Poetic Tips IV (supposing intensifies)

VERSE CONDENSATION AND SYMBOLIC IMPORTS

One relatively important thing I’ve taken notice lately by glancing at academic standpoints to grand compositions is symbology by association and how that impacts the _weight_ of a present verse or structure. The greatest example might be any poem written by T.S. Eliot (most notably, The Waste Land), which packs a myriad of literary and symbolic references in a singular modernistic composition almost subdivided by those very same symbols. (II: A Game of Chess contains references to the Prothalamion, Verlaine, Sappho, St. Augustine, and many more. Although this part of the composition is considerable in length, one can still assume the level of referential usage is greater than the one of the specific narrative.)
So, the question lays still: how are these references important to the spine of the poem, and not only Waste Land, any poem that references anything?

One general device of “writing the best words in the best order” (a quote by Samuel Taylor Coleridge believed to be said in 1827, when asked about poetry),
is the usage of symbols to convey a wider sense of emotion. As magical as poetry can be, it can also be very restrictive, you must be economical in every verse and stanza, siphoning from inner images in order to convey as much as possible with as little words as possible. Importing symbols from previous works of literary culture allows for a greater condensation of the message, through the somatic marker present in those works (of course, it relies on the knowledge from the reader’s side to actually know the referencing, otherwise it loses all leverage and becomes rather the opposite: a confusing word-salad).

Exemplifying, if I wanted to relay the toxic nature of hope without going through the hassle of creating a full stanzaic foundation for it, because that toxic interaction is only background to the skeletal basis of the poem, I can import from a generally known and easy-to-understand mythological fable (as many have before me, mythology is great for this exercise)

‘All evils dare not compare to Pandora’s youthful hope’

Merely an example, Pandora’s Box fable ends with the opening of the box and subsequent discovery of hope being the last of evils locked within it, also the only one that didn’t flee. The symbolical magnitude of this fable is great, and great will also be the impact it has on your poems message, if used correctly.

“But Johnny, you cursed fool, I haven’t seen many of these on your poems!” says Lucian the Annoyed, with a monstrous expression in stand-by to ambush.

I actually make a slightly ridiculous amount of references in my poetry, but I avoid the usage of names as I don’t find their sonority very helpful to the flow. Some names work, others do not, but I generally avoid them all, and prefer subtle references to film or music in place of literary symbolism. It is, however, nowhere as ridiculous as Ezra Pound or T.S. Eliot, they took it a bit too far, in my humble opinion (I’m not a fan of either, I do not enjoy poems that overly rely on symbolic imports because I prefer poetry to homework), although T.S. Eliot’s Love Song is still one of my favourite compositions of any author, which proves that the level of connectivity between a symbolical poem and it’s reader is how much it relates to that readers elected literary sphere.

TL;DR, use references and challenge yourself to stretch them and paint them some beauty as you do it, but also allow them to be accessible and thematically fluid with the poem, not only cosmetically. Also, do not sacrifice the spine of your poem by jamming in a fun-summon, all pieces must still fit, as I said on Poetic Tips I and II.

And in that note, I too should take my tips, since I recurrently make all the mistakes displayed above.


JOHNNY

Tenho para mim. (poesia portuguesa)

Estou feliz de-novo, como tal, a minha poesia está a recuperar. Peço desculpa pela supressão de conectores, estou a tentar usar sonoridades mais brasileiras, sendo que são também mais compactas. Como gosto tanto das duas variantes de Português, pensei, porque escrever só numa?

(Cá em Portugal, chamamos Alfaiates ao que no Brasil se dizem aranhas d’água, pequenos insectos que deslizam sobre águas paradas)

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JOHNNY

3 – WRITING AISTHESIS

Whenever I begin writing poetry, I have a custom of imagining being humbly kissed by diamond creatures of unknown nature, it creates a muscle tension in my torso that allows me to distend Time a bit, and contract words as if they were movements. With prose, I tend to imagine a shadowy figure looking downwards into a calm ocean, above the water, but somehow drowning just with the sight.
Writing is an interesting variable to me, and perhaps the most interesting string of that variable is the relationship author-piece. As I call it: aisthesis – note, I use aisthesis instead of perception because this Greek word is often associated with unity, or commonly, synaesthesia. Is it astute to assume an authors subject of work is inherently important to them? Of course, writing takes energy, it siphons any disperse fragments of beauty you can encapsulate in a lifetime, it allows them to be dissected and then transferred into a piece bound to that beauty. I hold my poems and proses to low esteem, but they are deeply important to me, even when they’re just collapsed realities I insist on capturing.
To an author, a piece is a common extension of their being, a phantom arm trying to reach heights it can’t keep. Simultaneously by means of perception, it’s also the coldest face of our fragile beings, one we often conceal, one we are often ashamed of.
To me, it has always been presumptuous fear. My compositions are very much mine, and similarly to watching a son go to college, when I publish them, they are no longer mine. I’ve lost them, they are yours now, they can be bent and shaped freely, interpreted any way possible. They will be loved, hated, they might hurt someone or bring them solace, they can be held morally hostage or create ripples inside ones mechanical philosophy. In essence, they are living, breathing appendages of our humanity (like any piece of Art), and they can affect almost as much as we can, but they completely evade our control once they leave.
The sentiment is one of general abandonment. Have I abandoned my work, or has it abandoned me? I’ve often struggled with deep hatred towards compositions I’ve published, before and even immediately after I did it. In fact, I believe that if I didn’t hate most of my work, I wouldn’t be able to publish it. My poems that I do feel something for, I often say, are mine until my death. Even further, it’s also a sentiment of baleful induction – what previously was elevated within me, has now been tossed to the furnace like metal and scrap – and that inner incineration of my creations is nothing short of moral atoning towards something quite mundane: being a sensitive being.
To me, the aisthesis of my work is simple, they are feelings taken to a tangible, palpable form, and they are as volatile and bright-eyed as I am. They are everything I am, they are me, that’s why exposing them is (in turn) an action of self-exposition.

I wonder often if this is the general feeling of aspiring writers, or if anyone can see the absolute in this reflection.


Johnny

YANGTZE

Maybe one of my most thought out compositions, this one is mostly surreal, in the style of the elder french poets. It drawns purely from existentialism and it can be somewhat complicated to unravel, so if you have any questions, just pop em up.

SPRINGDOWNSTREAM

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(Disregard the graphic elements, I was trying these out on paper and then tried to replicate them here)


JOHNNY

NAME OF WAR (english poetry)

This one is very special.

A little while back, I talked about my Caliath volumes and how the first four were disowned. For good reason, they contain all my poems from the peak of my depression from 15 to 17 years of age, meaning they have incredibly saddening and dark poetics that I don’t like getting back to. Recently, I decided to uncover them and attempt to read some. I didn’t get very far, but I decided to translate one of the poems from that time into English.

Disclaimer: This one, Name of War (Nome de Guerra in Portuguese), is not at all inspired by the racial induced of 1675 in New England, rather by a book of portuguese authorship, by José Almada Negreiros, which I was reading at the time. Despite being sad, I hope you enjoy it.

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JOHNNY