Sunday, July 02, 2006

essay on Mark's poetry

I went digging into the archives of rec.arts.poetry, where my brother Mark and I were both regular posters for awhile, and found this essay written by Wlodzimierz Holsztynski on Mark's poetry. His analysis, though long, is instructive and reminded me of how much I love Mark's poems. He has only been writing prose these days, but after reading Wlod's excerpts from Mark's poems I want to go and dig them up again, and publish them here. He really is a remarkable poet, a true artist who writes as he lives, directly and honestly touching the core of what it is to be a human being.

From: Wlodzimierz Holsztynski - view profile
Date: Sun, Oct 28 1990 3:47 am
Email: w...@netcom.UUCP (Wlodzimierz Holsztynski)
Groups: rec.arts.poems


ABOUT POEMS BY MARK D'ORAZIO

I feel that Mark's poems are worth 50 cents each or a dollar for three.
I feel that his poems are second to none. I felt that way immediately
but it took me days to realize why.

* * *

Mark's poems are written in the upper case.
Mark also uses symbols * and +. These symbols would stand up too
much if he used lower case. Mark uses + and * just in right
proportion to break the monotony of the upper case. Now the upper
case letters are welcome friends, bold and shy at the same time.
Keep reading.

* * *

Mark often but not always substitutes "AND" with "+". He has
a very good reason. Word "AND" has in English two meanings.
One is the logical AND like in the statement:

(I have a pencil) AND (I don't have a pen)

Another usage is that of addition or union:

I have a dog + a cat

There is a distributivity law which allows us to translate
this statement to:

(I have a dog) AND (I have a cat)

Our standard everyday English is sloppy, hence we write
"and" in both situations. English might be sloppy but Mark
the artist is sharp. He writes, in different poems:

SHE IN LOVE
AND I ALSO IN LOVE

+

LOST + LONE*SOME LATE AT NIGHT

+

WHERE ART + LIFE DWELL TOGETHER

The shyness + peacefulness + good will radiate from Mark poems,
while poetically Mark acts with the simplicity + confidence + power.

Depending on the circumstances I would suggest that we pronounce
Mark's + as "and" or as "plus", whichever sounds nicer.

* * *

My pure (poor) logic is not an adequate tool to study Mark's usage
of "*". Of course I can see that he both divides words like in

WE SIT IN A DOOR*WAY
or
A WONDER*FULL EVENT

thus making us aware of the conceptual components of complex words
(or ot the grammatical components as in WALK*ING LOST ...). On
other occasions Mark does the opposite, he combines two words into
one but preserves their identity - the new word shows it's heritage,
and we are not shocked by the construction, we feel peaceful:

I WANT TO BE A WORD*SMITH
or
TRUCK*SOUNDS FROM THE ROAD (do you hear a hi-fi record too?)

In effect Mark once again offers his own construction which is
more true than the "legal" English constructions. We have,
according to Mark, pairs of words which are separated by a space,
pairs of words which are separated/joined by *, and just single
words. You have a similar situation in the regular English, except
that the historic evolutionary development of the "legal" English
does not keep up with the true language. Thus Mark, as in the case
of + versus AND, follows the "true" language. He combines/separates
words not according to the official dictionaries. He does not need
them. Mark is confident and has no doubts.

Here logic is the less fateful part of the story. The one that
counts relates to the ear and to the pleasure one feels in her/his
mouth from pronouncing words, like in

SUDDEN*LY I SEE CITY*LITES DOWN BELOW ME

("LITES" not "LIGHTS" to enhance the pleasure of pronouncing).
Of many logical combinations, Mark chooses those which are a de*lite
to pronounce. A refined linguist should do this study of Mark's
star. Since imitation is the highest form of flattery, let me
commit the blasphemy of trying my hand at Mark's devices, let me be
his first student:

A SMALL BOY LOOKS
AT ME + GREETS
ME: PEE*PIL

You never know - within a few years hundreds of poets may follow
Mark like in the past they had followed Basho.

I see*imagine Mark reading his poems aloud, he reads them care*fully,
while we should read them careful*ly.

* * *

Many poets + critics pay attention to the efficiency of words.
Several of us raised that issue here on rap. Like other notions,
efficiency is a guidance, not a rule. If we feel that a poem
does not work, that it is flat, then one of the things we would
check is efficiency. But there is nothing mechanical about it.

