Friday, April 12, 2013

Day 12 ... NaPoWriMo / Poem-a-Day 2013


The "dozenth" day, friends.   ;-)  

The number 12 makes manifold appearances in cultures across the world. In the "[a]ncient Greek religion, the Twelve Olympians were the principal gods of the pantheon [and] Greek mythology has the twelve labours of Hercules." In other religions, the "chief Norse god, Odin, had 12 sons." In the Old Testament, "Jacob had 12 sons, who were the progenitors of the Twelve Tribes of Israel, while the New Testament describes twelve apostles of Jesus" (Wikipedia).

Of course, there are also 12 hours on a clock face, 12 inches in a foot, 12 months in a year, 12 grades in American school, 12 steps in Alcoholics Anonymous, 12 people on a jury for serious crimes, 12 days of Christmas, and 12 signs in the Zodiac, both Western and Chinese. I'm a Gemini and a Dragon; what are you in both Zodiacs?

At the Poetic Asides Pub, Robert Lee Brewer suggests, "write a broke poem. The poem could be about a broken record, broken relationship, or someone who is just flat broke (no money)."

At the NaPoWriMo Bar and Grill, Maureen Thorson borrows from Charles Bernstein's "poetry experiments" list: "write a poem consisting entirely of things you’d like to say, but never would, to a parent, lover, sibling, child, teacher, roommate, best friend, mayor, president, corporate CEO, etc."

Okay, everyone, once again, tried both prompts. Only got Brewer's "broke" in there once, so mostly Thorson tonight.

Song for My Father


Papa, remember when you had me reading chess manuals at age 7, dead set on me becoming a chess Grandmaster by the time I was 13? We rehearsed the Ruy Lopez gambit and the King's Indian defense, worked on endgame puzzles, "black to start and win in seven moves."

All my life, I've followed the trail you blazed for me through the world, with books as trail markers: Robinson Crusoe, Poor Richard's Almanac, The Notebooks of Leonardo Da Vinci, Macchiavelli's The Prince, Hawthorne's Tales. I always heeded your advice: "You've always got to be better than them. Never just as good but better. The best."

Do you remember too that when I was 12, you bought me my first acoustic guitar, a Harmony archtop. Then later my first electric, a Silvertone Silhouette. Always angling me to be the best, you had me listen to Mel Bay instructional records, and I learned to play such famous hits as "On Top of Old Smokey" and "Love and Marriage." You taught me to appreciate Chet Atkins's lush chord melodies.

But you always meant the guitar to be a tool, as in a title I forgot above, How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. Excellence on the guitar was supposed to help me become popular and teach me how to influence others with music. The guitar would get me places, but I would be a nuclear scientist, a superior court justice, a philosopher . . . or maybe a tycoon, an inventor, a millionaire entrepreneur.

And so, here I am, a literature professor, editor of an international magazine, author of several books, blah blah blah. I think you would be proud. And I bet you're up there now on your cloud, looking down through the pearly gates and saying to the other angels, "Yup, that's my boy."

Well, you know what, I was never able to tell you this. The whole time I was piling up achievements like stone blocks to build a pyramid for you, what I really wanted was just to play rock 'n' roll. When I was 15, my favorite song on the airwaves was The Byrds's "So You Want to Be a Rock 'n' Roll Star." I knew the song was sarcastic . . .
Sell your soul to the company
Who are waiting there to sell plastic ware.
And in a week or two,
If you make the charts
The girls'll tear you apart.

. . . but I still wanted it. In my room, I wore out my record of The Kingsmen's "Louie Louie" parsing out the lead solo, note by note. Then Hendrix, Clapton, Wes Montgomery, George Harrison, John Cipollina, Santana, all note by note. From those guitar gods I figured out pentatonics, the blues, phrasing, melodic composition.

Do you remember telling me stories of how you played 5-string Filipino guitar as a teenager? And how you and your friends would stroll the streets of Pasig City on warm evenings and serenade girls leaning out of their windows. You didn't realize that your stories of halcyon nights became what I really wanted. Not so much the girls . . . as The Byrds sang, the girls'll tear you apart. But the dream was really just to make music, to make beauty soar into the evening sky.

That's what I really want still. To play rock and roll. No longer to become a star, but just to make music my entire life endeavor. Kathy laughs at me: she says I have job #1, the professor/editor gig; and then job #2, playing bass at church; and finally job #3, playing lead guitar in a little basement band. You know, though, she's right. Music is two out of three. How about that?

I know I've got mouths to feed and all that. And if I was in a touring band, I know I'd be broke all the time. There'd be no hit records, and I'd probably get tired and sick of "Play That Funky Music, White Boy" and "Hit Me With Your Best Shot." But every time my turn came up to crank out that lead guitar solo, I'd step into the spot, dig way down into my gut, and melody would stream up my spine and out to my hands. Fire and flowers and freeform funk would slide from my fingers and climb like dragons with luminous wings up toward the stars in the dark heavens. Rock on.

—Draft by Vince Gotera    [Do not copy or quote . . . thanks.]

Props again to one of my poetry-writing students today. To Becca Andrea, who wrote a letter poem for workshop this week: reading your poem helped me figure out what form this poem needed to take. Thank you, Becca.

Such a treat to find out about Bernstein's list of 93 "experiments" from today's NaPoWriMo prompt . . . thanks, Maureen! I really like experiment #36, a poem prompt for "nonliterary forms": "Write a poem in the form of an index, a table of contents, a resume, an advertisement for an imaginary or real product, . . . an instruction manual, a travel guide, a quiz or examination, etc."

Bernstein, it turns out, also offers a "Poem Profiler," a list of "rhetorical features of individual poems," for example, "Coefficient of weirdness (wackiness quotient)." Gotta love it!

Okay, friends, looking forward to the thirteenth day tomorrow. Go write a poem. And comment below, please? Thanks. Ingat, everyone.   ;-)



The Byrds, "So You Want to Be a Rock 'n' Roll Star" (1967)
(song referenced in the poem above)


POEM-A-DAY 2013 • Pick a day in April: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30

3 comments:

Jennifer Bullis said...

Wow, have I fallen behind! It's so good to come back here and see your amazing work this month.


I love "Song for My Father"--rich, vivid, and detailed. The narratives embedded in it, as well as the lists (books, songs) evoke memories and "make beauty soar into the evening sky."

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