What It Is (posts below left; rate sheet, client list, other stuff below right)

My name is Bob Land. I am a full-time freelance editor and proofreader, and occasional indexer. This blog is my website.

You'll find my rate sheet and client list here, as well as musings on the life of a freelancer; editing, proofreading, and indexing concerns and issues; my ongoing battles with books and production; and the occasional personal revelation.

Feel free to contact me directly with additional questions: landondemand@gmail.com.

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Saturday, June 18, 2011

Form and Formlessness

Revelation time.

Most poetry I am exposed to these days does nothing for me, not that I come across much of it. Generally it’s what appears in the New Yorker, or what Garrison Keillor reads in his daily poetry minutes on NPR—although now that I think of it, I think the local NPR affiliate has done away with Keillor’s segment.

New Yorker’s poetry often leaves me with two takeaway notions.

1. If I submitted this poem instead of the person whose name I recognize at the end of the verse, it would have gone straight into the trash.

2. This poem is nothing but middling prose with line breaks.

But I came across a New Yorker poem a few weeks back titled “Facebook Sonnet.” I loved it. I’m sure I’m violating eight or seven commandments right now—especially for someone in the publishing industry—but here it is:

Welcome to the endless high-school
Reunion. Welcome to past friends
And lovers, however kind or cruel.
Let’s undervalue and unmend

The present. Why can’t we pretend
Every stage of life is the same?
Let’s exhume, resume and extend
Childhood. Let’s all play the games

That occupy the young. Let fame
And shame intertwine. Let one’s search
For God become public domain.
Let church.com become our church.

Let’s sign up, sign in, and confess
Here at the altar of loneliness.

—Sherman Alexie

And it struck me: I like structure. Free verse, not so much. And that explains my enjoyment, too, of Haiku Monday. If it were Free Verse Friday, I’m not sure what would be worse: writing entries or reading those from other people.

So, I prefer form. Poetry within certain parameters, which offers a certain obvious challenge.
Then, revelation two: Why people don’t like certain types of jazz.

Just guessing, but maybe it's the seeming lack of structure. My wife, for example, can listen to Kenny Burrell or Bill Evans or Jimmy Smith or Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue, but Coltrane’s A Love Supreme? Nope. “My Favorite Things”? Long enough while he’s holding the melody, but not past it. Ornette Coleman? I wouldn’t even try.

I was talking to Tere about this and she said, “But I like abstract art—visual art.”

I responded, “Yeah, but there’s an end to it. You don’t have to go beyond the canvas. You know where it begins and ends. Unlike a Coltrane song, which you never know how long it’s going to go on, or when it will return to the theme. There’s an uncertainty there that leaves you uncomfortable.”

Well, to be fair, I would admit to some share of shrieking and bleating in Coltrane and Coleman that aren't for everyone . . . not that there's anything wrong with that.

For me, I don’t mind the aural discomfort. But the structureless void, and occasional blathering, of much free verse? Prose and hard returns. Blah.

So, that’s my one thought for 2011.



PS: I am not on Facebook. 
PPS: Haiku Monday at Chez Fleur. The theme is memory.


moi said...

I hate most modern poetry, almost all jazz, and pretty much every piece of abstract art past present and future, although I admit a grudging attraction to Rothko, perhaps because I have seen in real life desert landscapes that remind me of his work.

"Facebook Sonnet" is genius, though; thanks for sharing. It's going on the fridge . . .

czar said...


"Almost all jazz"? Just throwing me a bone?

How much of that Ornette Coleman video did you make it through? That he was even performing was amazing. It was about 105 degrees that day. He was dressed in a suit, obviously plays very hard (esp. for an old man), and -- you'll love this -- he had just come from watching the White Stripes.

About 30 minutes into the set, he passed out. Slipped straight to the ground. And I ventured out into the dustbowl.

Am already thinking of saving time for next year's Bonnaroo. Maybe going as a volunteer (free, accommodations). I haven't been since 2008.

My younger son, 18 years old, to his credit has been to five Bonnaroos -- half of them. And he just saw the Crazy Horse monument today on his way out west. What a charmed life. On this Father's Day, at least I can say that my unceasing labors result in my kids having a good time. What's a dad for?

moi said...

I made it through about a minute before wanting to pull my fingernails out. Long enough to also remark to myself: "Self, at least these blues and jazzmen, they are natty dressers."

Ah, youth. Circle of life and all that . . . I have no chillruns, as you know, but I think I can die happy knowing that I have imparted to my hip-hop loving niece an intense appreciation for Soundgarden.

czar said...

Moi: One needn't be a parent to influence young'uns in the right direction. And I admire you for even hanging in there for 60 seconds on the clip. Needless to say, it didn't change much after that.

Cool lineup, though: one sax, one drummer, one acoustic bass, one electric bass.

Speaking of sax, I saw a comment on an article reporting about the death of Clarence Clemons. "Too bad it wasn't Bruce." Ouch!

moi said...

Now, Bruce Springsteen, I just want to slap with a wet noodle. Zzzzzzzzz.

Aunty Belle said...

Oh drat--late to the discussion.

I too think Facebook Sonnet is compelling. The sentimment fits the structure. Structure demands a beginning and end, a relationship of one thing to another.

Facebook (nope, no Aunty FB presence) is a means of private exhibitionism. Oxymoron? Seems to me people expose themselves on FB in a manner they would never dream to do in person or in public. Thus, private exhibitionism. In the end, much of it is cowardly--imagine Weiner would not have publicly exposed himself to a stranger on a street corner, a hotel hallway, or in the movies. But the FB / Twitter world is the venue for such public behavior behind a thin veil of privacy.

Structure and form are freeing. They free one from the zillions of possible elements to combine and recombine where the likely product is discordant, chaotic.

Off to listen to the video jazz.

Oh, an for the son: what a dad you have!