Tuesday, December 23, 2008

December Poem of the Month by Diego Quiros: Horse Feather


Horse Feather

This is a horse feather,
white, the calm of clouds.
I saw it fall from the sky
a slow dart from antiquity
swirling its habitual pattern.

Its vane gentle across my lips
its sturdy rachis could pen
a poem or two about
the process of kissing or
stammering ecstasies.

I wondered if the mythical animal
would part the evening sky
with its pale steady silence
turn its crimson eyes in my direction
and rapture me on moon-hooves

over the matrix of skyscrapers
wearing nothing but its ribcage
between my legs.
Nothing is impossible.
I once loved like that.

-by Diego Quiros


In Horse Feather, a mythical horse, undoubtedly Pegasus, is conjured into awareness by a musing speaker who imagines seeing one of its feathers (white, the calm of clouds) fall from the sky. The anatomy of the feather is presented with respect to the speaker’s romantic love (could pen a poem or two about the process of kissing or stammering ecstasies). In S3, the speaker delineates the power and majesty and passion of such a mythical creature that could ‘part the evening sky with its pale steady eye’ (and rapture me on moon-hooves). In the final strophe, the speaker imagines riding the horse over skyscrapers with nothing but ‘its ribcage between my legs,” and suggests that such an adventure is within the realm of possibility. In the last line the speaker divulges his hidden sentiments, revealing he once loved in the same fashion.


Horse Feather, by Diego Quiros, is a striking poem about the possibilities and limitless boundaries of love. It is a poem that begs for several readings, as it presents insights in several diverging directions. On the one hand, the poem can be read as a fantasy narrative, where the speaker muses on the passionate image of riding Pegasus over skyscrapers. Another view of the poem reveals a more subtle, perhaps melancholy desire to rise above the limits of human love and experience an altogether unbound (unearthly) love as characterized by riding this mythical creature.

The poem consists of four strophes, each with five lines. The rhythm begins fairly uniform, nearly tetrameter in the first two strophes, then half-way through, defaults to a more drawn out beat, both in sound and length of line. This shift at S3 coincides with a tone shift where the speaker becomes more open, his feelings more vulnerable.

“This is a horse feather, white, the calm of clouds,” opens the poem with a striking visual picture. It is falling from the sky, this tranquil ‘slow dart from antiquity.” Up front, the speaker wants us to know that he is really talking about Pegasus, that winged horse, sired by Poseidon, an emblem of power and grace. The name, Pegasus derives from "spring or well." Whenever the horse strikes a hoof to earth, a beautiful spring bursts forth. The metaphor aptly sets up the reader for S2 which dissects the feather into its component parts and relates them to sensual aspects of love: the vane (soft, wispy) ‘gentle across my lips; and the rachis (the part used in ink pens) ‘sturdy,’ ‘could pen a poem or two about the process of kissing,” etc.

But it is in S3 where we begin to see the inner unction of the speaker with respect to love. As well, the poetics and imagery spring more freely from the idea of the mythical animal as having superhuman abilities, both in power and beauty (part the evening sky with its pale steady silence) and in its natural proclivity to rapture (on moon-hooves across skyscrapers).

In S5 we find the culmination of such an adventure, as the speaker alludes to the naked power (ribcage) churning between his legs, a very striking and erotic metaphor which is effortlessly merged into one image. Finally, and importantly, the speaker exhales and draws back from the vision declaring, ‘nothing is impossible.” If he has loved, and loved well in the bounds of his humanity (I once loved like that), why not in the boundless sky? Why not like Pegasus, riding unbound through the heavens?

The power of this poem lies in its central proposition that love is without limits. What makes it click is that the speaker doesn’t dwell on a litany of past experience. What adds to its cohesiveness and beauty is the speaker’s confidence. The poetic, yet blunt tone. It is sufficient to merely say, “I once loved like that,” and the honesty and forcefulness of such a declaration drives the poem home like a dagger.

Diego Quiros is a poet, artist, and Electrical Engineer living with his family in South Florida. He was born in 1962 in Havana, Cuba, lived in Spain for several years, and traveled to the United States by himself at age ten.

His poetry, has been published in several issues of Ocho, Mipoesias, and Verse Libre Quarterly. Diego also co-hosted the MipoRadio show “Deconstructions”. Diego’s first collection of poems “Alchetry” (click here); a study on the four elements of writing and their relation to the four basic elements; was recently published by Goss 183 (formerly Menendez Publishing) and it is available at Books and Books and Amazon.

