The Poem Fixed My Ending

Frequently I’ve gotta do all of this work first, and then just wait and listen.

Yeah, don’t even bother.

I’ve been working on a poem since last Easter. Not unusual. Most of them don’t come quickly. It was almost all there, but it had some issues. And the ending, well, the ending was more like just a stopping. It was true. It was what happened, but it wasn’t right.

So I was working on other poems this evening and decided to pull the Easter one up again to see if it wanted to play. Oh lord, the first line was a stumble, not just the ending, but the very first line. I made a note beside it saying, “This meter is all wrong,” with a little illustration showing that it was neither iambic, anapestic or any other ‘ic.’ It was just ick.

I had built this edifice of a poem and I didn’t want to Jenga it to pieces. Nudge, nudge, gentle tug, and wouldn’t you know it, the words just rearranged themselves. Two of them dropped into the next line. Well, that changed the whole stanza, which changed the next. This line could go. This word had to go.  A new verb stepped in like it had just been out for a smoke, but knew right where its spot was, an X taped there on the poem’s stage. It was all prepared without me. Well, not really.  More about that in a moment. I shrugged. I was happy.

But there was that ending again. It was poignant—sad, sweet, and true. But it was a dull ending, just rolling into the final margin with a clunk. And then, it hit me. The event happened, sure. I was telling it all mostly true, but I wasn’t capturing the feeling it gave me. Then I remembered what I always tell myself—I’m not a historian.

And the poem said, “Hey, David. You know what I really want? I want the narrative to end like this . . . ” And what it whispered in my ear stunned me. Totally unexpected, but perfect. It was simple, natural, and magical. And not at all from my own head, or so it seemed. Okay, Easter-ish poem. Do what you want. I like it. Just let me go to bed now, okay?

So what’s the lesson here? You don’t have to work, just let it flow out however it wants and it’s sacred? Oh, hell no! Quite the opposite. You listen, and then you work. You pause again to listen as you continue. You get down what you can. You write every detail. You do it. You have to do it (even just by practicing in your head sometimes for those ones that seem to come on their own) before it will do itself.

You have to arrange the worlds before your instinct knows how to rearrange them. You cut out a lot later. A lot. And once you’ve done all the work, and the poem decides you’re really serious about this, maybe it’ll stop being so distant and let you in on what it wants to do. It’s a paradox; you have to work in order to let it work itself out. It’s just your brain unfreezing anyway. Instinct and training like an archer’s hand on the bow. It’s not flow or inspiration, or magic.

Well, it might be magic. But the spell will cast itself only after you’ve done all the preparation, the study, the sweat. Sweet dreams, friends. And keep writing.

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The Blue Fish That Requires An Aquarium of Milk by Roger Fanning

The young man has been doing a lot of new recordings lately. Make sure you check out his other stuff including some Edgar Lee Masters Spoon River poems. Today’s was delightful and new to me.

The Monkey Prodigy

Today I worked on a recording by a poet of whom you may not be aware, Roger Fanning. Enjoy!

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Happy Birthday to Mary Oliver

Back in the studio on our birthday.

Oh, yeah, and to me! There’s a poet whose loss I was planning to write about, but then I remembered that I share a birthday with Mary Oliver today. And so instead of thinking about aging and death, I decided that first, it would be a good idea to spend a little time in the studio with some of Mary’s poems today.

Yesterday on Twitter, poet Chen Chen, author of When I Grow Up I Want To Be a List of Further Possibilities, tweeted that he enjoyed actually writing out or typing other people’s poems. What a cool idea! And so I tweeted back, well, this:

And while I think writing the poems of others would be an equally interesting and enlightening exercise, it’s probably not that much fun for you to watch or listen to me doing it. So for now, I’ve resorted to my old practice of recording poems that I love, partly just because I love them and partly as a way to more fully live within,  and come to know them. As Chen Chen says, “rhythmic inhabiting”

For this September 10th, on which both Mary Oliver and I were born (Honestly, it really was my idea, and she didn’t seem to mind), I pulled her collection Evidence off my shelf and went into my studio; some might call it a bedroom. And here are a few poems of hers that I enjoyed vocalizing. I hope you enjoy them.

And here are a few poems of hers that I enjoyed vocalizing. I hope you enjoy them.

