The Last Few Pages of “The Poetry Deal” by Jessica Flier

by Mark Chmiel

Jessica is taking my Diane di Prima class, and posted this at our class blog. She gave me permission to share with whomever I wished. Enjoy!

The last few pages of The Poetry Deal are enchanting, filled with so much truth and wisdom, DiPrima captures the essence of the meaningfulness of art.

Reading this part of the book inspired me to share a poem, which I composed in my head one day on a hike. My weekly hikes are a spiritual practice for me. They center me, offer me refuge in the life-giving, healing presence of trees. I enter an enhanced soul-state, my mind cleared after another week of feeling mostly like a mind-numbed hamster-on-a-wheel.

I’m tempted to choose a selection that is my favorite from those few pages and include it here, but it’s all so damn great that it’s impossible to choose. So I’ll share with you the passage relevant to my reflection here:

“When spoken, the poem cuts a shape in time, when written it forms itself in space. It often dwells there in paper or parchment before you pick up your pen. At those times all you have to do is trace what is hidden in the page. At other times you may hear the poem broadcast, spoken like a radio in your head & you can write it down like taking dictation.”

Aye – there’s the rub! Poems come to me at the most inconvenient times. So do story ideas, or even just musings about my life that I’d prefer to write down into a journal. They come to me while sitting in a meeting, listening to some blowhard who knows nothing about my work tell me how to do my job. They come to me while I’m sitting in traffic or speeding down the highway, when it would be dangerous and careless to attempt dictation into my phone. They come most often to me as I wind my way through the rock and forest of the hiking trails, when I don’t have any free hands much less free sheets of paper, as both hands are tasked with keeping my beast of a dog from eating squirrels or rudely interrupting some innocent other dog’s walking meditation.

In other words, I am most inspired exactly when I am most unable to record. And my sieve of a brain lets it fall right through as soon as I’m in front of a recording device (paper, laptop, phone).

I know the broadcast Diane speaks of, because it is loud in my brain at every most inconvenient moment of my life! But I don’t lament that; maybe it’s my process. It is, what it is. Maybe I need to investigate ways to unlock them, make them less afraid of the paper!

ANYWAY! I wrote this after a hike filled with would-be poems and short stories some months ago and wanted to share, because Diane reminded me of it.

Dozens of novels
thousands of short stories
millions of poems
INFINITE haikus.
So many writings
that will never be
because they flood the mind
as I cruise down
44 East
between Arsenal & Jamieson
on my way to visit a friend
the words flow without effort
Pain
Joy
Wisdom
Reflection
Memory
Fiction
it’s all stored up there
always to vanish
at the sight of a notebook.

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