Magnetic Poetry

She was an olive trumpet fire hazard, a troop blockade of dressed
down jeans, a waterlogged entropy. Smiling orange peels in the
empty trash can while the black bells whistled in the morning,
cogging pits under the mango tree.

Whipped piston shot and photogenic bloody jaw are at the
midnight eyebrow bar-steeping like the sassafras of jarred petals
in the windowsill.

Bustling the round robin on a cardinal night-cliff-a blister popped
the balloon I gave you on your Birthday. I’m sorry about that.
We clouded up in the rock-shift of amber stars, naked whiskey,
& sifted melon. Caking hills with sweet, bitter, milked flames.

These lines, contributed by Victoria Sroka, conjure up images of impossible form and texture, a recycling of terms that makes language feel like a pallet of colors susceptible to our impulsive desires of a young child who has not yet learned how to mix the hues properly. These images are at once incredibly vivid and rich while at the same time nebulous and distant. Our eyes and minds cannot comprehend what we see.

But wait, these phrases do not make any sense to us privileged native speakers, readers, and interpreters of English. Precisely. This is where innovation starts.

As a reader and interpreter of texts, I have always made a case for literature’s artistic qualities, admiring how a writer paints the canvas of the imagination within the limits of syntax and precise diction. But how can literary works embody or replicate the same artistic expression that a visual image can? How can we experiment with the color wheels of language, inventing new hues and tints, that resonate with the old words we know but leave us with the metallic taste of something new?

Magnetic poetry, indeed, might be a way, chopping up sentences into morsels of words, mixing them up, and putting them back together again in disarranged fashion. Taking words out of the context and obligation of logic and proper grammar, words become something new again—something to create with. Language, as something that composes us and that we encounter everyday, is a challenge to paint with. It takes a physical action, somewhat, to force ourselves into stepping outside the limits that structure the life of language. This is why I see magnetic poetry as a beneficial practice to all crafters and artists of our language. It enables us to tacitly reconstruct our words, touch them, and treat them like building blocks to create with.

Doing this we may, indeed, create seemingly senseless phrases as we stand back and look at the portrait of words on the wall (or fridge). This provocative experience is oddly charming though. To consider the audacity of phrases, adjectives and conjunctions, transforming nouns into adverbs, yet still understanding something of the lines, illuminates something about the layers of meaning in language that are often overlooked in polished, grammatical form. After all, we can still feel something emerge from the mish-matched words and improperly used predicates. What we sense is something more held in language than purely pragmatic use, reflective of the sentiments that visual art radiates. In the end, we understand something of the relationship between ourselves and our language that was impossible to render through everyday, or even scholarly, use.

No matter how we chop it, it is never foreign. It still has the power to be something greater than itself and the rules we have to make it efficient. Finally, maybe we are able to paint with words.

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~ by Em on May 21, 2009.

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