Friday, November 20, 2009

Inkhat Meets Another Ghost Dog!

This weekend I drove home, a six hour trip through mostly flat farmlands with intermittent shopping malls looming like bandits over medieval back roads. I was shocked how easy it was for me. Perhaps a sign of growing up, not the Truth of the World growing up, but the type of simply maturity that allows me to leave the highway without the fear that I will never find my way back on. A weird and simple bravery that allows me to step off the path once in awhile. It was rather encouraging.

After hour 4 I realized that I felt no sense of importance in this journey. I had lived on my own for awhile, but had never gone this long without seeing my parents. It should feel important. It felt routine. How strange, I thought, that something so new felt simply like part of my day. It wasn’t until I passed over the Hudson Creek Bridge, half an hour from my parent’s house, the familiar dip after the pylon bouncing my car, that I finally found the expected nostalgia.

It doubled as I turned off the highway, snarling silently at a minivan with a Novi sticker who wobbled uncertainly across the two turning lanes. I had the right to complain. I was a local. I knew how to navigate the awkward intersection. I passed the corner where I wasted late nights and early mornings in the one 24 hour diner, which was now a Starbucks. I passed the ski hill, a tiny dirt hump the city was obnoxiously proud of.

(In the parking lot was a small dirt hill with a few charred stumps sticking out. It turns out, I would learn later, that someone had decided it was a wonderful idea to remake Red Dawn, a decision which I believe immediately qualifies them for extreme psychological help, and possibly incarceration).

I noted, with some amusement, that they had also smoothed the railroad crossing, but had done nothing to the pockmarked corner save erect a yellow sign reading, “Rough Road Ahead.” Lovely.

The wedding I returned for was beautiful, but I felt an almost awkward sense of normalcy as I walked around town, visited friends, even as I wandered over to MSU and walked the campus. Nothing at all. I ran into a professor. She shrugged my sudden appearance off. It was very nice to see me. A state away I had worshiped her and used her confidence in me as guidance through my most stressful days, and she had moved onto other students. Why did it bother me so much that everything had moved on? Did I really want to say a small hole in Michigan where I once was? Yes, dammit. That would have been nice.

That’s selfish, I admonished myself. People move on. They have their lives. You have yours…sort of. You know, that bit of time between writing and grading papers and homework. Yeah, that bit right there. You shouldn’t care what happens to your old stomping ground.

But I do! I do! I want them to need me the way I need them. I think about my professors and friends, my cafes and bookstores. I miss the places like the people. I missed the memory of location like an inside joke; a reference only a few understand. Yes. I wanted that to be reflected in my world. But it wasn’t. I drove back to Ohio.

I went out the night I came home. I couldn’t stand in the empty house alone. I glanced down the dark, brick lined alleys off State Street on my way uptown, and stopped when I noticed something looking back. It was half way up the hill, thick and furry. I could see the reflection off its eyes, though they didn’t glow like a cat. A dog, then. A tail wagged slowly, carefully behind him. Instinctively, I clucked, an encouraging noise for horses. The dog turned and wandered into the bushes in response. His tail wagged lazily behind him. Honest to God. These things happen to me.

Alright then Ghost Dog. Tell your friends I’ve come home.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Inkhat Discusses Poetry as Poetry!

So, as a forward, publishers of poetry are really touchy about seeing the poem anywhere else. They hate simultaneous submissions, and rarely will you see something published more than one place, or a magazine that would even accept previously published things. In order to avoid anyone getting crabby, I don't make a habit of posting poetry online. However, this enormous poem was already published in a tiny tiny online magazine. It's so long, I don't think I'll have a chance to publish it anywhere else, and the editor of said magazine is totally cool with republication. So, now you can see the sort of thing I work on.

Eight Poems for Polo


In the beginning there were horses

and the worlds were devised

by their bodies alone;

a ground so they could gallop,

the sky to silhouette their manes.

Between was only the churning

of the planets around their flanks,

sucked in through flared nostrils

and out.

Of course they knew of the ball,

more solid than them and white,

like teeth, or the sharp crescent of a straining eye,

but they never chased it.

They ran because their friends were running.



women sway on gray horses,

leaning forward like poplars

over a still algae pond,

slim with fluttering hair

and gazing eyes.

In a rich garden with no snakes,

And no birds,

And no trees either.

Only a wide field where their men flit

Like white winged water bugs.

They wait for them to come,


All in white cotton and amber leather.

Later these women strip the long, red polo wraps

From the horse’s legs,

And wrap them into small soft balls;

hand them to their men, drinking,

Changed now, into darker clothes.


