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Posts Tagged ‘Priya Keefe’

Seurat to Continuity

February 14, 2009 4 comments

Hills hills miles miles
empty of us   Each

under our 4am blankets
in our funnels   of breath

nearer to the dark
glass bottom of emptiness itself

Deeper than the glass we peered through
at dinner under   the clicking of conversation

No conversation   now
where a goblet of breath empties

down a gullet   red with swallowed distress
into the cavernous   never-lit   void

There   an undiscovered aurora
borealis   emits   its lonely

sheen   onto the dark sea
starry   acidic   deep

infinite and intimate   where
we meet

It’s no farther from my house to yours
than an arc inside

a star’s pinpoint   of light
against the clear dark of tonight

And still   nearer
the distance between us

Under the roads   hills   breath
is a cat’s cradle of hollow fibers

where once is forever   once
we’ve touched   We’re the sparks

arcs of urgency   to connect
the dots   Seurat   to continuity

end the awful space
inside   between us

Filled glass   unfilled
lungs   dots in the lightdark spectrum

white   of our eyes
black   of the room

We’re blind pixels   of a story
we can’t tell   or see

Without effort   our lungs fill again
Starlight soaks the hills   seeps
in   reaches us   here

by Jed Myers and Priya Keefe

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Process notes

Jed writes:
When Dana invited me to give this venture a try, I thought immediately of Priya, with whom I’ve collaborated in various ways many times in recent years — we’ve written poems back and forth, I’ve performed aloud with her some poems for two voices, backed her up with guitar while she recited or sang, she’s helped me host poetry gatherings… and our sensibilities, as persons and poets, are deeply resonant. So I had no hesitation in asking her to join me in the emergence of a poem for Dana’s potential editorial delight.

Upon agreement from Priya, some weeks back now, I sent her a “seed” of something, a short segment starting “hills hills miles miles…” with the idea she’d respond by adding, altering, subtracting, reacting — who knew?! I knew I was addressing, in a kind of gut language, the reality of what separates us across the landscape of space and time, inviting her to wrestle with this with me. And she did — she added to it, and then I added to that, and then in the several backs and forths of it by email attachment exchange, followed by meeting over coffee and phone conversation, we elaborated and shaped and modified this little piece that seems to express a shared feeling about our lives being too separate, where distances that manifestly get in the way of more abiding connection are inescapable yet at the same time not present in our depths, not actual at the deepest levels of personal truth, but O how we do struggle with the distances, the discontinuities, the hills and miles, as our more overt conscious usual selves. We sense there is a deeper stratum, a “cats cradle” of interconnections, between, among, any and all who’ve ever really touched, been moved or shaken, loved, changed or been changed, but this sense is usually remote. The poem hopes to bring this a bit closer.

The process of the poem — and a way to wonder about its success as a poem, I think — is a struggle toward resolution of an irresolvably dual truth. We are at once in the actual and the experiential worlds — the world of the hills and of the “hollow fibers/where once is forever” — and it may well be that at some fundamental level deeper than conscious experience, “under the roads,” an ineradicable continuity abides. This is a wish, a longing, a conjecture or intuition, and one pole in the tense polarity explored by us organically in the poem.

Priya writes:
We didn’t discuss topic or approach beforehand. My partner Jed started the poem, wrote eight lines and emailed it to me. I wrote eight lines, emailed it back. We each took another turn and then seemed to agree, without discussion, that the first draft was complete. Although I did not state that I had written a conclusion, he responded with an email that indicated he also felt the first draft was complete. My favorite part of this process was watching the mystery unfold.

We agreed to each take a pass at editing before we got together via phone or in person. I edited lightly, trying to stay true to the original version and not insert too much of my voice via editing. I felt there was only so much further I could take the poem without discussing its meaning with Jed.

We met in a coffee shop on a rainy Saturday afternoon. I brought a copy of each version of the poem: the original, Jed’s edited version, and my edited version. Knowing it can be informative and inspirational to hear one’s work read by someone else, I read aloud Jed’s edited version, then he read aloud my edited version. Then we discussed areas where we felt meaning or language was unclear. New understandings evolved through this process! Through reading and discussion, we came up with another version that was more lucid and balanced our two voices.

I think the next time I embark on a process of writing a poem collaboratively, I would like to try discussing an approach beforehand. Although challenging to find and integrate a balance between both voices in the writing and editing we did apart, the discussion and editing we did together was playful and energized the poem.