This week’s inspiration is sparked by the poem “Paragraph Island” by Rollo Nye.
As humans, we have the most complex spoken language of any creature on Earth. With that, we have words that separate, connect, section off, unite, lift and drop. We sometimes seem to have too many words. Often not enough, or just not the right words. Occasionally, our meaning comes down to just the punctuation.
As poets we know how much power a language has. How words define. How we are constantly renaming ourselves and the world. How when we lose the meaning of a word, we can lose the meaning of ourselves.
by Rollo Nye
I was always behind the eight ball in high school English
When trying to figure out how to diagram a sentence into a tree,
Pronouns and adverbs went to their assigned places,
While nouns and verbs, no doubt, went elsewhere.
Meanwhile, I was nowhere around
Hypnotized without my knowledge or consent,
Assigned to solitary confinement,
Onto my own paragraph island,
Only to return years later
As a question mark
In search of a sentence.
Rollo Nye is a poet in hiding somewhere in New York. His poems have recently appeared in tiny poetry: macropoetics and Killer Whale Journal and will soon be published in The Basil O’ Flaherty and Degenerate Literature.
Photo by Tapani Hellman.
The comment section is OPEN for your to share your thoughts and poems on this weeks topic.
June 5, 2016 at 11:26 AM
one of my favorite poems about language:
Ballad of Orange and Grape
BY MURIEL RUKEYSER
After you finish your work
after you do your day
after you’ve read your reading
after you’ve written your say –
you go down the street to the hot dog stand,
one block down and across the way.
On a blistering afternoon in East Harlem in the twentieth
Most of the windows are boarded up,
the rats run out of a sack –
sticking out of the crummy garage
one shiny long Cadillac;
at the glass door of the drug-addiction center,
a man who’d like to break your back.
But here’s a brown woman with a little girl dressed in rose
and pink, too.
Frankfurters frankfurters sizzle on the steel
where the hot-dog-man leans –
nothing else on the counter
but the usual two machines,
the grape one, empty, and the orange one, empty,
I face him in between.
A black boy comes along, looks at the hot dogs, goes on
I watch the man as he stands and pours
in the familiar shape
bright purple in the one marked ORANGE
orange in the one marked GRAPE,
the grape drink in the machine marked ORANGE
and orange drink in the GRAPE.
Just the one word large and clear, unmistakeable, on each
I ask him : How can we go on reading
and make sense out of what we read? –
How can they write and believe what they’re writing,
the young ones across the street,
while you go on pouring grape in ORANGE
and orange into the one marked GRAPE –?
(How are we going to believe what we read and we write
and we hear and we say and we do?)
He looks at the two machines and he smiles
and he shrugs and smiles and pours again.
It could be violence and nonviolence
it could be white and black women and men
it could be war and peace or any
binary system, love and hate, enemy, friend.
Yes and no, be and not-be, what we do and what we don’t
On a corner in East Harlem
garbage, reading, a deep smile, rape,
forgetfulness, a hot street of murder,
misery, withered hope,
a man keeps pouring grape into ORANGE
and orange into the one marked GRAPE,
pouring orange into GRAPE and grape into ORANGE forever.
Muriel Rukeyser, “Ballad of Orange and Grape” from The Collected Poems of Muriel Rukeyser. Copyright © 2006 by Muriel Rukeyser. Reprinted by permission of International Creative Management.
Source: Breaking Open (Random House Inc., 1973)
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