Everyone has played polo.

Your ancestors played polo.

If they did not physically swing the bamboo;

hear the crack of the willow root,

they felt, because everyone does

what it is to sit atop force and beauty,

and never absolutely have control.

They hurtled at a target

they could not be certain would remain

or they would be able to hit.

Your children will play polo.

There is nothing you can do to stop this.

Teach them to swing,

even cocksure, wide and wild,

striking the ground into explosion.


In Manipuri there is a polo god

Born in the waves of timeless hooves,

a tiny planetary body

rocketing through space.

There was chaos then

as the fancy grew into war;

a fountain of flesh and hair,

swinging arms and sharp feet,

momentous and dangerously free.

Then one pony turned

and saw in the ball what the people saw,

perhaps what it wanted,

to be perfect, balanced, and brightly colored.


A borrowed groom,

I cannot make the unfamiliar, freckled horse,

quit orbiting me, tireless and proud.

Try as I might to stand still,

I sway with the motion.

When his rider comes,

Our horses meet,

Leaping like startled water birds

From a green pond,

And the mallets bend like cattails

And clatter.

He and his rider are gone again,

and I am holding a new, used horse,

Sopping and panting,

Already turning circles around me

even as I drag her from the tide.


Intellectually perhaps

we understood how ancient the game was,

but it meant so much less than

hanging the steaming blankets,

reds, yellows, blues like a drawn sunset;

dipping frosted hands into buckets,

the ice already crawling across the puddles.

Silence, except for the swish of thin horse tails;

the dust hanging like wind chimes,

Perhaps there is perfection in the end,

In the antique art of cleaning leather,

sponges in slow circles of preservation,




The bit was a surprise,

the saddle, with its wooden spine,

spider webs of leather,

beneath and between their legs

over, around their neck,

their fluttering ears

thick, flat foreheads.

Their tail was braided and taped.

Their legs were wrapped in red cloth,

and buckled rubber sheets.

It all seemed like so much fuss

to do what they were made for,

to fling one hoof before the other,

to carry that strange and careful being

who knew what to do.


In the hollow pavilion

after the crowds and professionals,

even the ice cream vendors,

have gone to their personal comforts

we remain, we grooms and trainers,

we cleaners and carriers.

We run silently round and round the ring

Playing in sandals and ruined boots and barefoot,

falling to our hands and knees,

driving the pounded sand into our skin,

with sticks, a soccer ball,

and speechless joy.

The horses, even, are sleeping.

The ball arches over our heads

and hands and mallets,

disappears over the wall

with a soft echo of conclusion.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Inkhat Discusses Comics as Poetry!

While I consider posting my poetry here, let me ruminate on the concept for a moment. I have heard several professional comic artists compare poetry and sequential art. The relationship is not difficult to see. Both deal with a restriction of space. Both need to express a massive amount of information in a short period of time and very few words. So, if the relationship involves production, does it also extend to product? Why, yes. It does.

Comics, like poetry or music, has a set of clichés and expectations which must be broken down if any progress can be made. In order to do this criticism should be focused more on language; on the choice of every word in every panel. To that end, I have chosen a group of bad examples, just at random, off the internet. It took me about 10 minutes to find a dozen terrible pages. Let’s take a look.

This won't save large enough.

Okay…let’s ignore the larger problem with the theme here. I don’t really care about Superman being…un…re…dead. Let’s look at the language as poetry. “As well as anyone,” seems a fairly useless idea, as does “to make sense of it all.” It’s not necessarily cliché, but it is trite, as is ‘mirroring’ death. ‘Mirroring’ is a fairly overly used concept, especially in dark, psychological concepts. I have a hard time buying someone actually saying this conversationally. There’s a lot of repeated terms as well. Death. Science. I got it. Overall, this whole thing should be more conversational. I can’t imagine these two having this conversation, or anyone not attempting to explain the concept of undeath. This is a hard example since the actual theme of the conversation is so…stupid.

Okay this one suffers from the same thing as a lot of Wonder Woman monologues. It’s dark, but falsely so. It calls on the gothic language without doing anything original or honest with it, so it falls flat. War calling to blood is shallow. I would like to have some actual imagery built up. In poetry we often say we want to ‘see’ what the author is talking about. That may seem like a redundant movement in a comic, but I think it’s needed. The point is not to replace a picture, but to create a sense of synesthesia. Something that gives us the sense of the brutality of the moment. “What have you done?” may have had force the first or 50th time it was used, but now it’s just a filler. Same thing with “Nightmare Future.” Is this really the best you can come up with?

