“Bokeh” by R. Ybañez

Bokeh

Probably one of my favorite pieces from last year. Wanted to share my small, yet growing community on WordPress this beauty.

Do you sometimes feel like you’re out-of-focus? I used to marvel at impressionist paintings and write ekphrases on some of my favorites. This is not an ekphrasis, but it reflects that former inspiration from some art friends I have.

Please comment, follow, like, do as you wish. I am hoping to engage in conversation.

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Notes on “Sotto Voce” by Stanley Kunitz

sotto voce

Structure of the poem:

  1. The poem is broken up into three quatrains (stanzas composed of four lines)
  2. While there is no set meter/rhythm in the poem, note the ending words–Kunitz plays with a rhyme scheme, but through off rhymes.
  3. The rhyme scheme is as follows: abab ccdd efef
  4. I argue that rhyme scheme in the third stanza because while one could make a case for the off rhyme to read effe, I feel “cross” and “axe” make a better pairing as off-rhyming words.

Meaning/interpretation:

  • Sotto voce is an Italian term that comes from music and literature, specifically from opera and drama, in which the performer lowers his or her voice for emphasis–usually to shock or surprise. You may even find yourself whispering at times when you are in shock, and that can be an instance of sotto voce.
  • If we break the poem down stanza by stanza, maybe a more clear meaning may come across (Kunitz was a symbolist poet in his younger years–this being one of those poems, so a clear meaning is not given, as the poet writes based on sounds and ideas through words).
  • The persona (speaker of the poem) commands the huntress of nerves (reflecting the power of the performer’s sotto voce–think of it as a means of getting goosebumps from listening to a very evocative performance of a song). The next two lines seem to figure that it’s because her loneliness (that whispered effect) seems to override the power of a saving language (in this case, I figure the persona refers to music–music is one of the greatest communicators after all).
  • “Heart be not alien” is a line that’ll never leave me. I will always be haunted by this delicious obscurity. I figure the persona demands for the performer to not be scared (alien–foreign, though I did think about the extraterrestrial for a while, too). “Come to me strange” seems not to ask the voice to come out awkwardly, but to be delivered in its own unorthodoxy from the lonely huntress’s breast (good singers do not sing through their noses–they sing from their lungs). “Whose prison is songs” returns to this “loneliness,” but this time around, it picks up the notion of isolation, perhaps as a way for the persona to relay how “distant” and “unique” this execution of sotto voce is.
  • The persona evokes the singer once again and asks her to share her gift, “[t]hough fraction be cross” (I figure the persona suggests that the execution of a whispered voice is too strong to hear once again). The metaphors of such strength are instantly fatal, being a reason why the persona asks the singer to deliver just half of her execution–“The instant of gallows / The kiss of the axe” = WOW. Don’t you feel decapitated? Just a little?

Emily Dickinson once said: If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that is poetry. And since I’m in her shoes, this piece by a younger Kunitz will always make my brain explode from the back of my head.

“I’m Not Empty, I’m Open” by R. Ybañez

People with a future instead
of faces, they say nothing
without their faces—
like a cobwebbed dream
in which everyone is
somehow recognizable
even with the blur brushed
over their heads. “They’re not empty,
they’re open,” I say, like in the way the light
reflects. A lazy projector flickers
upon a wall, bickering a timeline
to itself, and in this case,
it’s not colored, it’s closed.
Off in the distance, beyond this wall, this house, this town
someone is trying on masks for every occasion,
asking “Which future looks best for me?”
In this case, that sort of dread swirl
like everything else in Munch’s “The Scream,”
that open mouth gaping so wide it becomes
what the rest of their lives
will look like. Even white charcoal
looks good on black paper,
so once again, I must tell myself,
I’m not empty, I’m open.

“A Long Pause” by R. Ybañez

A Long Pause

I find it difficult to write poems nowadays. It seems like in the world we live in, we contribute so much to productivity and efficiency when we don’t have anything left over at the remains of the day. I suppose this is part of the transitory static that I’ve coined. Similar to Keat’s negative capability, though it is to denote the experiences of our uncertainty in which we find difficult to express.

