Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Blind Man's Cat

     I once assisted another poet on editing her work for publication. She was attempting to put a sense of order into what to her was a collection of disorganized and disparate poems. They were all in her voice but she was so close to them she could not see their relation to one another in context of her vision.
     In reading the pieces I not only heard the music coming from the pages but also saw a subtext buried inside the words. Once I became a companion to that subtext I arranged the poems in my head into what to my ears and eyes was a linear theme that told a precise tale.
     She then allowed me to cut and paste her babies into this thematic context. That was a remarkable level of trust (ask any writer), especially as the finished edit created quite another animal than the one she had raised. I had been talking out loud like an inspired madman about my thought processes and the subtext I was following throughout the whole procedure. When I finished I read the book aloud from the first word to the last verse.
     She was shocked and quiet and silent for a long time. Then came the tears.
     I initially thought she was crushed at what I had done. That was far from the truth. In her estimation, that edit had not only streamlined her vision but told the story she had been attempting to tell in a way she had never visualized and could never had done. She was wrong.

     Her book was all there, story and everything in completion-there was nothing missing and nothing added. I heard her music and I formatted the playlist of her album. She was thankful but I was even more appreciative because it was a beautiful experience that taught me more about trust and editing than I could ever have learned on my own.
     Later on, she looked at some of my work. She pulled a forth a poem I had been stuck on and commented that to her it was an experiential description of sound. That was far from what I was attempting but it forced me to look at my lines with new eyes and listen further to what they were saying. As with her, I had been so close to it I could no longer hear it, but it was there...singing low.
     With new ears I finished that piece and many times since I think of lessons learned and music unheard. So Jolie, wherever you may be...this one is for you:


Her sound
     seeps syllabic meter
               auditory images,
her paws print
     cushioned percussion
               ear cymbals preening-
all catwalking forward,
          then rising;
               heard symbols uniting,
Her beat
     and talk
          anticipating tigers
               or kittens
in a steady,
     measured tone to
          make verb
               or phrase
to a felt imploding
     sound wave-
          her  v-i-b-r-a-t-i-n-g  metaphor;
               his braille purr she sings.

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