". The words themselves were indeed Worthless--what mattered was the experience of the reader and of the listener--the deep sighed "ah" of things. Nobody worried who was "a big dog" in the group, and there was virtually no structure. We transcended race and nationality and gender and even class. We just read poems. We. just. read. poems. I recall a few of the poems still--one used a bicycle as a metaphor for ritualistic worship of God; I can still see him imitating the spokes with his arms and the imagining the bikewheel as his mitre. My fellow Arkansan read a poem which used a sandy beach, bread and cheese to symbolize an erotic event, although I quite frankly did not "get" the image until the appreciative, "nod, nod, wink, wink" comments from the others. We confessed to those there that the English and Irish and Jamaican accents made the poems far more exotic and wonderful to us, while the regulars said the same about our odd southern American accents. We went to a few sessions of this group. I wrote many poems that summer, a few of which I like, many of which I wince to read. I've written hundreds more since, most of which I wince to read. But those unseasonably cool summer evenings in conference rooms that had seen better days seated with people that, in the main, were and are as unknown as I am and will eternally be, those days taught me more about poetry and the life within than a thousand anthologies could. I believe in poetry without judgment, without money, without criticism, and with no more reaction than a polite "this works for me" or, failing that, a silent smile. Don't pass out prizes, don't vote on favorites, don't set up slams, don't pass out mimeographed notes of rejection, don't create laureates. No returns, documentation of the heart and mind provided to all. Worthless words, simply without worth.
  • Current Music
    Darshan Ambient, "Darshan Ambient"