Friday, June 6, 2014

The Silver Lining of Cliche

Cliches became that way because they were true so frequently that they ended up as a kind of shorthand or subscript. If they could be condensed down to single words they could be bricks
for making poems. For instance tonight I wrote with total conviction:

"What you do or fail to do makes a difference. What you say or are afraid to say makes a difference. What you dare to expect of life is the best you will get from it. Don't let acts of violence speak louder than compassion."

Here, on my poetry blog, I am aware that such sentiments may be viewed as simple-minded. Why aren't I ironic about my politics? Two reasons: 1. Irony isn't effective at getting a message across
only at obscuring the persona behind the message and 2. I mean what I say.

Poetry requires a different type of language. For poetry I need to turn this set of statements into a three dimensional object that can be used to build. A poem is one solid thing that can't be smashed or thrown. Nobody wages war with Shakespeare- the complexity of the writing, the irreducibility of it, defies cliche even as fragments of it become cliche.

Cliche, why do you scare us? Are we afraid you will stop us from thinking, prevent rigor? Maybe. It is much more likely that we are afraid you will make us feel.

We feel in cliche first before we can grasp our lives in all of their complexity. I feel very strongly that gun law needs national reform in the U.S. I feel that for a while and then eventually the force of that feeling topples me with more feelings. Thought doesn't leave the room. Thought isn't embarrassed. Thought says: "finally we have something to work with."

My passionate speech gets rewritten slowly for its new audience and in the process it changes and so do I. I no longer have a message, I no longer want you to vote my way. It's something I am making and must finish, that is all.

The words come slowly. They start with an electric blue sky and the smoky white trail of a light air plane. I give this thought.