Next Line, Please

Antipodal Star

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By Angela Ball

July 28, 2015


 

 

The second stanza of our “caravan of dreams” will be Berwyn Moore’s:

Refuse the map. Forego the sturdy shoes.
Shrug off the ragged water of the past.
Your antipodal star riffs like the blues.
Step double-time across the bones and vast
landscapes of asphalt and stubble. He woos
you still, and waits, declares he’ll be the last.
His words flutter like ashes in the wind.
For once, run away, free, undisciplined.

Here we are enjoined to forget our predecessor—a perilous venture for any artist—and to strike out solo over “asphalt and stubble.” “His words flutter like ashes in the wind,” a seductive beauty we must refuse.

In second place, we have Patricia Smith, whose stanza, like our first, takes Ornette Coleman as its muse:

This troupe of writers—phraseology
to encourage while collaborating—
searching for our shared “harmolodies,”
rhyme and rhythm in our versifying,
connections made, a few perhaps off-key,
that faultless euphony we are seeking.
No Pulitzer awaits our “Sound Grammar”—
this caravan of dreamers, raconteurs.

I admire how Smith has joined our mission to Coleman’s through his eccentric “harmolodies” and “Sound Grammar”—proof that art is one project, using and breaking rules to arrive at both self and transcendence.

Tying for third place are Paul Michelsen and Jordan Sanderson. Michelsen’s stanza is ambitiously pan-cultural:

The others dream their dreams of Golden Fleece,
The gods and goddesses they hope to marry
A different psychic said we’d go back East
She told a tale of constellation Aries
To figure what/what not to take with me
Refuse to use the maps my cellphone carries
My keen affinity for fairies and
A trust in Warwick and her psychic friends

Here, the connection of cellphones to divination seems both natural and anachronistic.

I suggest that you consult last week’s column for the maiden appearance of Sanderson’s allusive goat guide:

Late that night or early that morning, we
Found the goat had delivered us to the site
Of a wreck and wandered into the trees.
Survivalists we were not, but we dived
In and divvied up the things we might need:
A prosthetic tongue, a twinge of twilight,
A book of matches to use as moorings
Should the blown world become too alluring.


I propose a new muse for this week, Polish poet Adam Zagajewski. Here are the first three stanzas of “En Route,” as translated by Claire Cavanah:

1. WITHOUT BAGGAGE

To travel without baggage, sleep in the train
on a hard wooden bench,
forget your native land,
emerge from small stations
when a gray sky rises
and fishing boats head to sea.

2. IN BELGIUM

It was drizzling in Belgium
and the river wound between hills.
I thought, I’m so imperfect.
The trees sat in the meadows
Like priests in green cassocks.
October was hiding in the weeds.
No, ma’am, I said,
this is the nontalking compartment.

3. A HAWK CIRCLES ABOVE THE HIGHWAY

It will be disappointed if it swoops down
on sheet iron, on gas,
on a tape of tawdry music,
on our narrow hearts.

I admire the way Zagajewski alternates between inner and outer weathers, and the way he interposes the mundane, as in his explanation to a woman interrupting his reverie: “this is the nontalking compartment.”

In one brilliant line, Zagajewski personifies a month, and dramatizes how landscape harbors transformation: “October was hiding in the weeds.”

The hawk appears, part of the natural order, but also in devastating contrast to us and our daily commute, a prison sentence never lifted.

Here is our “canto” thus far:

Caravan of Dreams

The trip begins without a sign that’s hung.
The mark may lie within your palm a line
a psychic knew before your time was sung.
She saw the span of dissonance: you pine
to scale a chart, depart where others clung;
refuse the map, forget reviews unkind.
My year of birth your cry of “Something Else!!!!”
A gypsy soul keeps nothing on the shelf.

Refuse the map. Forego the sturdy shoes.
Shrug off the ragged water of the past.
Your antipodal star riffs like the blues.
Step double-time across the bones and vast
landscapes of asphalt and stubble. He woos
you still, and waits, declares he’ll be the last.
His words flutter like ashes in the wind.
For once, run away, free, undisciplined.

For our third stanza, we’ll keep to our form: eight lines rhymed abababcc. “Caravan of Dreams” is still a “working” title—that is, subject to change. Wear it lightly, and work toward your own balance of expectation and surprise. Submit your entries no later than midnight Eastern Time, Saturday, August 1, 2015.


Angela Ball is a professor of English at the University of Southern Mississippi. She is the author of five poetry collections, including, most recently, Night Clerk at the Hotel of Both Worlds.

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