Monday, April 18, 2011

My Poetry Year: Entry #16

In which Your Humble Blogger incorporates broken household appliances into prose poetry:

"When the Gas Valve Breaks"

Whenever something like a gas valve breaks, or a thermocoupler uncouples, or any trinket component falls apart the way it's going to, and I see you standing in front of the thing bent-shouldered, pulling at your chin as if the gesture could produce some useful decision on the subject before we have to call someone, I can't help feeling that we're playing house. It's long ago, and the food is plastic and cooked on cardboard stoves, and we have no idea what house entails, and marriage is just something that dangles like a swing at the far end of the playground, the odd thought hinted at when we train-lock legs together and go down the slide. We have no clue what we're doing.

* * *

For us, it's always something related to heating that seems to go ker-plunk: the furnace, the clothes dryer, the oven. That realization made me imagine a married couple new to all of the practical details of living together comparing their very real situation to what they might have once envisioned. This poem, too, could use some fleshing out.

I can hear some people chuckling about the contradiction presented by the label of "prose poetry" -- "Hey, if ya wanted to write in paragraphs, why didn't ya just write a story?" :D If you're out there, know that I've been there with you, pondering that same question. But I think that what poems are great at doing is the same thing that pieces of visual art are great at doing: They present an image, a moment, an idea, and let the reader or viewer take it further into the realm of story and imagination. It's just that some poems don't work as well with line breaks. Believe me, I tried with this one:

When something like a gas valve breaks,
Or thermocouplers uncouple,
And you stand bent-shouldered and pull
Long at your chin, hoping that it makes
Some thought occur...

It wasn't doing it for me as much, and I didn't know how to get to the conclusion of the poem that way. So prose poetry it was!

I should mention: At this point in my notebook, the poems start to get shorter, not to mention thinner in substance. I remember feeling stuck at this point, not feeling ready to seriously revise what I had written but also wondering what else I could write about in poetic form, or if it was even worth it to keep trying.

I don't know if I'll share any of the short, especially crappy pieces. But soon, you'll get to see how hard it can be -- and how long it can take -- to seriously wake myself up.

1 comment:

  1. #1 -- I can relate to this poem. Totally.

    #2 -- Re: the question of prose poetry vs., well, prose -- I wonder if it has something to do with that economy of language issue we've been talking about? Since poetry frees the writer from the need for typical, grammatical structure and you can forgo the need for line breaks and all... You can just run with it. The images, thoughts, etc. I think that sort of breathless style works here.