Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Line Break -- CK Williams

Ape : This is a terrific poem, however, the way it is formatted, disturbs me, especially as I contacted the editor to ask why there was a discrepancy between the hard and paperback versions of the Collected... The editor replied that he worked on "Wait" with the author and that line break should not be considered important for the overall appreciation of the work...

As the poetic line and line break are ways of creating tension in a poem, what distinguishes a poem from arbitrarily chopped-up prose?

I typed up the WAIT version of Apes.
Why terri-/torial
Apes – by CK Williams (from his book, Wait)

One branch, I read, of a species of chimpanzees has something like terri-
torial wars,
and when the… army, I suppose you’d call it, of one tribe prevails and
captures an enemy,
“several males hold a hand or foot of the rival so the victim can be damaged at

This is so disquieting: if things with whom we share so many genes can
be this rule,
what hope for us? Still, “rival,” “victim,” “will” – don’t such anthropo-
morphic terms
make those simians’ social-political conflicts sounds more brutal than they

The chimps that Catherine and I saw on their island sanctuary in Uganda
we loathed.
Unlike the pacific gorillas in the forest of Bwindi, they fought, dement-
edly shrieked,
the dominant male lorded it over the rest; they were, in all, too much
like us.

Another island from my recent reading, where Columbus, on his last
encountering some “Indians” who’d greeted him with curiosity and
warmth, wrote,
before he chained and enslaved them, “They don’t even know how to kill
each other.”

It’s occurred to me I’ve read enough; at my age all I’m doing is confirm-
ing my sadness.
Surely the papers: war, terror, torture, corruption – it’s like broken glass
in the mind.
Back when I knew I knew nothing, I read all the time, poems, novels, phi-
losophy, myth,

but I hardly glanced at the news, there was a distance between what could
and the part of myself I felt with: now everything’s so tight against me I
hardly can move.
The Analects say people in the golden age weren’t aware they were gov-
erned; they just lived.

Could I have passed through my own golden age and not even known I
was there?
Some gold: nuclear rockets aimed at your head, racism, sexism, contempt
for the poor.
And there I was, reading. What did I larned? Everything, nothing, too lit-
tle, too much…
Just enough to get me to here: a long-faced, white-haired ape with a book,
still turning the page.

Compare the poem “Light” on p. 391 of the paperback and and the way poetry foundation reproduces the line online. At least poetry foundation keeps the integrity of words like re-/lation; al-/lowed; alterna-/tive
subju-/gation; over-/whelmed; sur-/render; ex-haustion; be-/hold.
Also, the online version does not indent so the line spills nicely like an overflow.

As Kimberley put it: he must believe in the strength of the line in and of itself! Of course the line breaks are only one technique that poets use, and so much else goes into crafting them.

Perhaps a small thing as indented sections of hypenated words are just a minor irritation -- a stray thread in the overall weave?
"The poem is a little myth of man's capacity of making life meaningful. And in the end, the poem is not a thing we see -- it is, rather, a light by which we may see-and what we see is life."
... Robert Penn Warren

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