Thursday, April 05, 2012

Because I Am Not Free

Remember me. I
am not

Like many short pieces, this poem was something that initially twitched in my head, like sections of a worm cut in quarters, which is how most of the poetry I must write introduces itself to me.  I say "must" because once I start thinking about disjointed ideas, I naturally want to assemble them into something meaningful, even if the parts don't necessarily fit together neatly.  I often call this process "synthesizing," something I do to make sense of what I can't quite grasp because there are so many ideas, perceptions, thoughts and feelings pushing through my blood and brain, I feel like I've got my own cerebral  high-tide. 

Since interviewing with Bill Golden at Prince William Life yesterday,  I've been thinking about my own writing process.  Considering one's own process is a fairly masturbatory activity--it can be amusing, self-indulgent, but not especially useful.  Now and then I allow myself the pleasure, though, because in its highest form, examining the way in which we think and create can lead to higher functioning in our artistic, professional and personal lives.  That's my theory, anyway, and I'll leave it up to you to test it.  As for me, I'm using Bill as an excuse to deconstruct my latest Haynaku, which I don't consider an impressive piece or even one I would be interested in, necessarily, were I the reader as opposed to the writer.  I am curious, though, about the places from which these six words sprung and what the words might mean.  So, I am going to approach this Haynaku first as an audience member with questions:

1.  Why does the narrator want to be remembered, or, why does s/he believe s/he might be forgotten?
2.  In what way does the narrator want to be remembered?
3.  Whom is the narrator addressing?
4.  Why is the narrator not free?
5.  When the narrator says, "I am not free," what does s/he mean?
6.  What made you write this poem?  Where did it come from? 

In reading these questions, I realize I have set myself up for a bit of work if I plan to answer them, which I do.  It is nearing 9 p.m. EST, and I normally don't get this philosophical or intellectually motivated after 7 p.m. or so, but like I said, I had this interview yesterday, and it has been a pretty stimulating week in general.  In order to keep the neurons active but peaceful, then, I will generate some off-the-cuff answers which I will try not to edit obsessively.

Let's begin, but please indulge me by allowing me to name the narrator Pencil.  Why?  First, I don't want to deal with pronoun madness, that necessity of matching she/he with his/her in order to maintain objective gender identity since, presumably, we don't know if the narrator is male or female.  I like "Pencil" because it is genderless--or at least it is in the English language.  I suppose we could attribute all kinds of Freudian qualities to Pencil, and you could offer me a rest on the counseling couch to discuss why I chose the word "Pencil" as opposed to Pen or Window or Cloud or Dingleberry.  But let's not over-analyze this. Pencil was the first thing that popped into my head, perhaps because there is one sitting here on my desk (though admittedly, there are hoards of items on my desk, so if you really want to play mind-reader or Sigmund, have at it.  I assure you, however, "Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar").

That said, let's move on to the questions.

1.  Pencil wants to be remembered, quite obviously, because Pencil doesn't want to be forgotten.  Why Pencil might be forgotten is tied up in the words "I am not free," which means I will not be able to address these questions in any particular order.  Poetry is rarely so linear in meaning, and besides, I am not a linear person, so I feel skipping to question 4/5 and moving back to 1 is justifiable.

4/5.  Here are some theories about Pencil's lack of being free. 
  • Pencil is a physical prisoner.
  • Pencil is a metaphorical prisoner.
  • Pencil is expensive to maintain a relationship with.

1.  If Pencil is a physical prisoner, it would be easy for someone to forget Pencil exists.  "Okay, Pencil, you're behind bars where you may or may not deserve to  be, and it's a lot easier for me to forget about you and carry on with my own life.  Bye bye, now."  By saying, "Remember me," Pencil communicates, "No, don't do that!"   I think the tone in which this version of Pencil says "Remember me" would be plaintive, perhaps desperate.  Pencil fears the environment, the separation and potential for hopelessness, and rightly so. 

However, if Pencil is a metaphorical prisoner (for example, a prisoner of the mind, a prisoner of a social system, prisoner of beliefs, prisoner of love, prisoner of sadness, etc.) then Pencil probably does not want to be left alone physically, but more so, Pencil does not want to be abandoned emotionally.  In this case, "Remember me" could be a soft request put forth by a logical but feeling Pencil who is saying, "Please remember me because I'm not free to do what I want and/or need to do."  There might be some tears here, but I don't sense as much drama with this version of Pencil, though maybe I'm just insensitive to Pencil's real needs and I should be referred back to the couch.

The third reading of "I am not free" puts Pencil at the head of the socio-economic line.  Pencil reminds the reader who Pencil really is and what that means.  Pencil is expensive.  Pencil will tell you just how expensive it is to have a relationship with Pencil, and Pencil might not say it nicely.  I can picture Pencil putting "Remember me" with the sarcastic emphasis of a question as opposed to a suggestion:  "Remember me?  Yeah, that's right.  Me.  The one who deserves that Mercedes.  You want to keep me around?  Prove it."  This Pencil is neither sensitive nor sad, at least not visibly.  Someone should break this Pencil. 

3.  Whom is Pencil addressing?  I think that's a story yet to be told.  In this poem, Pencil is doing the talking and we're doing the listening.  So the answer to question 3 might be tied up in how we view ourselves.  Are we physical prisoners?  Are we people who would prefer to walk away from trouble or needy people?  Are we people who fear institutions?  Are we people who fear being abandoned?  Are we people who do not feel free no matter what we are given?  Are we people who, under no circumstances, want to be alone?  Are we demanding people?  Are we presumptuous people?  Whom do we identify with--the physical prisoner?  The metaphorical prisoner?  The privileged?

6.  I wrote this poem because I am a confused person with a lot of stimuli to metabolize.  Since I've asked and answered all of my own questions, you can probably assume that, in some way, at one time or another, I've been the people I have written about, or at least I have connected with people like those I describe. This dynamic leads me to believe all writing is, in some form, biographical.

What comes out on paper or computer screen must originate from the mind of the writer, a mind formed by experiences, perceptions, thoughts, feelings, etc.  We cannot create what is not in us, and what is in us are the things we are born with and gather throughout our lifespans.  We can order things in a unique way.  We can process.  We can synthesize.  But creation--the act of forming something from nothing--is not within our human capacity.  It's actually a scientific premise.  Matter is neither created nor destroyed.  Neither is energy.  And we are matter and energy.  So are our minds and our work.  So here, in this poem, and in this ridiculously long entry, I've not created anything--though it's possible I've introduced a goodly amount of circular thinking.

I'm not quite sure how to end this intellectual jaunt, and since I've been writing for more than an hour now, I feel I'm entitled to a lazy, abrupt conclusion.  So here it is.  The end.  No more.  No mas.  Alla fineنهاية


Added 4/11
"Poetry is always slightly mysterious, and you wonder what is your relationship to it." Seamus Heaney


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