WORKSHOPPIN': I'm taking Cecilia Woloch's workshop with an impressive array of talented poets including Alice Lovelace (legend) and Cherryl Floyd-Miller (legend-in-the-making). This workshop is mainly for advanced poets who want critique on their new work and stimulating new exercises. When Cecilia told me she was doing the workshop again, I almost opted out. I just haven't been in a workshop mood because all the work I've been doing lately is still in its embryo stages...not even ready for critique because it hasn't passed my standards yet. However, sitting down with these folks once a week was too tempting...just for the camaraderie alone.

One of the first assignments Cecilia gave us was to use a new form made popular by Terrance Hayes. We were told to pick a word (a long one) and go from there. I won't reveal the form until after you've read my effort below. Political, of course, but it's the time of the season...


The FBI must be keeping track, a thick file
of comings and goings I cannot deny.
When I put my finger on the dial,
type a message, look for a confidante
someone is listening, watching, tracking every cent.

I wonder if it's Condi,
bored with the war on terror, the usual plausible denial,
she could be up playing the piano late,
"I've Got You Under My Skin," by old Cole,
or any little ditty,
to make the days go faster, or make a dent
in all the mail she's received about how she's failed
her race, playing Prissy to Dubya's Scarlett, over confident,
killing babies rather than birthin' them, even in the no-fly.
He's made Americans enemy combatants, put every city
on alert for unpatriotic signs, ratcheted up the Def-con,
made us all commies again, no confidentiality,
the Red Bastards are coming, washing in on the tide.

Condoleezza, there is hope yet,
there is still time to come to the nation's aid.
I dream of you sitting in front of Congress, nailing it
with two simple words: "Bush lied."

Have you guessed what the form is? We took the long word and made other words out of it. The new words are at the end of each line of the poem. Go back and take a look. While this may seem like a fairly simple exercise, it forces you to write in a very structured and contained way to make sure you get one of your words at the end of each line. I'm still not happy with some of the line breaks I did to get each of my words at the end, but, hey, this is a work in progress.


BLUE said…
i have been laughing about this poem all day. it's freaking brilliant ... this coupled with the fact that a message in my inbox today had "ditty" in its subject line (hilarious!). i think what i love about it is the fact that something is the collin kelley tradition of things (layering in traditional ways) has been broken and still works like a hooker in red pumps on ashby. personally, i'm ecstatic when art starts finding its next level ... and this proves that yours is. it is becoming my example to folks who say they want to write a political poem. you've raised the bar with this one. when other folks want to write a rant, i'll give them something else to look at. it's marvelous. looking forward to the Condoleeza persona poem. light! ~BLUE
Anonymous said…
I wouldn't change a word of it! It's funny as hell.

Teamaster said…
Impressive, especially since it was so formal. You managed to pull it off while maintaining your voice. Nice. Some cool lines throughout, too: funny *and* important. Did it take you long to muster?

I differ, however, on Condy's achievement. I think it's dangerous to equate black conservatism with "step and fetch 'em" negroes or Uncle Toms. A black politically behaving/believing *as a black should* seems just a different source of the same old stereotyping. It can also degenerate into white "liberals" unwittingly (or wittingly) dictating how blacks should think and who they should align themselves with, lest they are scorned for free choice.

Although parts of your poem seemed to evoke this (in me, at least), it was not in the same area as the political lynching of Clarence Thomas or countless other blacks who choose not to fall into the strange indoctrination that blacks *should* unquestionably vote Democrat. This is the danger of "parties". This goes for gays and women, for that matter. (Why women, who comprise over half of the population, are considered "minorities", I'll never know.) :)

Perhaps you should consider writing your own political poetry book some day! :)

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