On the surface Mark does not worry about efficient usage of words.
In some poems he allows overlaps of the meaning + repetitions.
You will not get however that feeling by straight reading.
His poems actually feel to me very simple, very efficient.
Only by following the text with your finger and checking the words
instead of reading the poem you'll convince yourself that indeed
Mark's poems may be not efficient in the simplistic, routine sense.
So, what's the situation?

Let's consider one example (but what an example!), which is a series
of dictionary explanations:

BOHEMIAN AVANT*GARDE FANCY is the title; colorful, because of
bohemian, exotic; then with "fancy"
there is no more danger of any pose;
still better, "fancy" has also a positive
contribution of adding to the champagne
atmosphere

AVANT*GARDE: ADVANCE*GUARD from abstract, foreign, to a little less so.
BOHEMIA: A PLACE IN MIND
WHERE ART + LIFE DWELL TOGETHER delightful! we travel from a
a symbol to its meaning.
I FANCY MY*SELF A POET ... "poet" - abstract;
TO COMMUNICATE now less abstract;
TO BE WITH PEOPLE ... already concrete;
TO BE NOT LONE*SOME and personal, straight to the heart!
I WRITE NICE WORDS
TO CREATE
TO COMPOSE THOUGHT*IMAGES do you get the feel that you're
TO STAGE WORD*PRODUCTION dealing with a (poetic)
factory ?!! After explaining
what it means to be a poet in terms of
feelings, Mark has explained what it is
in terms of the technique, work, process.
I WANT TO BE A WORD*SMITH
TO PUT WORDS TOGETHER IN NICE WAYS: the ":" means that an explanation
follows;
A WONDER*FULL EVENT "event" - seems abstract but in a
AS MANY WORDS ARE SENT moment it transpires that it's a stage
TO STAND UP ON A PAGE event; and nothing paperish about it.
AS ON A PAPER STAGE
a beautiful, beautiful image!

(this could've been the end of the poem; there is another part - see
the last section of this article).

Where we, many poets "succeed" in making paper out of gentle
(of course) breezes/winds and of birds/hearts/seas, Mark succeeds
in making a lively (!) image out of paper. Incredible!

If you "read" the above poem with your finger tracing a line after
a line, this poem is nothing but virtual repetitions. But "virtual"
is the key. With each "repetition" we understand more -
we learn a notion after a notion by this method
until we graduate + get our reward, the magnificent final IMAGE.
(So many poems are somewhat spoiled when author "magnificently"
finishes with an abstract "chewed up" summary - then s/he hears
from others the advice, cross it out).

Moral: an accidental inefficiency or sloppy overlap is one thing
while a systematic, consistent construction is something else.

There are no simple rules, just simple guidances.

* * *

Mark is hardly in any danger of being ever abstract or cliched.
He shows his easy control over the issue:

...
A PRECIOUS JEWEL IN CENTRAL PENSYLVANIA
THE STATE CAPITOL o?! did we catch him?

I GROW A BIT POETIC ABOUT IT not a chance. he meant to
sound like a poetic non-poet
( + like a tourist guidebook);
THIS IS TRUE an apology for sounding abstract;
YOU MIGHT GROW A BIT POETIC YOUR*SELF
IF YOU WERE OUT THERE WALK*ING "walk" like a noun; reminds
LOST + LONE*SOME LATE AT NIGHT marek lugowski's breaks
AS I WAS

beautiful. Good poets have or develop an instinctive dislike of "paper".

* * *

I tried to have my eyes open to any aspect of Mark's poem,
including weaknesses, if there were any. I've spotted just
one place which I think, perhaps wrongly, to be weaker -
the last line of the same gorgeous Bohemian poem:

THE WORDS PERFORM FOR YOU
THE WORDS DO TRICKS FOR YOU

IF ONLY YOU WOULD STOP TO GAZE
TO STRETCH YOUR MIND ACROSS THE HAZE
WHICH STANDS BETWEEN US:
BETWEEN MY SOUL AND YOUR SOUL (a 3-rd kind of "and" - as
a coma)

This 6-line ending is a very nice poem on its own.
Every time I write about poems I feel fear and meadow's banknotes
in my stomach (I'm borrowing the Mazz's half of the mirror). I feel
like this in every case, whether I think that the poems in question
are "good" or "bad". But then, there is no way around it. Thus I'll
get my courage + (:-) suggest:

BETWEEN MY SIDE*WALK AND YOUR SIDE*WALK


Regards to everybody and words of deep respect for "tis poet" Mark,

-- Wlod

PS. It is possible that the line which I've criticized, Mark has written
for the sake of his audience, under the pressure of their expectations.

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