Posted by: John Looker | 13 May, 2014

Homeopathic Poetry

.
Homeopathic Poetry
.
.

Everybody likes it:
one part poetry
to ten of prose

and then dilute again.
It’s easy to swallow
and it can’t do any harm.
Dilute. Dilute
it again

Drip it
down the
left-hand
side of the page.
You mustn’t let it rhyme:
that would be a transgression.
Don’t let the thing scan either if
you can possibly avoid doing so.
Shove it on a high shelf in one of
those coloured pharmaceutical
jars with a glass stopper
and let the dust

accrete.
And then accrete some more.

 

© John Stevens 2014

Just for fun!

Viewed on a smart phone app you see half the bottle; if you read the poem on the website you see the full shape.

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Responses

  1. Message in a bottle 🙂

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  2. This is just wonderful! You are too modest. I shared it on FB. 🙂

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    • Oh that’s brilliant! I’m honoured. Many thanks.

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  3. Love it! Great! 😄

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  4. Delightful! Why not add irony with “center/it…”,

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  5. This is absolutely fun, John! Wow! At the Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets meeting in Green Bay, Wisconsin that I attended a couple of weeks back, a commentary from the judge of a competition about chapbooks was read, probably to enlighten the poets in attendance about how to win such a competition. What I got out of it was that the judge did not approve of traditional poetic forms at all. They are tired and not innovative, I guess, the provenance of dead men with long, white beards and old ladies who live only in their back yards. The winner of the competition wrote very long poems that sounded like prose, although I think she probably was a pretty good writer. I took my medicine, realizing that the work I do is really not going to do well in that competition with that judge at all. “Homeopathic Poetry,” stoppered up in a medicine bottle, strikes me as the perfect container for the boiled down instances that are much of contemporary poetry. I enjoy much of it, but regret that the poetry I labor over, and the poetry of a John Stevens, Nick Moore, and Cynthia Jobin, among others, that I love is not really competitive in a contest judged by too many judges. Difficult as manipulating words into a concrete shape may be, the skill just is not relevant to the contemporary world. Oh, this is a clever, delightful, chortling poem. O, yes, it is! Thank you for it. It lifts my spirits after the poetry conference.

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    • Many thanks for sharing these thoughts Thomas. Like you, and unlike the judge you mention, I can enjoy old forms and new – it’s how people use them that matters, isn’t it?

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      • To Thomas….As one old lady pretty much restricted to my back yard, I would counter the fatuousness of that judge with the proposition that it may be the apotheosis of mediocrity in our time which really precludes the kind of mental, imaginative skills necessary to the good use of traditional forms.

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      • Here I am again, just browsing through favorite sites and compelled to congratulate you on two poems I really enjoyed reading: Where Lost Things Are and Homeopathic Poetry. The one, though not winning the competition you mention, is a beautiful composition, and the other a perfectly executed example of concrete poetry. Thank you for sharing them with the world.

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        • That’s very generous of you Charles – thank you. I hope all goes well with you.

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  6. John, I am editing a magazine for SpeedPoets (an open mic meeting event).
    Can I publish this in the May ‘zine’ please? 27 May deadline. Please send a file to speedpoetszine@gmail.com
    http://speedpoets.com/

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    • I’d be delighted John. Many thanks. I’ll email.

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  7. Dear Doctor Stevens,

    What are you, a quack?
    I’ve tried your oceanic potion
    and it doesn’t work for quirky
    patients just like me
    whose malady
    requires an instance
    of aesthetic distance
    or for those for whom a fluff
    of schmooze is not enough.
    For real, I think you are a quack.
    Your potion pleases
    an emotion but it does not heal.
    Herewith, I send it back. 🙂

    Like

    • Your complaint is fair and properly made,
      but the mountebank has fled –
      over the state border
      with your dollars under his saddle!

      Like

  8. small
    waves
    say
    small
    things
    to
    the
    shore
    ..
    anon

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    • Oh touché Pete! But that is not homeopathic poetry – it imprisons a genie in a small phial.

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  9. Hi John, this is wonderful, the shape and the content. Love it. 🙂

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  10. […] have it set in stone that sensible men read this. On that note, I direct you to John Stevens’ Homeopathic Poetry and the comment accreting further down By: JdUb on May 13, 2014. I believe that one comment points […]

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  11. I’ve followed the links, Brad, and read the post on your blog and also the one by Jim Murphy. You make a watertight case.
    Thank you for mentioning this poem of mine and JdUb’s invitation to me above. You are right: this does illustrate how the internet can promote poems in new ways. But, as you say, there remain unresolved issues about ‘publication’ and permanence.