Oh Deadpool, you just keep doing what you do.
Okay, death scenes. No one yells “Nooooo!” It never happens. People try to fix things. They act as if the person is injured. They are panicked and confused. The real sorrow of seeing another human die is from the inability to act; the not knowing. It comes from the fear that the next choice will be the wrong one. When we see really convincing death scenes the actual passing away of the person is not mentioned. It is the loss that shakes us. It is the people who are still alive. They do not yell ‘No.’ By using this cliché; this easy dialogue, the scene is immediately and completely cheapened.

Okay this one is different. In this one it’s the sound of the language that bothers me. The multiple ‘r’ sound one after the other just seems awkward. Try saying it outloud. I don’t think anyone would even say it that way. It simply won’t roll off the tongue.

This is a rather quick overview of the comics as poetry idea. If I happen across a few more I will discuss those as well. I will keep my eyes out for particularly good examples, as well. The basic idea, however, is that more attention needs to be paid to the intricacies of thought, language, and communication. I believe my professor, Mr Ryan Claytor, once expressed an indifference to theme in deference to interpersonal relationships. I have to agree with him. I would like to suggest, however, that these relationships exist in the dialogue and word choice. This is as important as the position of a hand, a word bubble; a frame.

I hear ya, buddy. I hear ya.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Inkhat's List of New/Intensified Habits!

1) Coffee

My enjoyment of coffee has exploded into a complete and infinitely nuanced addiction. I plan my morning around its acquisition. I need at least one cup a day to keep going, and often need two or three. Just as I was writing this Rich wandered into the office with a giant cup of coffee and offered me half. It crossed my mind, momentarily, to decline, but as he held the half full cup of that warm, earthy drink that makes me imagine sipping the color of sun on fall leaves I found myself energetically offering my open hand and gulping it down.

It is my second cup of coffee today, and my second free one. This morning the man in front of me, with graying flyaway hair in a red plaid jacket, stuck his thumb back at me and added my coffee to his tab. I felt stupid and blinked at him silently. Who is so kind so early? Why did it mean so much to me? I choked out a Thank You, and hoped it expressed how I felt.

2) Crushes

I have always been the sort of person who falls in and out of those brief, obsessive love affairs with my assumptions about someone. Usually it is not with people I see on the street. I base very little on appearances alone. I will acknowledge that someone is lovely. I can look at them and think, yes, that person is, in fact, the most beautiful person I have seen walking down a street. But it’s only an impression. It passes in the same way as my thoughts on a particularly bright fall tree.

No, my inappropriate attachments come from brief encounters, short conversations, a hello, the way he inclines his head on the ‘o,’ or his smile at the passing squirrel. Smiles get me more than anything. What follows is a short, lucid affair in my head. I spend time in the place where I saw him. If I encounter him again I act as if nothing at all has changed between us. In public, we pretend we are strangers.

3) Doodling

I like to doodle. Sometimes I post it here.

4) Drinking

I never drank before graduate school. Well, not never. I drank occasionally. I still dislike the taste of alcohol and can only stand it when it is hidden beneath a great deal of sugar and synthetic flavor. I still don’t enjoy drinking, but it seems to make people nervous if someone is at a bar or party and not consuming alcohol. There’s a certain social breach about it. No one is sure why they feel uncomfortable, or if they should, which only adds to the discomfort. For the sake of easing this, and attempting to socialize so as not to lose my mind (and also to temporarily alleviate number the fifth) I have decided that I will simply, for the time being, become dramatically more susceptible to peer pressure than usual.

5) Debilitating Self Doubt

This seems to be a common element of higher education. It happens anytime you stuff a large number of enormously intelligent, talented people in a box. Self confidence and excellent personal images were never traits writers were overburdened with in the first place. Every-other day I find myself looking at the people I am with, or, worse, the PHD candidates that occasionally wander into our ranks, and wonder how the hell I thought I had any business being there. Name dropping being the national sport of our tiny, well read principality, anyone wandering into our midst would be immediately inundated with knowledge. The office constantly buzzes with obscure knowledge, like a perpetual arcane incantation. More often than not, I have no idea who is being mentioned, or if I do, I have the lightest recollection of who they are.

Only in my workshop do I feel a sense of achievement. In writing and interpreting I feel myself grow in every class period. Still a short interaction with a second year or a PHD candidate can immediate reintroduce my humility. Yesterday, while looking at Facebook, I realized with a flash of pride that I have a college degree. I own one. I earned one. I have a perpetual symbol of my accomplishments. I am constantly educated in intellectual euphoria and modesty.