Comments? Questions? Thoughts? Please share!

Welcome

Good evening, readers:

I did not think I would find myself blogging again since becoming semi-Tumblr famous. It was not conducive to my mental health, as I was creating an alter ego for myself: something I had longed to project in the real world, though it never fully manifested tangibly. From 2011 to the very end of 2015, I had a great run on three different blogs, using different URLs and attempting to establish an online community; however, the project began to, as most social media outlets work, become very vain. I dreaded looking at the “magic dash” and finding it drained of all life and mystery, filled with empty people with fragile egos erecting their shells as larger-than-life, and so on.

I began my creative writing journey when I was much younger, probably around the age of five or six, when I was asked to write short stories for assignments in class. Short stories were my favorite growing up. The works of Poe, Bradbury, Chekhov, Hemingway, and de Maupassant were ones that fueled this early creativity, along with other influences like the Final Fantasy franchise, At the Drive-In, and prog rock. I began writing conceptual material that eventually disintegrated into the history of unfinished works. Upon coming into my sophomore year of high school, we had analyzed the lyrics of Tom Petty, Ben Folds, and Neil Young for a poetry assignment, and that’s when I became engaged in poetry, following up with an introduction to classics like the English Romantics, et al. Whitman hit home for me after Joe, an old friend, let me borrow his copy of “Leaves of Grass.” Now looking back, I feel Whitman’s work is a drought of self-absorption, Narcissus falling forever into a pool without water, though originally, the work at the time was breathing life into me.

Through college (I went to Southwest Baptist University), I joined a poetry workshop called “Author Unknown,” a chapter of the Missouri State Poetry Society. My freshman year was filled with angst about coming out of the Friday meetings feeling as if I didn’t know what a poem was supposed to look like, then again, who knows an angst teenager who writes… well? I gave it time, given that I worked on a degree in English, studying the language and the literature. By the time it was my senior year of college, I was known for hosting the Friday meetings when both Mr. Sukany and Dr. Tappmeyer were absent, leading discussion and revision critiques. I had read an unpublished dialogue poem by Thom Satterlee with Thom Satterlee, stood right by Ted Kooser in a photo after he was done lecturing at one of the Barnett-Padgett Literary Events, and finally found some older poems that found homes in magazines and journals online. I had an amazing group of friends who helped propel my need to fulfill this “holy vocation” of being a poet. Now don’t get me wrong, I am first and foremost a human being, but to say that I have lived the childhood that I had and experienced the things I have in my still-young life, poetry gave me purpose: it taught me how to rearrange the feng-shui in my soul.

Between college in the first serious relationship I had, I found Tumblr, and used it frequently to put my name out there. When I had established the third blog, I had a following of 2000 readers and was a featured blue tag writer for prose, poetry, and literature. At the time, I found it exciting when The Paris Review’s blog followed mine. Between 2011 and the end of 2016, I have gotten over 30 poems published in magazines and journals online and in print throughout the US and the UK. And I am still trying to work out a manuscript for my first book of poems, titled Imaginarium.

Before I get completely long-winded into my digression, I will say that I hope for a revolution within myself to spark the life I had for poetry. I have gone too long without a group of friends or at least one person to be the iron that tests mine. So in my fashion, I will attempt to transmute the bones of my shadow aspect and spiritual nature for a kind of poetry I wish to inflict unto another. It was the German existentialist Martin Heidegger that expressed poets were the only ones who could enter the abyss and bring back a wholeness in the “Open” for others to apprehend it. What I offer is mental stenography, a perspective of what history is, magical realism, and the problems of attempting to remain sound in a world of dissociation.

I am opening this door again. “The outward man is the swinging door; the inner man is the still hinge,” as Meister Eckhart had said. Without further adieu, welcome to the art of misdirection: watch your step…