Sunday, September 30, 2007

Catatonically speaking

I remember when I was in college I wrote a couple of pretty horrifically bad poems for the student newspaper. One of my literature teachers told me, "I read your poetry and it's pretty bad, but based on your style I think you will like the writers we will be reading for the next few weeks." I was rather appalled by his brutish candor, but thankful that he was introducing me to some authors who would help me enhance my own poetry.

Those authors turned out to be Charles Baudelaire and Arthur Rimbaud, and they would forever change how I viewed poetry. Their idiosyncratic styles and treatment of dark themes awakened me to the potent possibilities of verse.

While I fell in love with Charles Baudelaire for the savory ennui oozing from the pieces in his infamous poetry collection, Les Fleurs du Mal, it was Rimbaud’s poetry that taught me how to burrow into my subconscious for unhinged creative exploration. Rimbaud’s verse also taught me that prose could somehow be construed as poetry.

Indeed, Arthur Rimbaud was among those who pioneered the prose poetry form. He and other 19th century French Symbolists such as Mallarme are generally thought to be the forefathers of this unusual style. The French Symbolist poets wrote the most scintillating prose poems.

Spanish writer Octavio Paz is another prose poet whose work I have greatly admired, for its abstract and mystical properties.

But why has prose poetry, a apparent oxymoron, become so ubiquitously accepted as a valid form of verse?

I maintain that we are enamored of prose poetry because we love the idea of marrying opposites. We are not fans of fracture. We are yin/yang aficionados. We enjoy merging seemingly disparate properties into one harmonized whole. In uniting prose and poetry into a singular form, we achieve a certain equilibrium in literature that perhaps we covet in our own lives. And we legitimize both mediums of prose and poetry by commingling and altering them to heighten one another’s strengths.

After all, prose poetry fuses all the best elements of prose, such as flow and narrative, with the more interesting elements of verse, such as dynamic imagery and intensive use of figurative language.

In Issue Four, we showcase some amazing prose poems. We were quite heartened by the response we received to our solicitation of prose poetry for this issue. On display in Issue Four are nature and zen-like prose poems, stream-of-consciousness prose poetry pieces, whimsical, lighthearted prose poetry, and downright nightmarishly disturbing prose poetry endeavors.

In this issue, we have chosen David McLean as our featured prose poet. David is a prodigious talent whose pen positively bleeds poetry, and whose verse is besotted with imaginative wordplay and exotic imagery.

And of course, there are the usual fiction pieces, of which Hildie Block’s “Too Worried,” an unusual meditation on death and dying, is featured, plus potent polemics, satire, and reviews. We also offer up stunning photo art by Renaissance woman Birgit Linder, and political cartoons by MJ and Tom Ferguson.

One of the many reasons I started this magazine was because, as I state in my editor bio, I was aiming to sublimate my jealousy toward wiser wordsmiths. This issue’s prose poetry section in particular bristles with mind-blowing talent, and it’s an honor to be able to publish these seductively savvy scribes.

We are seeking sociopolitical poetry and fiction as our Issue Five theme. In general, I am skeptical of explicitly political poetry, but writers like Ginsberg, Ferlinghetti and lesser knowns have managed it so well that I must concede to reconsidering my suspicions. In any event, if you have anything prose- or poetry-wise that fits with our theme, please send it along for consideration. The political aspects do not have to be brutally overt; indeed, covert political content is always intriguing to read. Of course, we will reject any political pieces that reek of a close-minded, conservative stench; Clockwise Cat is not in the business of promoting totalitarian agendas. It’s all about peace and love around these parts – although of course you’ll note that rigid political correctness is zealously discouraged. We don’t like lefty fascism anymore than we like neo-con idiocy. Naturally, of course, a certain tactfulness is appreciated, even if we do entertain an impassioned appetite for irreverence.

We think Rimbaud would approve of this issue of Clockwise Cat. As he wrote in his poem, “Sun and Flesh,” “Is the language of thought any more than a dream?” Rimbaud understood that life was one long delicious illusion, yet an illusion that we give credence to in our writings and visual art, which in turn create new illusions that feed back into the fantastic fantasy of our existences.

We hope, in any event, that you, kind reader, enjoy perusing this issue. May your days be more poetic than prosaic - or at least poetically prosaic, if nothing else.

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