Sunday, March 09, 2008

Flashback Corner

I thought I hated poetry when I was a kid. It wasn't until I discovered Poe and Dylan Thomas in college that I came to understand how powerful the medium could be. I never wrote what I thought of as poetry in high school, but I did write song lyrics, mostly for the band Crash, which I sang with, or sometimes just for myself. Only two full sets of lyrics survive from that period of my life. Below are the words to a song called "She's a Killer," which I eventually sold as a poem.


Everywhere I look in the darkness, I see her watching me
Faded scarlet on her lips, dry chalk in her face
Eyes of need that beg into mine
A kiss so sharp it pricks like wine
Only wish I'd seen in time

She's a killer

Beneath the moonlight, her hands reach out to capture me
Ivory thorns in her hair, dark wind at her back
Open those lips and the room goes cold
What she offers? A body unsouled
All the deaths that were foretold

She's a killer

In the pearl of dawn, the dreams she gives come to life
Gleaming tears in her eyes leave fangs in my mind
Screaming to white, I await being taken
Heart twisted shut and breath so shaken
By all the memories her teeth awaken

I'm a killer

Today, poetry is a big part of my life. I love reading it and writing it, and it is a very big influence on my prose style. How about you? Do we have any poetryophiles out there? Do you have a favorite poem? Or do you hate poetry? Do you have miles to go before you'll cross the road to read a poem? The poets want to know. They're keeping a list. ;)


Erik Donald France said...

Crash is a nifty name for a rock band. Your song lyrics/poem is cool, is there a recording backed with music to go with it?

I like poetry, and produce a little here and there -- also began with song lyrics back in the days of bass guitar trials.

What is especially interesting about poetry is that it can so easily blur the lines of reality and fiction, yet doesn't have to be pigeonholed as one or the other. And the language/sound effects.

ivan said...

Ah, the femme fatale department.And sometimes ourselves rats with women.

Strong lyrics. Would love to hear the actual song. Bet it's really good.

Give you something of mine, which I sold twice, Hank Williams influences or no:

He saw the teardrop on the rose
And again he saw the teardrop on a rose
And he knew he could never melt the teardrop
And he knew this was already the end.

So he kissed the face of the evening wife
As he had kissed it before, in all its varying forms
And again said hello to the precipice of silence
A precipice of silence
For his eighteen months of loving.

The Queen of Swords is crossed over
And all the king's horses and all the king's men
Are trying to get her together again
Like me
To no avail.

Gigolo and Gigolet
This side of the Lake of Mutilation
Strike a match
And the hotel burns.

There is only this path of silence
As we dump our gods
And become like them.

WH said...

A kiss so sharp it pricks like wine--that's primo.

My favorite poem is Wordsworth's "The World Is Too Much With Us," which I already alluded to in another response. I like everything from traditional to modern, and I've found as a teacher and a writer that many people don't like to tackle the tougher syntax of modern verse (such as that of w.s. merwin, a real heavyweight). I love Bly, Rich, Plath, William Carlos Williams (very experimental), Jarrell, Bishop, Hughes, and Ferlingehtti (the only beat poet who really "works" for me). I do like "out there" stuff that challenges perception the same way that expressionism does in art. Former US poet laureate Billy Collins, more accessible, is about the best out there right now, imho. Tennyson is why I majored in English, btw.

Travis Cody said...

The thing I like most about poetry is that it doesn't have to mean the same thing to the reader as it does to the writer.

I stepped away from poetry for a number of years. Recently I've begun to write more.

ivan said...



Beat poets:

You didn't like HOWL?

Ginsberg is one of my gods.

Steve Malley said...

That reminds me... whatever happened to Poetry Thursdays back at my blog?

WB Yeats and William Carlos Williams are probably my faves, but that doesn't stop me sampling a little of everything on the menu!

Heather said...

I am only now discovering that I do, indeed like poetry. Been dabbling a touch in writing some and I certainly enjoyed reading yours.

Heather said...


Another blogger I read has a great poem posted (scroll down to after the meme) check out

he doesn't post his work often but I always like it when he does.

Greg said...

nice lyrics! i never liked poetry as a kid either, until i got to college. not sure what changed my mind -- i think it might have been an english lit class i took my sophomore year. it certainly wasn't all the shakespeare i had to read in high school!

Charles Gramlich said...

