Jack Collom

An Ecosystem of Writing Ideas
(continued)

Poet Larry Fagin has pioneered the accumulation and classification of list poems. It's been said that, in this dissociating 20th century, every poem is a list. Here's an upfront example:

       a woman, deep inside a woman

garden  grave  earth  dirt  plug  georgia clay  dig  daughter's  bones
son's  husband's  bones  dig each year on deathdates birth dates ripe
rotted  dropped from tree  green bean  fingers of husbands  a string
wedding ring around stake that holds them from dirt  pull potato from
toughest root  daughter hides deep  dark beneath selay root holds her
under like the pills that planted her  red pepper fire  that coats
spades of autumn  son whose eyeglasses burned beside him shiny coated
cover of his religion preacher world  bugbitten corn  praying hands to
you  god  point steepled soldiers that close graveyard road yellow necked
squash breast sweet limp attached to umbilical seed strawberry leaks
from cleavage where cancer burned  garden snake  sex loose dry by gas
stove naked  girl legs  birth belly dozened into button  okra  wrinkled
dead skins of men who fertilized  tough  to peel  with paring knife
gently lift vines to clean  blackeyed peas  grand ones rock in palms
pods you named judy  suzy  bob and peas gold beads mat trae nora then
diamonds never seen hidden in pod beds onion skins you toss on burning
trash.

—Resa Register


Imitation is not only the sincerest form of flattery but a good way to learn, as well. William Carlos Williams, though not an out-an-out nature writer, certainly utilized the keen observing eye with as true a turn of sight into speech as we've had. Also, his wry humor seeps into the poem with such fineness the language is textured diversely, like Snyder's Riprap. Her's an imitation of his famous "plums" poem:

Tree,
 I'm sorry about
 all this swinging
 back and forth
 in my hammock,
which is wearing your
bark right off in places—
but I love this, and
have to swing some more.

—Pam Livingston


A word on comedy—which most nature writing seems to shun as undignified. Joseph Meeker has published an essay on nature as Comedy (and, concomitantly, on our imposition of Tragedy onto/into the affairs of life as being largely overdramatized egoism). Humor, the moving spirit of Comedy, is very close to the basis of poetry (and all art)—it's incongruity at the bottom; it's what happens outside the dull confines of expectation. If we look as attentively, as closely, as we can, at whatever's happening at all—we're surprised. The microscope reveals our hilarious basic materials. Sure the sun comes up, predictably, but in the details of the sunrise there's all kinds of funny stuff: the shapes, the changes, the language of the intervening tree branches. You can almost say, if something's not funny it's a cliché. The Uncertainty Principle is funny.

And here's a piece of outright (outrageous) humor, which, like much humor, shudders with philosophy:

Back to Nature

The sidewalk
near my house
has a dead squirrel
alongside it—dead forever,
it seems—body shrunk—
empty holes for eyes;
the only thing left
"squirelly" is its tail—
but I'm not—yet—
quite—so crazed—
I don't think.

—Rob Smoke


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