New Year BOONDOGGLING with Franzen and Koch
by Geoff Sutton
I hadn’t written anything I was pleased with for some time. I often feel like that in December.
What I like about The Leopard is the unexpected. John Williams gave me Kenneth Koch’s Making Your Own Days, The Pleasures of Reading and Writing Poetry. At the same time I was reading Jonathan Frantzen’s The Corrections, a very long novel using a great variety of syntax and imagery. Two passages stood out, pp.71 and 201. They seemed poetic set pieces so I re-arranged them into lines. Not original but it made me feel better.
Then just as I was dropping off to sleep on 4th January, something happened. The words what what, came into my head. When words appear like that I often end up writing a poem. I’d no idea where the next six words came from, but I wanted to balance what what so there there seemed alright. Pretty much what Ken Koch would call, going ‘along with the (imaginative) nonsense.’
That felt like the end of a stanza. Begin again was what I did. Then I remembered something Koch says: ‘A poem is an experience and not a description of an experience.’ Take care is not just a cliche but wise advice to any poet. It also happens to rhyme. End of another stanza.
The four other things are all from poems Koch talks about. Three of them are coloured. Another stanza. A word to balance the beginning. Now the end. Another thing Koch says: ‘Some poets like to sneak out of their poems unnoticed’. Good idea. Heard it before somewhere. Larkin, This Be The Verse?
Another what to finish. More of a whimper than a bang!
To hear more, come to the next Leopard Stanza on Tuesday 24 January.