He credits all his work to conversations with a Muse he describes as “a woman with long dark green hair, green eyes, and light green skin”. He claims she walks around his home in South Florida and drops subtle whispers here and there while he writes.


Monday, December 15, 2008

Poetry and Language: Ramblings on the Sweetness of Poetry


Poetry and Language: Ramblings on the Sweetness of Poetry

It was Auden who said, “A poet is, before anything else, a person who is passionately in love with language.” I can only imagine what a sweet love affair it was for one of the greatest writers of the 20th Century, a prolific poet who used language to shape about 400 of the greatest published poems in the Western poetry lexicon.

Still, even Auden must have anguished over his words. I’m sure he had his moments gnawing his knuckles over the bitter inconsistencies of grammar and syntax- the inexorable frustration of having only one set of rustic tools: the naked, two-dimensional cryptograms of an alphabet.

But is it accurate to think of language merely as a tool? Can it ever be more than that? Does it provide discrete limitations to our knowing, or can we supersede the perceived barriers of language by using it in special ways? Mysterious ways?

And what can poetry contribute to this equation? Some would argue that we can move into new rubrics of understanding as we move from prose to poetry, as one might move from a photograph to a painting. I’m not at all sympathetic to such a stretch, but I am open to the notion that poetry is distinctively different than prose; not at any one particular facet or quality: but as one takes the whole of prose and sets it along side what we have in poetry, patterns emerge. One of the most salient of all, it occurs to me, is that of the sweetness of language.

For me, poetry gives language a sweet-smelling savor. Like what I get when I slowly breathe in a Chateau Margaux (1961, please) that has had one hour to rise above the rim of a decanter. In poetry, we ask language to do special things. We ask it not only to convey, but to speak. Or better, we ask it to play music. To bounce, or slide, or glide, or stop nearly on a dime, then whisper inaudibly into our memory. Finally, we ask it to remain on the palate, or in the nose. For a lifetime. Great poetry will do this. And often with only 14 lines.

A crude thought experiment, if you will: what is the difference between the following two paragraphs:

Are you sad, Margaret, because Goldengrove’s trees are losing all their leaves? You are young and carefree, but as you age you’re liable to be much sadder than you are today, much more bewildered and perhaps find that life itself is corruptible; you may cry and still not understand that it is all the same: Spring or Fall- either way- it is still your nature to find sorrow, just like the rest of us. Only now, you are sorry for Margaret, alone.


Margaret, are you grieving
Over Goldengrove unleaving?
Leaves, like the things of man, you
With your fresh thoughts care for, can you?
Ah! as the heart grows older
It will come to such sights colder
By and by, nor spare a sigh
Though worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie;
And yet you will weep and know why.
Now no matter, child, the name:
Sorrow's springs are the same.
Nor mouth had, no nor mind, expressed
What heart heard of, ghost guessed:
It is the blight man was born for,
It is Margaret you mourn for.

I know, the prose section could have been a bit stronger, but you get the idea. Hopkins loaded his poem, Spring and Fall, with the fiery darts of language. “Goldengrove unleaving,” is a masterpiece of innovation, as is “world of wanwood leafeal lie,” and the whole poem uses language, the cadence, the sound, the smell of leaves, short bursts of energy packed into images that can be seen by the eye, all culminating in a rush of identification whereby the reader at the end finally realizes that they have, all along, been where Margaret has been. May be going where Margaret is going.

Human beings have this amped-up gift of appreciating language in all its complexity and nuance. A single word, or small group of words, if properly placed, can strike a hidden neuron in the farthest reaches of the brain, retrieve a memory, a smell; or a fundamental crisis of being.

Poetry works to tweak these neurons. It uses language and the sound of words, and the intermingling meanings and connotations to create something out of nothing. It takes the black ink outline of letters on a page and turns it into a picture. Key to all of this process is the naiveté of the poet, who, like the tiny bee in a hive of a million bees, can have no idea or appreciation for the delicacy that she is making at its center. Yet she works away with ardor, compelled by instinct, or maybe even the prospect of something sweet tickling an antennae. Either way, the honey is sweet. And the bee continues to work. In most cases, without remuneration and without acclaim. And suddenly, one day, the poet looks up from the page and realizes there is something sweet here. And the honey remains sweet.

-EDN, 12/15/08