Erik, that's a good point about poetry, about how it crosses the lines of reality and fiction easily.

Ivan, this was actually one of our slower songs, heavy but not played at breakneck speed. I can hear yours played in the kind of honky tonk's I grew up around.

Billy, "The World is Too Much With Us," is very fine. I've enjoyed a lot of Tennyson as well. In the past ten years I've been reading a lot of basically unknown poets outside of the field of speculative poetry. Some of my favorites are Charlee Jacob and Wendy Rathbone.

Travis, yes, in fact, it very seldom does, I'd imagine.

Steve Malley, as I was saying to Billy, I read mostly what are called spec poets these days, or dramatic poetry such as that Robert E. Howard wrote.

H.E., I'll check that blog out.

Greg Schwartz, guess we're like converts to poetry then. And converts are often the most enthusiastic.

steve on the slow train said...

Charles, I don't think I ever hated poetry. I was pretty young when I discovered the English and Scottish ballads. "Thomas the Rhymer" and "Sir Patrick Spens" are still among my favorites.

I plan to do a post about John Donne on his saint's day March 31--a recognized saint in the Anglican Church who also wrote some of the most beautiful erotic poetry in the English language.

I also love the Romantics--Coleridge, Keats, and Shelley especially. I read "Ozymandius" in eighth grade and was hooked.

In 1967, when I was 15, I heard Lawrence Ferlinghetti read and was mesmerized. Thirty-three years later, I took my 15-year-old daughter Sarah to hear Ferlinghetti read. She's now in the MFA program at Maryland.

I discovered Kenneth Rexroth when I moved to Elkhart, where he spent his early years.

P.S. "She's a Killer" ought to have been a hit.

Lisa said...

"A body unsouled"

I love that line. I don't write it, but I've found that poetry is more a part of me than I realized. Robert Frost, Emily Dickenson, Andrew Marvell, so many poets and so many words that have almost become part of our collective consciousness.

Bob Dylan, John Lennon, Harry Chapin :)

Miladysa said...

She's A Killer is great - the last line is a killer too :-D

I LOVE poetry!

Adrian Henri had a huge influence upon me - when I first read 'Without You' I felt as though someone had switched the lights on for me.

Tyhitia posted some amazing poems on her blog last month and one is haunting me, Mother to Son by Langston Hughes.

Sphinx Ink said...

Charles, I did not know you could sing. You must put on a command performance for Wordsmiths sometime.

I like the poem/song. You do have a way with words.

I have said for years that I don't particularly like poetry because I never read it in my leisure time. Nevertheless, I've found myself, at times of high emotion in my life, writing poems. And I do recall a few memorable verses from my long-ago days as an English lit. major. My favorite poem is "Dover Beach" by Matthew Arnold.

Lana Gramlich said...

Your poetry has brought tears to my eyes. Although I enjoy Blake & much of the earliest recorded Welsh poetry available, none of that has ever made me cry (in the GOOD way.)

SQT said...

Normally I'm not a poetry person, but I like this a lot!

I love songs that tell a story and this one of course has something of a twist ending. Very very cool. I'd love to hear this sung.

cs harris said...

I grew to love poetry in my late teens, when I discovered Renaissance poetry. I still enjoy reading it, but I can't write it.

Bernita said...

Your poem evokes images like Tannith Lee does, Charles.
I do like poetry, old ballads,the Romantics. Yeats and Eliot are probably my favourites, but I am fond of individual pieces of every style from everywhere.

writtenwyrdd said...

I read poetry occasionally now, but I read quite a bit of it until getting the Job That Ate My Life about a decade ago. I still write song lyrics and poetry on occasion-- mostly while driving so I forget a lot of them.

I do think my prose is heavily influenced by my poetic side, which causes me to think of my writing as morel iterary than straight genre. I could be deluding myself, though.

Charles Gramlich said...

Steve, I'm a big fan of Coleridge and of Shelley as well. Both inlfluenced me.

Lisa, one of my favorite "poems" is "bullet the blue sky" by U2

Miladysa, yes I've been reading Tyhitia's postings. Some good stuff. Thanks for the comment on my piece.

Lana, you're sweet. Definitely Blake. I told you I was in a collection with Blake eh? of course, he was long dead.

Sphinx Ink, I'm afraid my singing voice isn't what it was.

SQT, I like those twist endings myself.