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  12. Your brilliant poem
    captures the essence,
    sassafras bark infused,
    of why I find so much
    poetry blah…actually incomprehensible.
    Callous and obtuse I am
    to the soul who bottled its copious tears
    distilled from weeping over its angst
    as the moonlight glistens
    off the shark’s teeth in his/her hair.

    I weep for the sharks–
    not properly defined after all
    but thrown in, it seems, for colour.
    and a few teeth.
    I grow dizzy watching their wild circles
    as they search for their cartilage
    amidst the scattered words
    and find it not.

    Crushed
    barley green won’t soothe the poet’s
    suffering, nor will sunny Vitamin D cheer them
    as their angst reaches up
    to the top shelf to deposit
    a miniature replica of itself
    amongst the plethora of empty jars.
    I may pick it up; I may sniff, but all too soon
    back it goes, curing nothing in me.

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    • It’s good of you to respond in verse Christine – thank you! I suppose my poem has opened the door to all our thoughts about how poetry works – not just about form but about imagery (I’m keeping a wary eye on your sharks!), content, purpose etc. Thanks for responding with immediacy and feeling.

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  13. The shape! and the words, too, and the light heart of this one. I just received a letter from my husband, Phil, who is away at the Banff Centre for an artist residency and he mentioned the process of “distilling” images for his paintings and related this process to writing as well…and then this poem — the timing makes me smile!

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    • I think you, and your husband, are on to something Anna: distilling, yes, an essential process, and partly obscure. We can allow time, and provide the oak barrels, but something in the process occurs out of view doesn’t it?

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  14. My apologies–I was ranting in my poem above. I’ve been going through some books of poetry lately and trying hard to understand what’s being said, or felt, by the writer and letting out some frustrations.
    I do like those old fashioned rhyming poems that read easy — and I did enjoy yours, too, esp the shape.

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    • Hello Christine. No apology needed or accepted! 🙂

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  15. John, it seems you’ve tapped into a secret well of appreciation for…well, for what? First of all it’s a wonderfully clever poem with a serious point to make, lightly made and all more forceful for the making. This is good—and I should think it should be appreciated by anyone. Imagine Johnathon Swift remarking on ‘A Modest Proposal’, ‘Oh just for fun’. You can’t kid us, John, this is serious fun. Thomas Davis, as usual raises an important point about the state we find poetry in today. Traditional meter and—god help us—rhymes don’t seem to be appreciated—which your poem uses as content but does not use in making the poem. Tired and worn out? No, hardly. But I confess I don’t want poetry to be all written in heroic couplets either. Now, my own poetry has been dancing around the sonnet form for some time now. And, modesty aside, this is how I think poetry should be attending to the ‘tradition’. Henri Cole has been something of a model here —in his use of the sonnet anyway. I don’t know if I buy into his overall vision. [if you can do one without the other, is a subject for another time.] I should also mention ‘Space in Chains’ Laura Kasischke’s brilliant book of poetry—for those of you who think traditional poetry is the only way to do it. In the end, though, I think Emerson got it right with his call for meter making argument.
    Now as a general rule of thumb, I hate concrete poetry. It shouldn’t be any big deal. The placing of lines in a poem has always been in part visual. And the beauty of type is obvious. The problem is that practitioners often get over cute with it. [I can’t decide whether you are being over cute here or not. It’s awfully clever. And not easy to do.]
    Now the thing about homeopathic medicine is that it doesn’t work. Yet it is strangely like vaccination—which does work. And what are we being treated for? Shades of Maryanne Moore [I too dislike it] it must be poetry—
    Poetry as a disease.
    I will end with a little Tennyson:
    Half a league, half a league,
    Half a league onward,
    All in the valley of Death
    Rode the six hundred.
    “Forward, the Light Brigade!
    Charge for the guns!” he said:
    Into the valley of Death
    Rode the six hundred.

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    • Free verse or traditional forms? A concrete shape for this poem meant I could avoid choosing. I enjoy both, and all manner of variations and explorations – such as your own Jim. The French expression “le fond et la forme” is a pointer to what I had in mind: not the form of poems but substance, their depth if you will, or lack of it. The opposite of homeopathic poetry is the concentrated poem, whatever shaped container it is poured into.
      Something like that, anyway. Just for fun! And many thanks for your considered comment Jim.

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  16. Perhaps people like it because they’ve come to expect it. Keep tinkering! Also, I have to say the shape of this poem is just genius. =)

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    • You could be right. There’s a lot of it around. 🙂

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  17. Missed this in the past – love it! (The title caught my eye over on your sidebar. 🙂 )

    Like

  18. Hello Betty – thank you! It was a bit of fun, but fun with a bit of a bite I suppose.

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