On the one hand it’s appropriate to use this image because his words (albeit chopped up, shifted around, and taken completely out of context) have been influencing my work the last few weeks, and this is a post about being under the influence. On the other hand, I feel bad using it because maybe he’s the faithful type. (Michael Fassbender at Prometheus premiere by BollywoodHungama)
1. I think sometimes I am influenced less by poets than by poems: the repetition and imagination in Joy Harjo’s “She Had Some Horses” and Denise Duhamel’s “Mille et Une Sentiments,” the mingling of grief and anger and love in Robert Hayden’s “Those Winter Sundays,” the actual words of Federico Garcia Lorca’s “Casida of the Weeping.” But there are poets too whose way of writing, whose gestures constantly leak into my work: Maureen Seaton (who started everything and made me unafraid to play with language, even if it wasn’t mine), Carl Phillips (he is not the first poem to use the construction “Consider…” but it stuck after I first read him, not to mention he told me it was okay to binge write). This may not mean anything to you if you’re not a poet or you don’t care about poetry. But still, it bears thinking about—what sticks and what doesn’t? What do we hold onto and what do we let go?
2. I have written a lot of love poems for someone who has never been in love. I mean maybe I loved a young man once but even at this distance of decades, I don’t know quite what it was we had. He made me angry and I felt pretty when I was with him, but if we ever kissed—especially the night I asked him to “give me a real kiss”—I don’t remember.
3. All the men I grew up with cheated—my father, his father, his brothers. On my mother’s side, too (though maybe not her stepfather). They thought only that they could make themselves enough if they had many women. Nobody considered that the little girls who adored them would learn to never trust a man who was supposed to love them.
4. Another man, a man who played the clarinet,grabbed my ankle as he crouched on the floor closing up his clarinet case, my hands full of the kitchen props that had to be washed up next door after a performance of the show we were both working on. We went to bed together, and I could have loved him, I think, if he hadn’t moved to New York a few days later, and that was true I think even when I saw him in New York years after but couldn’t understand that he was saying he worked at Cafe Wha.
5. In the mid to late 1990s, the poet Ed Hirsch wrote a book of love poems, some of which were in the voices of different people from history—like Colette (strange to think now there was a time before I knew and revered her). Maybe I am writing these poems in persona too, as someone who knows a thing or two about love. I hope it’s not really my voice that’s bleeding through. I’ve used the words grief, hunger, shame too much already. I suppose I could blame the source material (half the poems were found in interviews with an actor some of whose movies were called shame and hunger, some of whose movies involved men who were only robots or who would flirt with a teenager even as they bedded her mother), but I was the one who decided to use those texts. I was the one who wanted to reap love poems from those rocky words.