If you liked these poems, as my friend Neil Silberblatt says, please go to your local independent bookstore and they can get you a copy of the book so you can enjoy all of them. If you don’t have a local independent bookstore, stop by your local library.

And, though I am no Mary Oliver, my first chapbook has some similar themes and settings. I suppose I was influenced by her more than I realized. It’s called Moons, Roads, and Rivers, and it is available now for pre-order from Finishing Line Press. You’ll be able to get it from your local bookseller after November 17th, but if you’d like to have a copy anyway, ordering from the publisher by September 22nd helps me out by increasing the final press run and making us best friends. Hey, maybe you could even order a copy for your local library! Just a thought. Thanks for your help, whatever you can do.

To order my chapbook (THANK YOU!)  click here. To read more about it and link to a few sample poems, go here. Thanks for making it a happy birthday. I’ll tell Mary you said hello.

Micah Bauman, Summer 2016

Taking a short break from self-promotion this evening to share this reading by a young poet with my last name. I’m glad he tells the story behind it too. It wasn’t the first time I was proud of him for getting in trouble at school.

The Monkey Prodigy

The following poem was first published in Word Fountain


My House
Micah Bauman

my house
is slowly leaving me
piece by piece
it departs

soon
I’ll have nowhere
to live
to sleep
my house is slowly leaving me

the wall left
It desired some time alone
the ceiling left
It reached an all-time low
the floor left
It couldn’t handle the pressure anymore
the door left
In search of greater opportunities
the roof left

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God, Dad, and Cars

I had an interesting conversation with a coworker this morning. Unfortunately, my boss asked for his promotional postcard for my upcoming chapbook to be sent to the main library. So the impression was that I was being pushy since we received “multiple” postcards (I think really only the two unless she’s referring to the other branches as well).

Ah, sometimes the negativity bugs that crawl around work places–they just show up, no matter how good your intentions. The first question asked was why the library wasn’t getting donated, signed copies. I quipped (half-jokingly) that I didn’t write the book to just give it away. But I eventually assured her that copies were being bought and donated to all the branches and I would happily sign them. I just wanted my coworkers to know about it and share my joy.

Then she said that she didn’t “get today’s poetry.” I confess I was annoyed for a half second, expecting the old “but it doesn’t rhyme!” complaint. But then I thought, well, it’s really a fair, albeit broad statement. I mean, I’m not crazy about some poetry today either.

She and I don’t work together often, only once or twice a week when I am down at the main branch. And it occurred to me, what a great opportunity this was to talk about poetry! So I asked what she liked and she quoted the opening lines from “The Children’s Hour.” In response, I shared a recitation from memory, “Ask Me” by William Stafford, which she was surprised to discover she very much liked. “It’s beautiful, and it flows!”

I told her it was a favorite of mine, that the poet had died a few years back, and that he was one of my heroes. While my writing is not as brilliant as his, he was certainly an influence. I like to play with sound and line endings, to find a rhythm in the language that might not be expected, and often isn’t traditional.  Then I pulled up the following poem, originally published in The Blue Hour Magazine. I told her this is a small sample of what’s in this chapbook, though there are some other more surreal pieces as well.

She looked over my shoulder at the screen as I read it aloud to her. She seemed to brighten even more and said she liked it. I’m hoping this was a step toward making a convert.

God, Dad, and Cars

I’m 8 years old, perched
on a headlight under the raised hood
of our white four-door Chevy,

which has somehow stranded us
at Uncle Bob’s farm.
But this isn’t like the time before,

in Canada, when we broke down
along a country road, far from home.
Across the back seat Crystal and I

had played cards with mom while you
paced, and raged how God must hate
you. I wondered, why you thought

He’d bother a little family like ours,
only on vacation. Wouldn’t He
have more important things to do?

No one home at the farm,
but you know where the tools are—
your hands gloved in grease.

You are in control, under sweat
and sun. I hold something in place
while you work. Afterwards,

when the engine cranks,
you thank me, slap me on the back.
“Thank God you were here,” your smile

wide and rare as the words you say:
“I couldn’t have done it without you.
I couldn’t have done it without you.”

Originally published in The Blue Hour Magazine, August 2013

Please consider pre-ordering the chapbook, Moons, Roads, and Rivers, from Finishing line Press. Just click here.