It isn’t the body
That’s a stranger.
It’s someone else.
We poke the same
At the world.
When I scratch
He scratches too.
There are women
Who claim to have held him.
Follows me about.
It might be his.
If I’m quiet, he’s quieter.
So I forget him.
Yet, as I bend down
To tie my shoelaces,
He’s standing up.
We caste a single shadow.
I’d like to say:
“He was un the beginning
And he’ll be in the end,”
But one can’t be sure.
As I sit
Shuffling the cards of our silence,
I say to him:
“Though you utter
Every one of my words,
You are a stranger.
It’s time you spoke.”
Simic makes many simple, graphic statements about life. I have been so inspired by his approach that I wrote the following as a sort of dedication to Simic. I hope it fits into this little box:
BEGINNING IN ’59 OR WAS IT ’69?*
* In 1869 Baudelaire, arguably the founder of modern prose-poetry, published his Petits Poems en Prose. In 1959 Charles Simic published his first poem and I became a Bahá’í.
American poet Charles Simic’s first works were published in 1959 when he was twenty-one. Between that year and 1961, when he entered military service, he churned out a number of poems, most of which he has since destroyed. My first poems came from these years as well. They were never published and they were thrown away soon after they were written. I was 15 in 1959 and had just joined the midget baseball league and the Bahá’í Faith, in that order.
Simic and I earned our BA degrees in 1966. I was 22; he was 28. Simic went on to publish poetry and I went on to the teaching profession. His first full-length collection of poems, What the Grass Says, was published in 1967. Simic’s quite original poetry in English and translations of important Yugoslavian poets began to attract critical attention by the time I had moved to Australia in 1971. In The American Moment: American Poetry in the Mid-Century Geoffrey Thurley notes that the substance of Simic’s earliest work was “European and rural rather than American and urban. The world his poetry created was that of central Europe and its woods, ponds and peasant furniture.”
Simic’s work defies easy categorization. Some poems reflect a surreal, metaphysical bent and others offer grimly realistic portraits of violence and despair. Hudson Review contributor Vernon Young maintains that memory with its taproot deep into European folklore is the common source of all of Simic’s poetry. Simic is a graduate of NYU; he is married and a father living in pragmatic America. When he composes poems, Simic turns to his unconscious and to earlier pools of memory. I am a graduate of McMaster in Hamilton. I, too, married and became a father in pragmatic Australia. When I compose poems I turn to memory and to my experience in the Bahá’í community.-Ron Price, Pioneering Over Four Epochs, May 5th 2006.
We both wrote a type of prose-poetry
whose rules are never clearly defined,
no resolution of its issues of meaning,
of its short expressions of feeling,
its stylistic, imagistic density,
its ornamental variation of prose,
its passionate promptings, undulations
and intimately inward contours.
Some say prose-poetry is not poetry;
it fights against the mainstream, flaunts
and flies in the face of poetic purists.
Evolving and elusive and valid, I’d say.
There’s a sort of formal speech here,
not metered but a natural rhythm,
identifying with the lyrical impulses
of the soul, revery’s ebbs and flows.
Some say it started with Bertrand
and Baudelaire in the 1840s-1850s
or the 1890s and others say you can
go all the way back to the Old Testament.
Our work is motivated by many
things: to turn the gaze inward
and trace the movement mind
and the gaze of readers, to turn
thought to the ills of society
and graphically describe in order
to analyse with a personal voice,
intimate matters, autobiographical
detail, a certain psychic weight,
I want to ponder…..
….and I ponder using this
inherently ambivalent, hybrid,
generic instability, duality, traces
from two worlds, cross-discursive
discourse, with contradictions,
paradoxes and complications,
the sentence and the line with
loose borders between journals,
diaries and a lot of other stuff
right back to the birth of this
new Revelation when things
were separated and put together
again in new forms, ways, styles.
May 6th 2006