Sometimes the questions are more important than the answers: “what do people want to know about?”, “what do people want to buy?”, “what attracts people to other people?”. Google and other search engine services make good money selling the answers to the question “what do people want to buy?” The answers to “what do people want to know about?” could help us to adapt our educational systems better to the current needs of their students and the potential employers of those students. The answers to “what attracts people to other people?” may help us find love or maybe not or may increase the overall feeling of loneliness and the incidence of suicide. But I digress.
For the past year and a half or so, my creative writing has been split between poetry and science fiction. My first and longest running affair has been with poetry but, since my father died, my head has filled with stories, stories of a scientific bent, stories that are so compelling to me in their urge to be born onto paper or into cyberspace that they hog both hemispheres of my frontal lobes to the exclusion of my first love, poetry.
Maybe the stories are a blessing. To tell the truth, I’ve only written one new poem since I’ve published my book of poetry, “The Uncollected Works of Mike Stone” half a year ago. Life has been pretty good to me recently. I have a wonderful loving wife, three sons loved and loving who make me very proud, three magical grandchildren, and a strong fiercely independent she-boxer named Daisy whom we love far more than we should, no muse or dark mistress backstage, no starvation, no disease, no clear and present threat of war, etc. All these blessings are curses where writing poetry is concerned, at least the kind of poetry which I like to read, the kind that evinces emotions from the reader (which will only happen if the writer invests true emotions in what he writes). No matter how polished the work is, how right the meter, the scansion, the rhyme, or any of the other mechanics and craftsmanship are, if the hand of the writer is not impaled on the receipt nail of the Pawnbroker while he is writing his poem, if the poet is not putting himself through the fish-hook as bait, if he is not performing open-heart surgery on himself, the reader will know, he won’t be fooled, and his empathy won’t be elicited.
“OK,” you say, “I’ve read some of your poems. There’s several about war and mistresses, one want ad for a muse (that I didn’t get), and one about suicide. Where are those coming from?”
Good question. I saw a bumper sticker or a tee-shirt once that said “One life; live it well”. Suppose one life is not enough for a poet to write about everything he has to write about. It’s all about the road not taken. You take one road. If you’re like me, you probably take the safe road whenever you can. Sometimes you can’t. What about the other road, the one you didn’t take? Yes, I’m referring to the poem by Robert Frost. When one life isn’t enough for a poet, he has to walk down the other road a ways just to see where it’s going. Some might call that the act of imagination or empathy or the many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics or entertaining a thought. I don’t like describing it as “entertaining a thought” very much, because some of those thoughts are not very entertaining. Anyway it works like this: you decide to do something (or you decide not to do it) and then, instead of just going on to your next decision or being smug about it, you think about what it would be like to have done the opposite, to have taken the other road. Sounds simple, right? Simple it’s not. As a matter of fact, it’s almost impossible. The distance you can go down the road not taken is a measure of your credibility as a poet. But I digress.
The scope of poetry is as wide as humanity itself, even wider. It ranges from loud whooping fanfares of heroic epic poetry (macrocosm) all the way down to haiku (microcosm) so small and vulnerable that you must be perfectly silent in the center of your being in order to hear it, that if you look at it too harshly it will shatter. I’m talking about the latter end of the poetic spectrum, the ode to little things (yes, I wrote that one), the snow flake in a holocaust, the nuance, the gesture, the specific ambiguity, the things that are both true and not true.
I thought that there were some parallels between quantum physics and the poetry of the microcosm (many-worlds || the roads taken and not taken, quantum coherence/entanglement || specific ambiguities), so I keyed in “Quantum Poetics” in Google. I thought to myself that I’d probably get no hits. I once heard of a game computer geeks play, similar to “pitching pennies”, “pitch and toss”, “Liney”, or “Jingles”, whose object was to formulate a query in Google which would receive one and only one hit, not zero, and not a zillion. But I digress. I received about 25,400 hits within a quarter of a second. Apparently Patricia Monaghan introduced the term “quantum poetics” in her dissertation about the ways Wallace Stevens and other American writers incorporated ideas from modern physics into their poetry.
No, I have no intention of discussing that dissertation or any of the other 25,399 hits. Actually my post was all about the digressions.