Candice, you probably could write it if you tried.

Bernita, thanks. Yes, there are a lot of good poets out there worth having a look at.

Writtenwyrd, I agree that poetical elements raise the level of prose. It's hard to say something is not literature if the prose really sings, no matter the subject matter.

Sidney said...

I loved Poe in high school, especially after one of my teachers said a story I wrote for an assignment reminded her of Poe. :-) There's a new version of the Black Cat on "Masters of Horror" which Jeffrey Coombs from Reanimator as Poe. It's kind of cool.

Sarai said...

I only read certain poetry and it is all due to a really bad English teacher. She shoved certain poems down our throats until I couldn't stomach any.
That being said I don't shrink from it I just don't rush out to read it. I do enjoy certain kinds usually darker poems like Poe but now and days I pretty much ignore it unless it moves me.

Josephine Damian said...

Charles, great poem.

While my first publication (at age 13!) was an essay, as a teenager I was all about writing poetry (I saved NONE of it! Ugh!) and as an English major in college I took mostly poetry classes (I stupidly sold back all my text books! Ugh!). Once I finished school, I recognized that the market for poetry wasn't nearly as strong as short stories, so I started writing those instead.

Yet poetry always will always be a first love, and this Rilke poem I stumbled upon years ago resonated with me personally so much so that I decided to include it in my WIP as something significant and inspirational my to MC:

I am too alone in the world, and not alone enough
to make every minute holy.
I am too tiny in this world, and not tiny enough
Just to lie before you like a thing, shrewd and secretive.

I want my own will, and I want simply to be with my will,
As it goes toward action,
And in the silent, sometimes hardly moving times
When something is coming near,
I want to be with those who know secret things
Or else alone.

I want to be a mirror for your whole body,
And I never want to be blind or too old
To hold up your heavy and swaying picture
I want to unfold
I don’t want to be folded anywhere,
Because where I am folded, there I am a lie.
And I want my grasp of things
True before you. I want to describe myself
Like a painting that I looked at
Closely for a long time,
Like a saying that I finally understood,
Like the face of my mother,
Like a ship
That took me safely
Through the wildest storm of all.”

Rainer Maria Rilke

Charles Gramlich said...

Sidney, Poe was definitely one of the first poets to ignite my imagination.

Sarai, I told my English teacher that if I hadn't already been a reader she would have kicked reading out of me. I hated some of the crap we were supposed to read and which was "good for us," like taking foul tasting medicine.

Josephine, I've read a fair amount of Rilke. I don't remember this particular one but it's very good. I'm often a sucker for first person poems

virtual nexus said...

....Pope, metaphysical poets, Eliot,
some Byron. Lost interest as I moved away from academic environments in life role; occasional song writing; and reawakened the muse some years ago during a writing phase.

Tend to read too fast to digest poetry easily.

Ello - Ellen Oh said...

Hey that was quite clever! I love that line = hear twisted shut! Great poem, Charles!

SzélsőFa said...

It was a great experience to read this poem of your, Charles.
I like poetry, tend to write some...uhm...things some might call poems...

My fav. poets are Reményik Sándor and József Attila. (I guess some of their poems are available in English.)

Shauna Roberts said...

I'm not much of a poetry fan, although I do like ones that tell a story. My favorites are "The Highwayman" by Alfred Noyes, "To His Coy Mistress" by Andrew Marvell, and "Der Erlkönig" by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. The beginning of "Erlkönig" always gives me chills: "Wer reitet so spät durch Nacht und Wind? Es ist der Vater mit seinem Kind."

Rereading what I've just written, it sounds as if I only like poems about death. But I like happy ones too.

Charles Gramlich said...

Julie, I have to make a conscious effort to slow down when I read poetry. But when I can do that and am in the mood I can get great pleasure from it.

Ello, thanks.

Szelsofa, I have not heard of these poets but will have to check them out. Thanks for your comment on my piece.

Shauna, I do enjoy ones that tell a story, but for poetry I think I like best the ones that "suggest" a lot, that seem to have hidden elements and that give me an emotional tweak.

AvDB said...

"Gleaming tears in her eyes leave fangs in my mind."


I don't dislike poetry; I'm just horrible at it. It didn't help my last experience with learning poetry was with a teacher who hated her life--and consequently her students. Left such a bad taste in my mouth I never moved past the classics (all to my undoubted detriment).