Friday, December 6, 2013

Nothing But What It Is

In the world of hip-hop, Lewis Turco would be considered an “Original Gangsta,” an “O.G.”—a title given to someone who started it all. In the more genteel business of poetry writing, however, Turco would be called an “Institution,” and what he started was nothing less than a renewed appreciation of poetic forms.
~Daniel Nester

Sharing a poem by Lewis Turco, author of The Book of Forms, today. I had a hard time picking which terzanelle of his to post, as I like them all.

What's a terzanelle? A terzanelle has "nineteen lines total, with five triplets and a concluding quatrain. The middle line of each triplet stanza is repeated as the third line of the following stanza, and the first and third lines of the initial stanza are the second and final lines of the concluding quatrain; thus, seven of the lines are repeated in the poem."

by Lewis Turco
"The March sun causeth dust, and the wind blows it about."

There is a room, and in that room hourdust
Lies smothering the chairs, the rugs and couches
Where no one sits, where the radiators rust,

Thinking of steam. The chill of evening slouches
In the corner shadows where wallpaper peels in waves,
Lies smothering the chairs, the rugs and couches.

Nothing is certain here. The twilight saves
The day in ripples that fall through windowpanes
On the corner shadows where wallpaper peels in waves,

Sounding the silent combers. Everything stains
Everything, is nothing but what it is.
The day, in ripples that fall through windowpanes,

Washes the floor and fades. Now, in this
Heartbeat preceding night, the room is still
Everything, is nothing but what it is:

The raveling of mildew upon a sill;
Heartbeat preceding night. The room is still
Where no one sits, where the radiators rust.
There is a room, and in that room, our dust.

Original publication: Poetry Miscellany, 8, 1978. Included in The Collected Lyrics of Lewis Turco / Wesli Court 1953-2004, Scottsdale: Star Cloud Press, 2004; all rights reserved by the author. Posted here with permission of the poet.


Robyn is the Poetry Friday host today. I bought a Writer Mouse ornament from her artsyletters shop recently:

photo by Elena Y

Isn't it adorable? Robyn does a wonderful job of packaging her products, too -- you can rest assured that if you send an artsyletters gift, it will look great!


GatheringBooks said...

Oh Tabatha, I held my heart in my hands as I read this beautiful poem. So poignant. There is longing, a sense of abandonment, a taste of grief - the fragments of our selves (those bits of memories - gleaming amidst the rust), shedding in a room, "in that room, our dust."

Here's my Poetry Friday link, also a poignantly beautiful prose poem by our featured poet, Nerisa Guevara. "Hunger."

Diane Mayr said...

Terzanelle, another term to add to my list of forms to explore. I only wish I were more comfortable with rhyme. Love the ornament, by the way!

Author Amok said...

Thanks for posting the photo of Robyn's ornament. How cute!

The idea of rusted radiators dreaming of steam struck me. That line shows how evocative personification can be.

jama said...

An excellent poem, an interesting form. Sometimes when poets try to adhere to certain forms, the form overpowers the content and things can feel forced, but this is masterfully done, and the feeling of abandonment, decay, and desolation is well drawn. Thanks for the heads up about yet another new-to-me poet!

Donna Smith said...

Ewww...and that's not the bad "ewww", it's a more hushed reverent one. I had to read your description and the poem a bunch of times scrolling up and down to "get" the quatrain. And when I did "ewww" came out. Hourdust to "our dust". Oh, my. Loved this. I'm going to read it again.

Keri said...

Meticulously crafted, this haunting poem. I will look at my dusting job differently this weekend. To be honest, this reminded me of my late grandmother's house, with the old knick-knacks no one knows the original of.

Michelle Heidenrich Barnes said...

I love how this form rolls like waves. Perhaps next year I will challenge myself to write one, but in the meantime, thank you for giving me this one to savor.

Joy said...

Thank you. There is always good reading on your posts. Turco's book is a great one, isn't it and his examples of the forms are excellent. I appreciate you.

Linda B said...

You never stop teaching me, Tabatha. This, like others have said, takes such examination to read and enjoy, and then to think of writing one! And he did many? To me, it's such a sad poem. I think of the photos I've seen of those old abandoned houses, but then I think also of relationships. Thank you!

Becky Shillington said...

Thank you for sharing this wonderful poem, Tabatha, and for your explanation of a terzanell. I had not heard about this format before!

Liz Steinglass said...

The theme of my week is dust poems. So interesting that you've posted one too. I find this one very moving. I was really drawn in by the language--hourdust, smothering, slouches, raveling, peeling. Strangely it didn't really feel repetitive to me.

Tara @ A Teaching Life said...

One of the things I love about hopping over to you blog is your unerring taste in poetry, music and art. I always discover something enriching - like this haunting poem. Thank you, Tabatha.

Mary Lee said...

As so many others have said, thank you for always teaching me something new!

This poem is amazing. Simply amazing.

Violet N. said...

I have loved forms with repeating lines since I read my first pantoum. Terzanelle is new to me, so thanks for the introduction. I find this poem beautiful and haunting.