Reading the contest poems, I realized that my poem has moved into a new neighborhood. Raw and rambling, an “ulcerated Crown Vic” parked in one driveway. A place where emotions run high, with thrown shoes and forgotten boots, but also weather (“Thunder storms . . . / that force drifters off streets. . .”) and melancholy (“One distant woman and a dog on a two-mile beach”). A corner of this neighborhood (of poems) borders a farm and elsewhere travelers listen to the spiel of a “blond-haired guide / who goes by Raven…” Time passes. Street market merchants “retire their unsold fruits” and, for a moment, overhead, a “plane buck[s] and rear[s] like a gut-twist horse…”
My poem Efficiency Is A Force Of Nature As Well As Economics was selected as a finalist in the Crab Creek Review 2012 poetry contest. The print issue of Crab Creek Review 2013 Volume 1 includes a section of the 2012 contest poems—the winner, four honorable mentions, and nine finalists.
As in an actual neighborhood, outlooks vary. Someone focuses on imagining an afterlife while someone else deconstructs the trappings of a child’s life, grasping for a less belonging-ridden reality. Meta-phorically speaking.
“Meta” comes from the Greek preposition that means after, beyond, adjacent, and self. The prefix “meta” when attached to another word (like metadata or metapoem) changes the meaning of the conjoined word to something about something, like data about data, or a poem about poems.
One of my poem’s neighbors is Spring Cleaning, the poet/narrator burning certain objects—art and books—as a sort of personal purge and rebirth: “next morning / mix ashes with manure / plant vermilion crepe myrtles.” My poem’s other close neighbor, Riddle for Hunger, is a street market where “The tents come down and their bleached weight, too” and later we glimpse “a woman . . . working her way / through the scraps of the expired market.” By evening, “the shadows of moving figures come up on the wall . . .”
Creating a metadata set is a matter for the imagination. What will it be used for? How difficult or expensive is the data to collect? How do we “hop” from one poem to another? Or consider the effect a poem has on a reader, or the contest judge. Who wouldn’t be curious as to the judge’s state (or peace) of mind while judging? And why stop there? Include something about the pre-screeners, editors and anyone else who sifted (I assume) through the contest entries in order to refine or redefine the grouping to a smaller more manageable collection of poems to send to the judge.
Certainly, the metadata should include the moment of inspiration for each poet—place, time, the room. The house. The continent. The geyser. A field filled with bales of hay wrapped in plastic. The Students on Ice companions I knew for a single trip, three weeks in the summer of 2011. Companions I waited with to see the geyser Strokkur erupt and later, on the bus, some people napped and others watched the Iceland countryside whiz by.
To stretch my metadata analogy, I constructed a poem from parts of the fourteen published contest poems. Of course, this poem reflects my sensibilities and preferences for language, story, and possibilities but it is also bracketed and dependent on so many prior decisions by the poets, screeners, editors, volunteers, and the judge, and everything that influences all of our relationships with art, literature, nature, and life.
[Untitled – Found Poem]*
i built a boat with all the towels in your closet
i lost my keys in the door last week
and I must admit the humor was not lost on me
& suddenly I remember
after the giraffe explodes the
kids clear out
sailing to nowhere on waters that once
stood a fathom deep by the barbed wire fence
few dare not believe the magic tricks
downtown dandelions emerge through damaged cement
so what remains
in the heat that feels like the inside of someone’s mouth
and when I looked past the praying woman through my window
there’s the fledgling bird you kept in a shoebox [and]
green grass under dry yellow straw
i want things to move slowly for you,
stand still a long while, let their feet sink into the glossy mud
Efficiency Is A Force Of Nature As Well As Economics**
by Katie Eberhart
Earth’s rind leaks
steam above subterranean cauldrons
by fumaroles where ground-hugging,
wild thyme creeps
as yin over the hot land anchoring
uncannily pale moss
as if someone sucked the color out
so what remains—
only the something-must-have-died scent
of sulfur and salts.
We wait and watch.
every five minutes the blond-haired guide
who goes by Raven said—
we count until steam gushes
into the image multiplied
over and over inside cameras, then
everyone stops and shades the little screen
with a hand, checking the veracity
of what they have seen.
Later we pass fields speckled
with round bales of hay—the dried grass fed
to sheep, cows, horses—but post-industrial
the bales encapsulated in white plastic,
wrapped like leftover food or great agates
rolled into the field. . . a new mythology might
blame this on giants
with a liking for things that shine,
but the truth is these plasticized wrappers
are flexible stretchable countable
NOTES AND REFERENCES
* Poems that are the source of lines in [Untitled – Found Poem] in the order of the lines and the order that the poems appear in Crab Creek Review 2013, Vol. 1:
- and we lost the city we woke up in, Leia Penina Wilson.
- Nona Says as I’m leaving for College, Dave Jarecki.
- Later I Dreamt the Black Rabbit, Greg Nicholl.
- A Failure of Spring Rain, Matthew Guenette.
- The Balloon Artist Falls in Love, Jessica L. Walsh.
- Lake Patzcuaro, Judith Barrington.
- Not a Credo, Judith Barrington.
- Spring Cleaning. David Byrd.
- Efficiency is a Force of Nature as Well as Economics, Katie Eberhart.
- Riddle for Hunger, Katharine Ogle.
- Philadelphia, Anna Scotti.
- Save me a Slice of Raisin Toast, Maybe a Yellow Tulip, And A Seat Close To Yours On The Red Velvet Couch, Anna Scotti.
- What’s New, Claire Skinner.
- The Big Quiet, Maya Jewell Zeller.
All quotes in this post are from these poems.
To read these poems and the entire issue of Crab Creek Review, 2013 Vol. 1, order a copy at http://www.crabcreekreview.org/subscrb.htm or request it via interlibrary loan.
** Efficiency is a Force of Nature As Well As Economics by Katie Eberhart was a finalist in the Crab Creek Review 2012 poetry contest and first appeared in Crab Creek Review 2013, Vol. 1.
More about metadata: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metadata