I write formal poems because I'm a little weird in the brain, somewhere off the median on the neurodivergence spectrum. A formal poem is a place where I can express or test ideas or feelings or aesthetics without the profound exposure of a public article. Usually what happens when I write a sonnet is a phrase will occur to me that echoes in that meter and I will think about it. Sometimes that phrase is within the first line, and sometimes it is buried deep within the poem. Each of my poems has started with such a seed, uttered by a friend or within my own thoughts.
Somehow in poems or in any sort of art some parts of society find it acceptable to express feelings or beliefs that one cannot express elsewhere. And that is what I do in my poems.
Madeline loves it
And sits as Mother would.
The priest like her Father
Dressed all in grey,
Palms fluttering with
black on black on Black on
an interruption – no,
a reminder to the Columbus-ing ass fuckboys
(and girls) that
“To defend our beloved Cuba.” The closing line of this poem from the great Chilean communist and surrealist writer Pablo Neruda rather sums up how working and oppressed people – in Latin America and around the world – are feeling in the wake of Fidel Castro's death. There is a lot to say about Castro the man, but it is far less important than the Cuban Revolution he helped lead, build and maintain for more than fifty years against the outside pressures of American empire.
Written she lapsed my eyelids curse
Never subjugated to her thoughts worse
Dreaming of twinkled themes her subconscious works
Works night and day because her lips she tamed
Her words released could leave bodies slain
Quiet in spite of riveting details
Still her mouth only inhales
Their thoughts she thunk perhaps prematurely
The flags snap in the wind, the whispered breath
that steals the words and whickers, horse and knight.
The fires mutter and crack in dying light
and breaths from noses mist, steal proof from death.
And here am I, rose up from lowly whore,
shown faces smashed by hooves, shown strength in spades.
In this place
of radiator heat
of knife wounds
of totems like broken teeth
we've charted the flaming arch
of nitroglycerine stars
dreams that explode against reality
seen dragons emerge from clouds of tear gas
and men in shades of midnight run away
the Street muscle down skyscrapers
in cities perspiring chaos
I came upon a stinking field of muck
and saw, within its depths, a golden cup.
Nothing for it. I hitched my trousers up
and waded in, heartsick when my feet stuck.
It took three hours for me to pull them out.
By then I'd learned to coast upon the slime.
Sixteen men were executed in the aftermath of the Easter Rising – the seizure of the General Post Office in Dublin by Irish volunteers that took place one hundred years ago this week. Among those executed was James Connolly: leader of the Irish Citizen Army, trade unionist, revolutionary Marxist, de facto commander-in-chief of the Easter Rising.
Connolly has been canonized in the century since his death. That death – at the hands of an occupying British Army – is by itself enough to command respect of anyone concerned with self-determination, but there is also a certain tragedy in how overlooked his eloquent words and ideas can be, even today.