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Credit: Sarah Meyohas, sarahmeyohas.com

Cue the fog machine and dim the pub lights and let me, Amaya, start by asking you all a candid question:

Have you ever felt that, contrary to what we’ve heard about experience being tantamount to knowledge, that the longer you live in this surreptitious world of smoke and mirrors, the less you can attest to actually knowing?

Personally, I find myself more baffled with every passing day entangled in a global society that gives heed to the politician’s voice over the poet’s, all while bemoaning it’s own demise without doing a thing to change course or –God forbid– to change the dial on the airwaves, so to speak. Illusions abound on Earth and seem to multiply exponentially with every revolution around the sun. Since I don’t quite know how to proceed anymore, I’m going to be still and know that I am a poet.

The War That Isn’t What You Think
– James Galvin

The little wind I saw curving and lifting
The black mare’s mane
Never came this way,
Though I waited, face tilted:
To wind as heliotropic is to sun.

We have to keep our disappointment alive.
We have to sustain our appal, act surprised
That humanity has (again today!)
Failed to evolve away from meanness.
That we ourselves have failed in this.

Invisible earth,
I still can’t feel any wind,
Can’t feel though I hear cottonwood leaves that hung still
Turn sudden, turn all-at-once,
Like small birds in a flight of small birds, turning,

Like one thing instead of many,
Turn silver side to the wind when it comes,
Shiver and moan when it comes.
O wind, immaculate, that lifts the mane,

Immaculate, that turns the silver leaves,
That bears away the smoke of sacrifice.

The wind, when it finds me, bears no trace
Of sage-sweet horsesmell, no color black,
No softness of muzzle of the
Mare, her mane curving and lifting,
Where she grazes the horizon down to nothing.

[Source: James Galvin, Resurrection Update: Collected Poems 1975-1997, Copper Canyon Press, 1997, p.208]

To continue with the fauna extended metaphor, Rainer Maria Rilke holds up a mirror to a caged jungle cat and it’s dreadfully easy to see a free spirit caught up in the tricks and snares of worldly deception.

The Panther
– Rainer Maria Rilke

His weary glance, from passing by the bars,
Has grown into a dazed and vacant stare;
It seems to him there are a thousand bars
And out beyond those bars the empty air.

The pad of his strong feet, that ceaseless sound
Of supple tread behind the iron bands,
Is like a dance of strength circling around,
While in the circle, stunned, a great will stands.

But there are times the pupils of his eyes
Dilate, the strong limbs stand alert, apart,
Tense with the flood of visions that arise
Only to sink and die within his heart;

[Source: Rainer Maria Rilke, translated from German by Jessie Lemont wikisource.org]

Let’s gaze into one more poem that was actually written by a dVerse poet and published in the Chiaroscuro anthology in 2017.

Mirror, Mirror, On the Wall
– Rajani Radhakrishnan


how many mirrors
has this morning hung
everywhere I see my soul


like mirror shards
the morning dew falls
suddenly a thousand skies


my grandmother’s mirror
softening my image
with moist eyes


in the gloom
the mirror stretches a hand
to catch a falling tear


between me and the mirror
seven steps
seven presumptions


the sky is our mirror
you see falling stars
I am bewitched by the moon


empty mirror
how much did I lose of myself
leaving you


the way we looked
before we looked in mirrors


hidden behind the mirror
all those reflections
before this


today the mirror
casts three reflections
asking me to choose


in his rear view mirror
he brings home
the waxing moon


then what saved Narcissus?
a ripple?
a tear?


three blackbirds
flying past the mirror
six pause

[Source: Rajani Radhakrishnan, Chiarosscuro — Darkness and Light: Voices from poets – dVerse Anthology, ed. Guevara & Rudberg, 2017, p.48]

As we think about our own place within this complex construct of empty rhetoric and doublespeak, optical illusion and obscure motives; let us also remember most importantly, that writing poetry is a clear and simple form of rebellion against a world that is anything but clear and simple. A noble act of civil disambiguation, if you will, and I am honored to partake with you tonight, my friends. So feel free to use whichever devices you have at your disposal in whichever poetic form you choose to convey your own experience of ‘smoke and mirrors’, from maddening repetition or Lewis Carroll-esque tomfoolery to dry irony or poignant symbolism.

Write a poem and post to your blog, then link it up to the Mr. Linky below. Be sure to read everyone’s poem and leave comments, but don’t get lost along the way!

“The way was long, and swathed in gloom, as I persevered, seeking the elusive truth.”
-Qu Yuan