Thursday, February 5, 2009

The Pill Versus the Springhill Mine Disaster

This is the first time I'd read Richard Brautigan, and it made a big impression on me. His poems are simple and non-rhyming, and often are trying to do nothing more than convey a memory, or a moment, like this:
November 3

I'm sitting in a cafe,
drinking a Coke.

A fly is sleeping
on a paper napkin.

I have to wake him up,
so I can wipe my glasses.

There's a pretty girl I want to look at.
This approach woke something up inside me, and made me realize that I have hundreds and hundreds of memories like that, which I want to write down in this kind of simple, elegant manner. I think it is partly spurred by my recent conversion to the church of Getting Things Done, which has me in the habit of writing down any important thing I am supposed to do. Once I got all those "to dos" out of my head, it is like my subconscious said, "Hey, you wrote down that other important stuff -- why not write down these important memories, too? Aren't they even more important, really?" And it seemed obvious to me that I should do this. I've always been awkward at writing poetry -- but this feels different. A phrase appeared in my mind: "Poetry is like the newspaper: It's only useful if it's true." So, bit by bit, I've been writing down little poems like this about magical moments that stand out in my life. It feels so natural -- it makes me wonder why everyone doesn't do this? Why not bring out the weird, glistening, important moments in your life, and arrange them like pearls on a string? Why doesn't everyone do this? Is there a more efficient way to create a record of your life?

On a different note, here is perhaps my favorite poem in the collection:

All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace

I like to think (and
the sooner the better!)
of a cybernetic meadow
where mammals and computers
live together in mutually
programming harmony
like pure water
touching clear sky.

I like to think
(right now please!)
of a cybernetic forest
filled with pines and electronics
where deer stroll peacefully
past computers
as if they were flowers
with spinning blossoms.

I like to think
(it has to be!)
of a cybernetic ecology
where we are free of our labors
and joined back to nature,
returned to our mammal
brothers and sisters,
and all watched over
by machines of loving grace.

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