The Burning Anvil
Prose aesthetic and malefic.
Occasional essays and digressions surging up from the source I’m tempted to say that this retrospective collection of thoughts and scribbles will veer from the ridiculous to the more ridiculous. But that would be a slur on the creator, and so I shall refrain from such malignity. Often, very often, I’ve been told that I over-introduce my tropical topics with a blizzard of disguising digressions. I’m informed variously that this is helpful, too helpful, not helpful at all, and by Jacko Monahan to “just shut up and read da po-EM.”
Inexplicably, I’m collecting these various thought-episodes into a prose collection of essays and introductions (and, here and there, a stray letter let loose in the direction of an attentive ear). One feels that these tidbits and tiddlywinks must fare better on their own than when attached like an irreverent dingy to the magisterial ship of a book of verse. Many of the vagrant flares can already be spotted skimming the skies of my website (gregglory.com), or falling among the reeds of my various collections of poems.
I’ve dusted them off and re-written them for the sake of coherency and tang. What was only hinted at before in the emergent wood of a metaphor has now been hunted down and turned into trophies. And yet, in spite of this effort at editing, the writings here, like poetry still immanent in the poet, may have kept a twinge or two of their raw, unfinished feelings about them. A wary air of maybe remains. However foggy this may be for my readers, it retains an inner rightness for me.
I may be all wet, but I always feel a sea of possibilities within me. A flotilla of rowboats that randomly explores this sea both day and night—under storm or star. Only when I pour myself onto one of the tipping decks, a watery sailor with an icicle hook and a plastic eyepatch, and start to chart a course does my rowboat grow from slip to sloop. Then the seas part for me and the drama of time and circumstance take on a willful weight as one arctic or another hoves into view. Tahitis and Rios unroll around the scrolled deck-rails and purpose deliberates itself into arrows. Then I am in danger of being defined, caught and corralled by my momentary manifestation on a tilting Earth. Then I may flounder when the ship’s staved in, and the arrow under my feet is emancipated back to static. Then I must remember in a minute that I am water and wind as well as pilot and perceiver or I risk the timid end of dying on the spot. I’m not the little engine that could. I’m the little sailboat that swiffered.
Inspiration is my only soul. Without that sacred puff at my back—howsoever briefly—I may not move my inch, nor endure at my dirty task for forlorn years. But, once that shift in the winds has hit, I am well able to sail and survive; able to see the Tahitian shores that inspiration whispered about in my bellying ears. This afflatus never afflicts but brings its simmering divinity to every ache and wail. Poetry is my obsession. My mantra, my mania, and my manna all-in-one. Many of the essays that follow have to do with the various supposes and suppositions of poetry. The quixotic shifts and subtle intonations of how what happens in the world and in the poet combine to combust into the vari-colored flames of verse. Poetry is more of a symptom than a system. The essays here partake of that same secondary nature.
They are sparks thrown off from a hammer’s blow, and not the central fire incensed by a bellows. If I were to clip my quill in the light of one such errant flare, I might write: Poetry is never an exemplar of some organized method of thought—or at least is rarely that. Poetry participates in the ding an sich, the thing in itself, the welter and wildness of this world. It is as unconquerable and crazed as an edelweiss, forever fluttering among the Alpine steeps. The greater a poem is, the harder it is to whittle into a system. A great poem will subvert its own premises just to jaunt to the dark side of the moon for a line or two.
You could say poetry has a willful fascination with freedom, but its chains of rhymes would gainsay you. You could say poetry is an irrational response to an irrational world, and it would be harder to find contradiction in that, but its very truth would be a rational nugget in that chaotic onslaught, and so overthrow the assertion that the world is irrational indeed. You could say… why you could say any of a million things, like a child feeling out the holes in his parents’ arguments to find an excuse to do just as he pleases. And, I suppose, none of the things you said would be wrong exactly, and yet they would not find a bottle to keep this breeze in. But they might, whiffing and puffing frenetically enough, just might, participate in the thing in itself that poetry is, the forever Zephyr and viceless edelweiss.
Gregg Glory November, 2012
The Burning Anvil My breast is a burning anvil Cannot hammer a likely shoe Stern enough to trace unglued A racing lifetime through and through. My breast is a burning anvil Full of causal smokes and coughs, More than youth at times had thought, Between hammer and anvil caught. My breast is a burning anvil That sparks with the loss of heat When edge and edge, hard and hard, compete To shape each and each to mate. My breast is a burning anvil Cannot cease to pause or cool— As industrious, dedicate a tool As any I’d forgot I forged. My breast is a burning anvil Full of tragic din and error As any beating thing that mirrors The hotness of my terror. My breast is a burning anvil Cannot pound out a likely star As real as evening’s first clear At whose clarity I stare.