05.09.2018: Earth view (An Emoji Poem)

In the English 391-01 Prose Poems and Hybrid Forms Workshop I am teaching (as the Glasgow Distinguished Writer in Residence) for the 4-week Spring Term 2018 at Washington and Lee University, we have been reading and discussing a variety of texts that engage the notion of “the hybrid.”

We also do a lot of writing in our intensive sessions— After all, each class meeting is three hours!

Today, we spent a little time on Emoji Poems— the kind that Carina Finn and Stephanie Berger have been writing and translating and collaborating on since around 2013 (resulting in a chapbook called The Grey Bird from Coconut Books in 2014); and that The Paris Review even ran a contest on in fall 2017.

I brought in the Emoji poem (see picture here) which I wrote before class this morning – and instructed everyone to translate the lines into poetry. Often, when I bring in an in-class exercise, I write along with my students. So here is my “translation” poem:

05.09.2018: Earth view (An Emoji Poem)

I’m not strong enough to stop a rain
of meteors from falling on the earth
and obliterating all of us in fire, sending us
back as if to prediluvian times, before the apes
who would also surely cover their eyes in horror—
Before Noah, who took two of each creature into
his ark as the waves rose and rose and rose,
just so you and I could have waiting at home
a pet frog or a little brown and white dog trotting
blissfully under the azaleas. Here, in the country,
it’s almost idyllic to hear the cheep-cheep of a bird
in the hedge, or see the occasional gold tangle
of stalks in the hills as one drives by. Who
even seems to care yet about the effects of pulling
out of the Iran nuclear deal, even as lawmakers
shout Death to America! while burning a US flag
in Tehran. Planes sketch expensive contrails
across the powder blue sky, and gas stations
prepare to change the prices at the pump.
We could just walk, not ride anywhere anymore—
but tell that to the farmers driving their John
Deeres through dry fields, worrying about next
season’s harvest. There are bombs detonating
somewhere all the time, some just not as loud
as others. In the cities, it’s so beautiful
even at night when the lights come on, and the ones
like necklaces strung over suspension bridges. Travel
and collect experiences, not things!
says a credit
card ad on a billboard. That’s probably why my father-
in-law bought lottery tickets almost every day of his
life, until the weekend he fell down in the living room
and never woke up again. Roll the dice, poise the stick,
aim for the 8 ball. If you’re lucky, you get to go away
to a tropical island, where you’ll do nothing but read
and sip slushy drinks decorated with paper parasols,
bask in the sun and idly watch birds fly across
the horizon: somewhere like Hawaii— But then,
precipitation’s expected there, which could turn
all the volcano emissions and sulfur dioxide jets
into a widespread umbrella of acid rain,
though the sunsets will probably be gorgeous.

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