On Seeing Niagara to Advantage Found in Walt Whitman; On Revisiting Niagara April 27, 2016 by Carol A. Stephen

From the Quillfyre blog by Carol A. Stephen:

Header from the Quillfyre blog

Today’s prompt on the Found Poetry Review blog offers a choice of constraints from Montrealer Greg Santos.  Here’s what he’s suggested, every one of them are worth trying:

  1. Dialogue with Ghost:  Find an audio recording of a dead poet or musician. Play the recording. Start writing words that jump in your head, lines of your own. Write a 10-14 line poem using the words you jotted down, either in response to the original poem/song or a completely new piece.
  1. Reverse Poem:  Find a draft of a poem you’ve already written. Rewrite your new poem backwards, writing the last stanza first and so on. The new order might reveal something new and exciting.
  1. Table of Contents Poem: Use the table of contents of any book to find each line for your found poem.
  1. Online Erasure Poem: Go to Wave Books’ Erasures website to find online source texts, with excerpts ranging from Herman Melville’s Moby Dick to The Voyage Out by Virginia Wolf. The cool website lets you click on any word or punctuation mark to make it disappear. You can save, print, or email the newly sculpted text when you’re done.

Today I tried first the Reverse poem.  Two shorter poems did not seem to change much nor for the better, but a longer poem was a little more interesting. I chose a found poem I had done last summer from a prose piece of Walt Whitman’s On Seeing Niagara to Advantage. That poem is here, followed by the reverse version, with some further carving done to it.

The blog post and other poems for this challenge are found here: at Found Poetry Review


June 4, ’80. For really seizing a great picture or book, or piece of music, or architecture, or grand scenery—or perhaps for the first time even the common sunshine, or landscape, or may-be even the mystery of identity, most curious mystery of all—there comes some lucky five minutes of a man’s life, set amid a fortuitous concurrence of circumstances, and bringing in a brief flash the culmination of years of reading and travel and thought. The present case about two o’clock this afternoon, gave me Niagara, its superb severity of action and colour and majesty grouping, in one short, indescribable show. We were very slowly crossing the Suspension bridge—not a full stop anywhere, but next to it—the day clear, sunny, still—and I out on the platform. The falls were in plain view about a mile off, but very distinct, and no roar—hardly a murmur. The river tumbling green and white, far below me; the dark high banks, the plentiful umbrage, many bronze cedars, in shadow; and tempering and arching all the immense materiality, a clear sky overhead, with a few white clouds, limpid, spiritual, silent. Brief, and as quiet as brief, that picture—a remembrance always afterwards. Such are the things, indeed, I lay away with my life’s rare and blessed bits of hours, reminiscent, past—the wild sea-storm I once saw one winter day, off Fire island—the elder Booth in Richard, that famous night forty years ago in the old Bowery—or Alboni in the children’s scene in Norma—or night-views, I remember, on the field, after battles in Virginia— or the peculiar sentiment of moonlight and stars over the great Plains, western Kansas—or scooting up New York bay, with a stiff breeze and a good yacht, off Navesink. With these, I say, I henceforth place that view, that afternoon, that combination complete, that five minutes’ perfect absorption of Niagara—not the great majestic gem alone by itself, but set complete in all its varied, full, indispensable surroundings.

Text from Whitman, W. Specimen Days in America. London: G. Routledge, (1906).  p. 251-251.  View on Hathi Trust

The found poem from the above text:

On Seeing Niagara to Advantage
found in Walt Whitman by Carol A. Stephen

English: Walt Whitman. Library of Congress des...

Walt Whitman.

     June 4, ’80.

Seizing the common sunshine,
the mystery of identity, there comes
some lucky five minutes of  fortuitous concurrence,
circumstance bringing a brief flash of thought about two o’clock.

This afternoon gave me Niagara, superb severity of action, color,
majestic indescribable show. Slowly crossing the Suspension bridge,
not a full stop anywhere, and I out on the platform, the falls in plain view,
a mile distinct, and no roar, a murmur-river tumbling green and white,
the plentiful umbrage, many bronze cedars, shadow tempering
immense materiality. Clear sky, a few white clouds silent.

Brief quiet, a remembrance always afterwards.
I lay away rare and blessed bits of hours,
—the wild sea-storm one winter,
—night-views on the field, after battles
—the peculiar sentiment of moonlight
—stars over Kansas
—a stiff breeze off Navesink.

That afternoon five minutes’ perfect absorption.
Niagara— the great majestic gem complete
in indispensable surround.

And this is the poem I carved out today from the one above:

Portrait of Carol A. Stephen

On Revisiting Niagara April 27, 2016 by Carol A. Stephen

I lay away rare and blessed bits of hours
brief quiet, a remembrance.

Always afterwards, immense materiality,
clear sky, a few white clouds silent.

The plentiful umbrage, many bronze cedars,
shadow tempering a mile.

No roar, a murmur-river tumbling green and white,
not a full stop anywhere.

Crossing the bridge gave me Niagara,
A brief flash of thought about two o’clock.

Five minutes of identity
seizing the common sunshine.