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The Subway, Passion and Imagism

July 29, 2009

Subway descent

Originally uploaded by Mourner

I picked up this great book on poetry from the library a few months back, aptly titled “How To Write A Poem.”

Poetry is definitely a viable form of self-expression, but the potential for artistic experimentation and creativity can reach beyond one’s self-indulgence. It was great to read a book that showed me different ways to use this form, like playing with points of view, imagery and tone. The book also discussed some interesting types and movements of poetry, such as the imagist movement, which primarily focused on exact observation and concise descriptions. I decided to try my hand at an imagist poem, using the New York Subway as a point of reference. Here it is:

“The Subway”

An empty, wooden bowl with
deep rings plunging from
the outside in, and
open gasps that putter behind,
with scraping noises that come in
from the left, then right, inside a
dark cavity connected to a
long, glass tube.

It may be abstract, but it is one of the clearest descriptions of the subway I’ve probably written. I think it’s far from perfect, and I would like it to be a little less isolated. While the subway can indeed be a dark and lonely place, which was the original image I thought of when writing this poem, it can also be a dense, suffocating space. I didn’t capture that with this poem, especially with words like “empty” and “cavity,” which both suggest a hollowness.

Perhaps I’ll add another part to it, or create a new poem altogether that emphasizes the crowded aspect of the trains.

I’ve written a few other imagist poems and have come to really enjoy writing in this style. Here is another one I recently wrote:

“A Passion Rising”

A half-opened mouth.
Shoes left in the corner.
Crumbs on your shirt, and a
wet fork with food in its nooks.
A thumbprint on the bathroom mirror.
Suggestions of a passion rising.

I was telling my friend Welton, who is a fabulous writer in his own right, that alot of my recent poetry possesses this feeling of mid-air expectancy. It is not quite suspense, but rather a grey-area, caught-in-limbo feeling. This is really indicative of my life at the moment, which is in a strangely peaceful, transitory state. I’m not sure how else to describe it, only that I’m aware of where I’ve been, where I am now, and where I very well may be headed. This poem captures that mid-air quality to me, in the context of a love not quite formed, but with all clues pointing in that direction.

It is amazing how unconsciously reflective writing can be :)

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