upon finding your old prison letter prayers 58 poems written at 29

Upon Finding Your Old Prison Letters and Prayers — from 58 poems written at 29

It was freezing and fire and filled with the smell
Of men who made due with maybe two
Pairs of britches and who probably shat
One anyways in the evening. Yet over it all
You sing your song of something like a hope
Or a cosmic comedy, of a careful need
To never neuter the novelty of prayer
Again if God would go on helping
You and yourn. The yearning to “Never
Disappoint my parents or my Papa in heaven
Or my family and friends.” The food your cellies
Invented and vented like vases of steam
That you lovingly look at and leave thinking:
“I could open an Interstate Railway
Powered by pretty and precious containers
Of steam or magma.” The structure of life
To come has come and the collective ambitions
Arrived though eroded like rare Greek
Marble men who made it through
The wars and rains, weathered by things
They never knew would neuter the drive
And the hope of the heavens their hands raised
To praise and opine. Epiphany is a “showing
Upon” where a promise pours forth as
Manifestation. Maybe the hope
And the prayers you prayed have passed away
To make a means for the modest ambitions
To rescue your reason from the rigor of jail
When the hope of Heaven and healing prayer
Were the better broth on a blizzard day
As your blood froze, as it nearly boiled
In the summer in that box, and you screamed your hope:
“God protect and guide me out
And bring me back to brew coffee
In Sikeston Missouri safe and not dead” ?

.  .  .

:: 58 poems ::

• written at 29 years •

This year, for the 58 @ 29, I plan to focus on alliterative meter. It’s the meter used by Middle English and Old English poets as well as Latin and Greek poets. Basically all epic poets use some form of alliterative meter and it hasn’t been used in English for a thousand years. I will be pulling from the rules offered in Lewis’ article on The Alliterative Meter:

In the general reaction which has set in against the long reign of foreign, syllabic meters in English, it is a little remarkable that few have yet suggested a return to our own ancient system, the alliterative line…. Alliteration is no more the whole secret of this verse than rhyme is the whole secret of syllabic verse. It has, in addition, a metrical structure, which could stand alone, and which would then be to this system as blank verse is the syllabic….

A few successful specimens of alliterative meter would be an excellent answer to the type of critic (by no means extinct) who accuses the moderns of choosing vers libre because they are not men enough for meter. For if syllabic verse is like carving in wood and verse libre like working with a brush, alliterative meter is like carving in granite.

“Vers Libre” for those who don’t know is Latin for “free verse.” Lewis has, ultimately, offered for my poetry just the kind of reaction I prefer in all of my life: a reaction that is, deep down, orthodoxy. A reaction to dead leaves as radical as the radish itself: radical because it is the living root of the thing.

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Here is the table of contents for my 58 attempts over the next year. After the monogram, I’m including a quote from Chesterton’s An Apology for Buffoons because it defends proper use of alliteration in English:

58 poems at 29 years old ::

  1. Greenwood
  2. The Brooklyn Film Festival at Windmill Studios
  3. Rio Sunset Park
  4. The Ballad of the Writer’s Morning
  5. To Jack Across the Sea
  6. To Della Beyond the Veil
  7. Guantanamera
  8. Mother of Exiles
  9. Pane
  10. Home
  11. Greenwood Cemetery Graves
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