Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Sixty-One (100x3)

Thirteen Ways of Thinking about 61

Babe Ruth’s single season home-run record.
Five degrees lower than Honolulu ever gets.
Three squares shy of a chessboard.
16 looking at itself in a mirror, much later.
Two digits which add up to a magic number.
The highway Bob Dylan revisited.
Nine cards more than a poker deck.
Seven octaves and some grace notes.
Number 18 in the sequence of prime numbers.
My quarter grade in Dan Barren’s geometry class.
My father’s age when the third heart attack took him down.
Three largish English classes; four smallish ones.
The birthday I celebrate today.

Process Reflection: This started out from the intersection of two events in my life: discovering the 100-Word assignment on the web two days ago, and turning 61 today. It’s a birthday I’ve been warily watching approach because, as the poem indicates, my father only made it barely this long, and I don’t really know how I feel about getting to be older than my father. My original idea was to have it be a ten-line poem entitle “Ten Ways…” but I was some words short and began playing around to fill in some words and wound up with thirteen lines, which seemed appropriate as a nod to Wallace Stevens, whose poem “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird” is one of my favorites and a core text in my sophomore English class. What sort of surprised me about the poem was how just the effort of trying to assemble this list wound up producing a sort of capsule autobiographical sketch. That wasn’t my original intention, but again, given the occasion, seems apropos. After I got all the lines and hit 100 words right on the nose, I spent another five or ten minutes arranging and rearranging the sequence of lines. Originally, the one about my dad was first. (Maybe it still should be. Dunno. The poem still feels wet to me.) But writing this turned out to be more fun than I thought it was going to be when I started it.


Poets Online said...

enjoying your 100 words posts

I’m a proponent of the William Stafford poem-every-morning school. He said that poems like Easter Morning, A Story That Could be True & How These Words Happened came out of those experiments When he was asked how he could write a poem every morning fresh from waking up, he replied, “I lower my standards.”

Bruce Schauble said...

I've always liked that line of Stafford's, and the statement, in "Making a Poem/Starting a Car on Ice," "A writer must write bad poems, as they come, among the better, and not scorn the bad ones. Finicky ways dry up the sources."

As far as early morning poems go, one of my favorite collections is Kooser's Winter Morning Walks. He sent a poem on a postcard every day to Jim Harrison for five months. Here's "December 13"

Just as a dancer, turning and turning
may fill the dusty light with the soft swirl
of her flying skirts, our weeping willow—
now old and broken,creaking in the breeze—
turns slowly, slowly in the winter sun,
sweeping the rusty roof of the barn
with the pale blue lacework of her shadow.