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Good day, Poets! Sheila, here, and I am so excited to introduce this week’s Poetics hostess – Karin Gustafson.  Some of you may know her by her blog’s name, “Manicddaily,” or (as she is apt to sign her blogosphere comments) simply as “K.”

Karin has put together a wonderful prompt for us today so, take a big, deep breath and get ready to dive in as we ponder the undercurrents of poetry.

Take it away, Karin!

Undercurrents, subtexts, the sedimentary (or ethereal) layers of a moment or experience are great fodder for poets.

The examination of these undercurrents takes place in poems in a multitude of ways–sometimes, as a whispered baseline of meaning or sentiment that barely pokes its head above lines of physical description; other times, as a direct focus (when, one writes, for example, about what some character was really saying beneath the spoken words, or really hearing or seeing or feeling.)

Undercurrents can surface through a detail caught in the corner of the eye, a memory snatched from a sound, even a Pavlovian/Proustian association with a brand name or a favorite food; they can also be expressed stylistically through an insistent rhythm, an alliterative stammer, or directed metaphor.

Perhaps the major key to writing about the undercurrents of an experience is simply being sensitive to them.  In The Notebooks of Malte Laurid Brigge, a semi-autobiographical novel by Rainer Maria Rilke, he writes of the poet learning to see. Here’s a brief excerpt about Brigge’s encounter with a woman sitting on the street, her face in her hands:

The street was too empty; its emptiness was bored; it caught my step from under my feet and clattered about with it hither and yon, as with a wooden clog.  The woman startled and pulled away too quickly out of herself, too violently, so that her face remained in her two hands. I could see it lying in them, its hollow form. It cost me indescribable effort to stay with those hands and not to look at what had torn itself out of them.  I shuddered to see a face from the inside, but still I was much more afraid of the naked flayed head without a face.

(From The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge, Rainer Maria Rilke, translation by M.D. Herter Norton, W.W. Norton & Company.)

Rilke, of course, is a great master of interlacing undercurrent and description in his poems.  (See, for example, The Archaic Torso of Apollo), but many other poets come to mind – T.S. Eliot, D.H. Lawrence, and Raymond Carver, to name a few.

For today’s prompt, I urge you to consider the different layers (or faces) of an experience, moment, relationship, person, object.  You may wish to very directly write about these differing layers, or just to allow them to form your words from underneath.

As a final note, I want to express my under and over-current of thanks to Sheila Moore and dVerse Poets Pub for letting me participate in this exercise today, and for their wonderful support of online poetry and poets.  I also want to express a bit of an apology for my very silly painting above, taken from my children’s counting book, 1 Mississippi(I admit that it is kind of jarring next to the Rilke!)

Karin Gustafson blogs as Manicddaily, where she focuses (sometimes) on the interface between creativity and stress.  She has published a collection of her poetry, Going on Somewhere,  1 Mississippi (a children’s counting book), and, most recently, Nose Dive, a light-hearted mystery novel about teenagers, musicals, love, noses, and New York.

OK, Poets, here is how it works:

  • Write a poem that takes into account the different layers of an experience, moment, relationship, person, or object. As Karin suggested, you may wish to very directly write about these differing layers, or just to allow them to form your words from underneath.
  • Post your poem on your blog, then return here.
  • Click on the Mr. Linky button below.
  • In the new window, enter your name and the exact URL of your poem and click the submit button.
  • Please visit the other participants as you can, commenting and sharing as you see fit.

Thanks, and have a great time!