Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Science of Imaginary Solutions

On Tuesdays, I go to my fiction seminar and then go straight to the poetry seminar. It's one ultra-deluxe, four-hour block of writing goodness. I particularly appreciate the stuff I'm picking up in Don Paterson and Jake Polley's seminars-- even though I don't technically write poetry. 

But I do write lyrics. And it's been really great to gain a better understanding and handle on some of the things I do instinctually anyhow. To put names to some of the things I use, and to look at poems I wouldn't otherwise (mostly likely.) 

Yesterday, we were looking at syntax-- super important in lyric writing. It's sort of the last hurdle you have to get past. It's what naturalizes any rhyme. While we were looking at poems for the class, we started talking about Pataphysics. Amazing. I was in heaven. The science of imaginary solutions. 

Read this (the title poem) by Peter Didsbury-- one of the Hull poets along with Douglas Dunn & Sean O'Brien. (Incidentally, apparently they were rowdy, causing one establishment to post the sign: No Dogs, No poets. Amazing.)  And then this master class in pataphysics by Billy Collins. The last two stanzas.... just...goodness.  Enjoy! Happy Wednesday! 

Questions About Angels

Of all the questions you might want to ask
about angels, the only one you ever hear
is how many can dance on the head of a pin.

No curiosity about how they pass the eternal time
besides circling the Throne chanting in Latin
or delivering a crust of bread to a hermit on earth
or guiding a boy and girl across a rickety wooden bridge.

Do they fly through God's body and come out singing?
Do they swing like children from the hinges
of the spirit world saying their names backwards and forwards?
Do they sit alone in little gardens changing colors?

What about their sleeping habits, the fabric of their robes,
their diet of unfiltered divine light?
What goes on inside their luminous heads? Is there a wall
these tall presences can look over and see hell?

If an angel fell off a cloud, would he leave a hole
in a river and would the hole float along endlessly
filled with the silent letters of every angelic word?

If an angel delivered the mail, would he arrive
in a blinding rush of wings or would he just assume
the appearance of the regular mailman and
whistle up the driveway reading the postcards?

No, the medieval theologians control the court.
The only question you ever hear is about
the little dance floor on the head of a pin
where halos are meant to converge and drift invisibly.

It is designed to make us think in millions,
billions, to make us run out of numbers and collapse
into infinity, but perhaps the answer is simply one:
one female angel dancing alone in her stocking feet,
a small jazz combo working in the background.

She sways like a branch in the wind, her beautiful
eyes closed, and the tall thin bassist leans over
to glance at his watch because she has been dancing
forever, and now it is very late, even for musicians.

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