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writing the long poem

A little while back a few Lucipo folks (Tony and Ken perhaps?) mentioned how quite a few younger poets are attempting long poems.

I've been dipping and out of Olson's The Maximus Poems and the sheer maximalist quality (energy transference) makes me dizzy. I am working on a long poem called Campanology ( which is The art of ringing bells, or a treatise on the art). I am trying to move in and out of bells (bells as a form of structure/time, bells as a form of clarity, bells in religious ceremony) and meld it with bits of spiritual autobiography.

I having a real problem bringing it all together. It feels like it's just spiraling out of control. Every time I go into it and try to add a bit more clarity, a bit more intention, my hand is too heavy and it clunks (sinks). But as it is now it's a little too far at sea.

It doesn't seem to have two legs to stand on. A falcon without a falconess.

I suppose the tug may work itself out or I may have to abandon the project for now and work on something else.

I do want to try some prose poems.

A few times semi long poems (6 pages or so) worked when I wrote seperate poems then combined them and connected them into one poem.

Perhaps I could try that approach for this long bell poem.

Anyone else have snags along the way to writing the long poem?


Tony Tost said…
My trouble is all pacing, trying to write in a way that forestalls closure but, as you identify it, maintains a transfer of energy. A writing that requires length (as opposed to just deciding to write a lot of pages). For Complex Sleep I'm going back through the manuscript I just put together, about 60 pages, and am rewriting it sentence by sentence, line by line, corresponding & responding to the previous lines/sentences -- I'm basically trying to create a different, separate push while investigating the value systems that I prop up in the original pieces. So in this way it's much easier because I have the scaffolding (the previous sentences/lines), or maybe just the excuse for a longer piece.

In a lecture Creeley quotes Pound as saying that poetry requires both a constant & a variable, & the long project presents this issue on such an unfamiliar scale that I have to work almost completely on faith.

In Duncan's poem the falcon has to attack the falconess to fully become falcon, right, to initiate its own selfhood? It could just be a sign that your long poem doesn't require your present (imported from others?) notions of clarity & intention? I think it's completely worthwhile to risk spiraling out of control. Maybe it's not a falcon at all. Maybe the long poem is a way of writing towards (reading towards) a new Bethleham.
Chris Vitiello said…

Don't underestimate sheer length and consecutivity to bring a project together, to use your words. The projectness of it can accumulate merely through length. Numbered parts helps---and it facilitates sub-sectioning as well, which is a good way to organize layers of information when they seem jumbled.

I have always found a thematic hub (such as your bells) to interfere with this accumulation of coherence through length. Probably this is idiosyncratic. If I try to stay on the theme then the writing bogs down and I begin beating a dead horse.

The length really needs to come from curiosity. The long poem is a space to explore multiple curiosities and digressions. Rather than starting from a point away from your theme and bringing the writing back to the theme, start from the theme and digress and move away from it. And then stop---end of that part.

The poem itself is a physical fact of the coherence of the concept of the long project.

The opposite of curiosity is death.
Ken Rumble said…

You mention bringing it together; I generally try to avoid bringing it together. As Chris and Tony suggest, the feeling of spiraling out of control is probably one to cultivate. Once you know where the poem is going, do you need to keep writing it?? The Maximus poems success is their movement forward: they just keep going. It doesn't seem that Olson spent much time going back trying to bring it together; instead he went forward and trusted that knowledge is so interwoven that talking about what the postman's wife had for breakfast one Valentine's day was a valuable part of the history of Gloucester. Or perhaps he trusted that the form was sufficient to sustain any content he put into it? to reverse Creeley's "form is never more than an extension of content" maxim? The faiths that Tony refers to perhaps??

So yeah -- I'm just repeating what Tony and Chris have already said; the jist of which is keep going.

The opposite of death is ice cream.
Chris Vitiello said…
It would be worth it to devote a Lucipo meeting to discussions of issues involved in writing book-length poems.
Anonymous said…
Hi Marcus,

I have found Spicer's notion of the serial poem useful in working through various projects. A lot of the stuff I have been working on lately has been mostly long poems in series. I like the freedom to stretch out and explore different things in different parts of the poem. In the binary of maximal vs. minimal, I probably feel more sympathetic with the maximal (via Whitman and Olson), the notion of trying to include everything in the poem.

Of course, this leads to problems, too. I was writing a Maximal long poem in prose recently and I had to stop, because rather than the poem becoming Everything, Everything was turning into the poem. That is, I couldn't eat breathe talk move without parts of those things being in the poem. And that's somewhat crazy-making.

But I would be very interested in taking a look at your long poem project, if you are looking for more readers. Or, interested in exchanging work, etc. I am particularly interested in this issue and to how one keeps the momentum going on such a large and inclusive scale.


Tim Peterson
daniel said…
Hi, sorry for commenting on an older post, but I found it by googling "long poem" because I'm currently interested in finding poems of longer lengths (1000-2000 words or longer even), and I was wondering if you could recommend some because I only know a few (Prufrock, 4 quartets, some other popular ones)?

Good luck with your work!
Thank you
Cain Middle said…
It's kind of hard to think if you will write a long poem but it's worth it especially if people who read you poem say positive comments about.

book report
Anonymous said…
Hello Word!!!
Jessica Lee said…
I told the story which took place in my life. Unfortunately, it is rather sad, so I won’t develop the idea of it here, but I admit one thing: what you write must be you from the inside. I’ll use the info for my custom term paper.
thesis writing said…
I'm basically trying to create a different, separate push while investigating the value systems that I prop up in the original pieces.

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