View Full Version : A Poet, Gently to His Reader:

William Haskins
02-04-2016, 10:27 PM
Join me in a conspiracy
of singular exclusivity.

We'll blind the eyes
of all who see,
rend the tongues
from their blathering mouths,
shatter their hearing
until it is merely the dull
pounding of drowning. Now.

We are alone.

Here I am your sorcerer,
brewing a stew to bewitch you.
Your jester, your mirror,
a voice from your past
or glimmering glimpse of your future,
truth writ large or a quiet liar,
a dancer with knives
and fire.

And though I need not
sit beside you as you
read these words,
know that you were with me
when I wrote them.

02-05-2016, 02:31 AM
Of course I will join you. And I'll be only too glad to rend and blind any interlopers who dare trespass on our exclusive thread.*

This captures, for me, the sense of ownership I have when a poem speaks to me. I feel I've forged an intimacy with the poet -- he knows me and I know him, he's felt what I've felt and understood in a way perhaps no other person has, that I get him, right down to the last nuance, that he wrote that poem just for me. His words hold me spellbound, become part of me, holding a mirror to some truth I never fully recognized before.

Which, of course, explains my astonishment when some other person takes a different view of that same poem, and also feels a sense of ownership. It's mine, damn their eyes!


* er...rather hoping it's obvious I'm joking, there. Rending and blinding are probably violations of RYFW.

02-05-2016, 03:08 PM
Thanks for this.
It's beautiful.

(we're on a little road trip, -im not the driver- so this is phone typing. I want to respond in more detail but it'll have to wait until I'm using an actual keyboard instead of touchscreen from inside a moving vehicle. A few hours yet to go.)

William Haskins
02-06-2016, 05:01 AM
as always, i appreciate the reads. thank you.

Ari Meermans
02-06-2016, 05:17 AM
As always, no, thank you.

02-06-2016, 05:20 AM
I'm sort of hoping this is about the March 3rd Republican debates in Detroit--particularly the rending of tongues bit.

Well done as always, William.

02-12-2016, 07:00 AM
I said I would come back to this and didn't.
Last weekend we took the boys (13 and 11 years old now) skiing for the first time and I thought that while they were on the slopes, I would be on my laptop. (not keen on hurling myself down mountains). However, I watched the whole time, took video and photos and never once opened the laptop for what I thought was going to be a few hours of writing time. So I never made my way back to this either.
They claim it was the best vacation ever and they are asking about longer, bigger ski trips (like Colorado) now. Maniacs. Vacation success!
It wasn't even a choice, I wouldn't have missed their adventure for anything.
But, I did want to come back to this one.

So life out of the way for a brief pause, I wanted to tell you that I read this (on my phone) several times. What I really love is how you engage the reader with the urgency (violence) of the early stanzas and then you settle in so personally. Writer and reader aren't at a distance anymore but intimate co-conspirators, with this wonderful secret. And all poetry should feel that way, so when you describe it in such a way in a poem, it is a meta, hyper-emotion of "YES! EXACTLY." It's cathartic.
It is comforting for the reader because we are allowed to be at one with the writer. we are welcome. and it feels so so singular. It's immediate acceptance. This poem feels good.
As a writer, I hope my readers long for this. As a reader, I appreciate the acknowledgement and generosity. Stephen King wrote about this in On Writing. He referred to it as a kind of telepathy, that he wrote his words in a different place and time than he reader read those words but they were somehow together in a moment. this feels like that.
It's inspiring.
Personally, for me, I didn't pay attention to the first stanzas enough the first time, so it all felt good, then on closer reads, I was intrigued by the violence, which finally got me thinking more, that a reader's presumption of ownership (and pummeling of others) to get to that intimate one-on-one voids the "universal" aspect a writer strives for, entirely. Side note: Honestly, to make this feel so universal and personal at the same time is brilliant.
Then again maybe, those (blathering, etc) others are just so much daily noise we need to shut out in order to find the connection the writer and the reader are seeking. I want that to be the case.

Still, the use of the word "jester" makes me pause. again. I want to tell the narrator that I don't expect party tricks and entertainment because maybe he feels used. The writer's open vein shouldn't really be fodder, should it? A catch phrase? fuck-off-a-punchline?

and then I read it again, and think about when I have written something for someone, or with a person or moment in mind, and it does feel like co-conspiracy, and it does feel like I need to block out all other opinions. and sometimes everyone else who thought they had ownership or understanding is so far away from the truth;it's like I saw a beautiful starry night in IL and they saw the Milky Way. Forest/ Trees and all that.

But you know, there's this tiny line between what I write for myself and others. It's in invisible ink. I'm not sure where i put it. Because sometimes having broader conspiracy is more important than intimate conspiracy. And the best part is, when the readers can't tell which group they belong in.
All that speaks to a strangely possible (for me) arrogance in writer or reader (or both)? But the poem in general speaks to a very hopeful conspiratorial sort of reader.

So there's a pile of rambling.
I stand by my original, "thank you. this is beautiful" - just with way more words this time. No matter how many times I read it and form this or that opinion, the last stanza and sincere title feel like warm happy, team victory. I really love this.

02-12-2016, 07:11 AM
Also, Atheist Messiah came to mind momentarily. bewitching brews and jester tricks, and being the mirror and the memory.
wow. I might not ever actually get this one completely, but I love that I get it enough to question it so much. And I like how it makes me feel. Above everything else.

B.D. Eyeslie
02-12-2016, 06:27 PM
No analysis from me (it would only serve to expose me), just a hearty, "Thank you."

William Haskins
02-12-2016, 08:51 PM
thank you all again.

trish, i was touched by your thoughtful response, and this poem is a rather unsubtle articulation of one of the big facets of poetry that i find myself obsessing over, that of immediacy.

so it was cathartic in a way for me, as well, in writing it.

i can only hope that my future work finds its way to that place.

02-12-2016, 10:56 PM
I don't know about future work, but several dozen of your past works have.
This poem describes exactly the way i feel when i read Quietus, A Poet's Failure,(most recently) and so many others you know to be my "favorites".
I have no doubt you'll meet me there again.

02-13-2016, 12:45 AM
I've been reading and and rereading this poem in an attempt to articulate what it is that I love about it. I agree with everything Trish wrote. In a broader look, it seems this is a microcosm for what makes you so adept at poetry, so masterful. You are able to drill down to that one reader and make each person feel as though they are that one reader, alone with you in the poetic trenches. And the pace is just delicious.

02-13-2016, 01:29 AM
Moreso than the other arts, at least in my opinion, the success of a written piece is bound up with the writer's intent. The more fully it's received, the better the piece. I've always felt that the reaction to visual and musical art, in the moment of reception, is a more collaborative thing. What the viewer or listener brings with them affects the art more than what a reader had with them at the first word. In reading, I set more of me aside to take in what's on the page, or in this case, the screen. (Certainly many will disagree with me.)

If a writer writes it right, it's telepathy. The reader is there at the inception, whenever it was, so it's time travel, too. And the poet, generally tasked with the strictest economy of language, demanding the most flexibility out of it, has the most difficult of writerly tasks. Again, my opinion, successful poetry is also arguably the most rewarding success. If, in economy and flexibility, the poet hits the mark, it's a special tier of excellent.

This poem seems like a Valentine to that idea. Nobody does it better, sir.