October 30, 2007

Terrance Hayes: Two Poems in The Same City

This blog post allows me a little room to expand on the prompt for November that uses Terrance Hayes' poem. I have to admit that I did not first read this poem. I had it read to me, which happens more and more these days. No, I didn't go to a reading (though I did hear him read at the 2006 Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival)

I heard him read it on a podcast from the Poetry Foundation. The podcast itself is called "A Straight Man's Epiphany in a Gay Bar" but it's really about Hayes exploring relationships between men - in the case of our model poem, a father and son.

You can listen to the poem online, but I'll put a recommendation in here to encourage you to subscribe to the entire series in iTunes.

Not that this is the "answer" to the poem, but I found what Terrance Hayes says about the origin of this poem on the podcast very interesting. It opened up the poem for me and inspired this month's prompt.

As I said on the site, I don't really care if Hayes ever really jumpstarted his father's car battery as he does in the poem, because I'm really taken with that image.

I also love the lines:

But to rescue a soul is as close
as anyone comes to God.


Think of Joseph,
raising a son that wasn’t his.

I decided to focus on the poem's 2 part structure. It's written to appear that the poet writes his poem and then decides midway to start again.

It's not just two poems linked together. The poem works because of the interplay between the two stanzas. The second echoes the first. They bounce images off each other.

This is not a totally unique approach in poetry. Many poets will do multiple takes on a line or question within a poem the way they have described something. Mark Doty comes to mind. He often asks questions in his poems, and sometimes questions himself.

So our new prompt is to write a poem that contains two versions of the same poem. I'm afraid that I'm going to get a handful of submissions that are just two conjoined poems that might easily stand alone.

You need to consider the reasons we might restart mid-poem and allow the original to remain. Hayes is partially reconsidering what he wants to say. I get the feeling reading the poem (and this happens when I write) that we are discovering something as we read (write) that forces us to reconsider whre we are headed.

Usually, when writing, you would go to draft#2, but might there be a case where a reader needs the "false start" to understand the new direction?

I'm not sure if this prompt is very easy or very hard. I'm sure that this might work with a poem that has more than two parts too.

And I admit that there's a more complex writing prompt in Hayes' poem that would involve fathers, sons, children, forgiveness and other themes. I hope you'll try that one some time too.

1 comment:

  1. thanks for the podcast suggestion - excellent - just listened to the Robert Hass one


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