Thursday, April 30, 2009

Sensitivity to light

It's idiotic, what those who work at optometrist offices expect you to do when you are practically blind. Tonight, pupils like saucers, trying to figure out what in my wallet was a credit card based solely on touch, my phone rang, and I had to ask the receptionist to read my caller ID.

"Krick?" she said.

"Thanks," I said.

The first time I was ever drunk (on raspberry Smirnoff), my high school boyfriend and I went for a ride in his brother's white Chrysler LeBaron. I feel like I'm on a Ferris wheel, I said, about five thousand times. Then the boyfriend took me home, but I felt too funny to go straight to bed, so I tried to read Harry Potter (true story). But of course I was too blind to read it. Why would anyone choose to feel like this on purpose, I thought, if you can't even read.


Tortilla ex Machina said...


I know that you aren't looking for or needing advice from an unqualified stranger, but after reading this entry, I was wondering if you have considered a series of short poems – about these length, about this style – as a series of related works for a collection? I wonder if this sort of writing is easier for you than standard poetry, and whether or not you would consider it rewarding –

I do. I spent the evening reading poems from all sources and I actually enjoyed this one – poem or not – the best of all. Like so much of your work, it is strikingly clear and beautiful and light with a surrealist touch and still, real (ouch, there is a better word than 'real' I just can't think of it now.)

Anyway, again, apologies for advice you don't need or want.

And one other: do you know the song SHORT SKIRT AND LONG JACKET? It forever changed the meaning of Chryslers for me.

She's changing her name / from Kitty to Karen /
She's trading her MG / for a / White Chrysler LeBaron

Leigh Stein said...

Thanks for all the kind praise. I think you suggested something similar when I told a story about a boy who sent notes to all the girls in our third grade class. I don't really see them as poems, though. Just memories.

Poems have to have another layer of conflict and a kind of synthesis that I'm not thinking about when I'm just remembering my life (which is why I'm a poet and not a memoirist). Plus, there's a difference I think between the truth of a memory and the lie of a poem. Or you could call it a twist instead of a lie, the point at which the surreality takes over.

Tortilla ex Machina said...


I see what you mean & I am not surprised that I am repeating myself because: 1) it was probably how I felt then and now and 2) my memory is mighty creaky.

As for the construction, I have always been fond of what I think of as 'impressionist' poems – which can be unadulterated memories, at times, I think – although it is difficult to say that something is not adulterated when it is reconstructed. I do think that a memory that leaves a powerful (or even ghostly) impression can be or is a poem, or at least very close.

I was smitten by Richard Brautigan when I was about 16. Did I mention that, too? He has a collection of writing called REVENGE OF THE LAWN that very much was of this order. I do not know if you would like it or not; he has fallen somewhat out of favor over the years. If you get a chance (if you care to) – have a look. Especially with pieces like PALE MARBLE MOVIE or HIGH BUILDING IN SINGAPORE. I read them once, then, and I still remember them now. (Whether or not they actually are poems, they are most certainly memories at this point!)


Leigh Stein said...

Ah, but now we're getting into defining what a poem is. And I don't think an "unadulterated memory" sounds like a poem. It sounds more like unstructured writing to me. Like, maybe you're someone who happens to have had a fabulously weird life, so you can write "unadulterated memory" and it'll be interesting, but there's no craft in that. I will check out Richard Brautigan.

Tortilla ex Machina said...

I think that – because of your precision and my lack of it – that we are getting into interesting territory.

I do not really mean 'unadulterated memory' really and I did not spend enough time with the thought before I committed it to, well, here. What I believe I meant – and again, I am perhaps not giving this enough thought still – is the illusion of unadulterated memory – a memory that has been crafted, polished and refined so thoroughly that it appears more natural, more clarified, than it did when it first occured or was communicated to one's self or another.

This is what I see in Brautigan's short works. Or E.B. White. A simple, pure, beautiful impression that seems effortless and natural but probably required lots of hair pulling and grunting regardless.

Hope you like the Richard Brautigan. Some of it is hippie-lingo'd to death, and for that I apologize in advance. REVENGE is wonderful, though, pretty much, througout.