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Thursday, April 22, 2021

Short, uninteresting curves

 In a poetry workshop when I was 17 and college freshman, Thom Gunn had us read Rilke's famous panther in the zoo poem and then go off and observe an animal. It is a perfectly good creative writing exercise, but we weren't Rilke. I looked at some birds flying around and wrote a poem about that contained a phrase about them flying in "short, uninteresting curves." Understandably, he criticized this line, which was a kind of dig against the assignment. This kind of thing is bound to produce pale shadows of a great poem. I defended myself with reference to Creeley, a taste for the ordinary, etc... To his credit, Gunn ceded a bit to my point, but obviously my poem was not very good.  

A good prompt can be useless to me. Not that I am better, just different. 

Now I notice that the movements of small birds are inevitably quick and jerky. They are incapable of anything slow. There can be stasis or jerkiness, nothing in between, except for very brief moments in flight when the bird glides a bit between ultra-fast wing beats.  

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