“The Great Divide” (Poem, 05/03/08) Doc. #020

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The Text:

THE GREAT DIVIDE

Written May 3, 2008 (Age 21)

         If what            they told us was false
       we were           unaware that there
was nothing           in the desert
  but friends           told us otherwise
     then why           are you so outraged?
               do I           have any say or
        need to            explain things I can’t control?
    apologize            for my ignorance?

Critique:

“The Great Divide” is a poem about conflict with a unique use of white space that creates a truly interesting effect. The divide between the two sets of lines causes two poems to emerge: one in which all of the words are read, another where only the first set is read. The division of the lines contribute to the sense of separation between the speaker and the subject.  It is, for lack of a better term, kind of cool. One wonders if a third poem could be created out of the second set, given another effort.

Unfortunately, the poem as a whole is merely average. There is little imagery, and some of the lines are confusing, likely due to the poet’s need to bend lines around the left side of the poem. It is not rhythmically precise, nor are any lines particularly artful or pleasing to the ear. The poem really needs to be seen to be experienced properly.

But what the poet is trying to achieve is ambitious, and to a degree he is successful. The technique should be pursued further in the future. Grade: B+

I think this is the first entry to the blog that I’ve seen before and my first impression remains the same.  My lizard brain desperately wants the right side of the piece to be a complete sentence like the left side.  It scrabbles around like a cat running on linoleum, looking for complete clauses to latch onto and skidding when it doesn’t find that traction.

Now, I can make a fairly strong argument for why that works for the poem.  The irritation of expectations rebuffed is certainly appropriate.  It could also perhaps hint at the mental shards of the speaker contrasted with a subject who is in control.

It dims my enjoyment of the poem.  But who ever said poetry was always supposed to be pleasant?  Scumbag if I know.

Otherwise, it is a good crystallization of a universal feeling.  It’s true that this is not a piece to be performed aloud, but in fairness most slam looks like crap on the page; no piece of art is going to adapt well to all media.  Grade: A

Reflection:

Here are some questions I’ve been pondering for a long time:

What’s God like? What is the nature of reality? Is there even such a things as “right” and “wrong?” Does it matter in an after-death scenario? Will there BE an after-death scenario (for me)?  (Is there any Diet Pepsi in the fridge?  I’m serious, are we out?)

My answers to those questions have changed over the years, and clearly there’s a lot of “I don’t freaking know” in there, but the the big, unanswerable nature of the questions reveal a part of me that I am both proud of and frequently frustrated by: I’m interested in the big, magical, undefinable things in life (like Earthbound).

God, beauty, justice, truth. These are the things that interest me. Yes, I’d like to have enough green paper slips to eat and live in a place, and I’d probably buy a pirate ship if someone gave me a billion dollars (100% in favor of this), but I’m not really interested in acquiring a pirate ship (Dammit, Sean!) or even more practical luxury items like airplanes. What I want is to feel like I’m doing what I should be doing, like I’m “fulfilling my destiny,” if that phrase has any meaning at all.

When I wrote this poem, I thought that destiny might include being a Writer. Not just a writer, but a Writer, a Writer who writes Literature, the kind of Writer that gets interviewed by the New Yorker and the Paris Review. I wanted to think like a Writer, and live like a Writer. I wanted to be almost completely unknown by most people, but one of the most influential Literary Voices of the day. I wanted to be Don DeLillo, or Gary Shteyngart, or Salman Rushdie. (Every English major in the room is looking around like what’s wrong with that?”

To be a Writer of that magnitude meant taking every word, every phrase, every space and moment and period and apostrophe, with the utmost seriousness. To a certain extent, I still take my writing this seriously, but I also sometimes, like, you know, get lazy and like, just kind of go with whatever word will work. It’s fine. Nobody is going to think “You know, I bet he could have come up with a better, smarter word for that.” (What! No!  I would never.) Frankly, most people would need a dictionary to read my writing if I was trying to be as damn impressive as I was trying to be ten years ago.  My expansive vocabulary has only increased in magnitude since adolescence, and my juvenilia already contains too much ****ing showing off, which is why I don’t write as many sentences like this one anymore. (Yet I still insisted on “A Critical Archive of Juvenilia and Memoir” as my blog’s slogan at first).

To be honest, I’m probably more of a Writer today than I was when I wrote “The Great Divide” and I’m only trying to be an entertaining blogger. The fact is, I write more, and I consider my audience more consistently as I write (insert masturbation scene here). I don’t know what people are going to like, so I don’t try to appeal to them; I just try not to turn them off. I can be a crass, sardonic **** in real life. On the page, I get to edit myself better than I am capable of doing in conversation. I get to be less of a ****. I want to be less of a ****!

Anyway, I hope you liked something here, and if you did, please click on one of the “Share” buttons below. Thanks for reading!

~Sean L

P.S. You know who could perform this poem perfectly aloud? William Shatner. Do yourself a favor and re-read the poem with Shatner’s voice in your head. You’ll laugh.

 

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