You've probably heard of erasure poems. They're created by taking a text - any text, really - and erasing or blacking out most of the poem's text. It's a form of found poetry which became popular in the new millennium, especially for political poetry. It's an excellent form for this function, as you can take a text and comment on or subvert it by extracting your own message. It's not a necessarily contradictory form, though, and you can use erasure poetry as you would any other form.
You can create erasure poetry yourself fairly easily with a black pen and a newspaper or magazine. You can also use a web app, which is good if you're indecisive, like me. A professor of poetry at my university directed me to the Wave Books erasure website, and I can recommend it. There's a limited selection, but they're all fascinating, and you can do really anything with any passage. I used an Aristophanes passage, which you can see at the above link, and made it about the sapphic agenda. This website is great because you can erase and bring back words and punctuation at will. It's a circular and fascinating process, and I recommend it highly. (alt text at the bottom of the article.)
Now is the time for a confession - this website uses pseudonyms. And don't worry, the irony of being called Kali but going by Sekhmet is not lost on me. I wanted to separate the poet from the rest of the things I do here, like writing these articles, or reviewing submissions. It's like an inverted pen name. There was no rule for this, or for deities, but who doesn't want to go by something like that? It's a blessing and a curse.
As you can see above, the Wave Books app lets you see what you've erased, and keeps the passage's original structure. This, of course, is a matter of preference, and I encourage you to look for other digital methods. I personally prefer to retain structure, the modernesque staggering adding to the energy of the piece, but it would also be easy to transcribe into another document. I did it for the alt text, which you can find below the cut. For all the confinements of form, there are still many stylistic choices to be made.
And as for the moon? Well, I stand by what I said.
Running water is so nice to listen to, especially in a stream. The photo I took inspired this personal yet necessary poem. I look at my poetry, as well as my photography, as an extension of me. So, I decide to share my person with you, and encourage you all to look introspectively and ask yourselves, is your mind filling with water?
Winter slice screwdriver,
BY KALI NORRIS, AKA SEKHMET
Oranges aren't the most peculiar subject for an ode, but they're not as romantic as many idols, and may seem mundane. This was an assignment, and I knew as soon as I was told we would be writing odes that I would write mine about oranges. They're everyday, yes, a fruit like any other, but part of poetry is digging into the ordinary and pulling meaning out of it. I didn't expect to find so much, or such depth of emotion. I urge you to select something familiar and explore its true meaning. Sekhmet
Emily Skaja is a poet from Illinois, and has won the Walt Whitman Award of the Academy of American Poets. She also has a PhD. Her book, Brute, is a nebulous but crushing examination of loss. Her pain is stark and unburied, her poetics recursivee and wrenching, and her settings and vocabulary atmospheric, like standing on the edge of the woods at sunrise.
"Brute... is essentially one long, elegiac howl for the end of a relationship. It never lets up--this living--even when the world as we knew it is crushed."
Skaja's forms are eclectic, but structured, methodical. Packed with elegies, Brute draws you through a landscape of grief and healing, and through the wounds that will never heal. A death that happens every time you remember it. The ghosts still living in places that don't even exist anymore. Reading this book is like walking into the woods at night, not sure what's real and what's a dream. The pain is where you live.
"Brute will cut right through you, cut deep, but the writing is so assured, so necessary that you will welcome the wound."
Full disclosure, I did consider not even including that quote because of the absence of the oxford comma. But it's too true, too appropriate. Yes, this work is painful, but it's painful in the way of pressing a bruise that's very nearly healed. It's pain as triumph, as survival. Oblique metaphor mingles with fact, the past blurs into the present, and hypotheticals splinter everything into a cracked mirror of tragedy.
"Her non sequiturs are a gorgeous rush of metaphor--startling, spot-on--adding up to a new kind of clarity and gradual revelation. These poems say: It's all or nothing. Skaja goes deep to link the raw and the wounded, to spellbind and release."
It is like a spell, an old one with many ingredients. The cover is a huge wild dog with a small hand between its teeth, and this is overall a telling visual impression. The tension of the dog's stance, the tenuous truce between the beast and the hand's owner. Even the landscape is uneasy, waning river and small grey clouds. Be ready for both sorrow and incredible, overwhelming beauty.
Where to start -
Read some poems on her website. And then buy Brute. You'll be glad you did.
Elegy with Black Smoke
Three notes: long long, short--your call for me. In a prism of light I walk backward. I see a house turn into a bull turn into a house. I shake myself, wincing. I hold onto the facts. You've been dead eighteen years. The house was torn down for the cemetery. A man on the mill road stops me for my papers. I don't say I woke up in a red pond & my arms are made of magnets. Whole cities follow me south. I can't help it; I drag them behind me. When I'm not careful, worms appear on the road & I waste an entire rainstorm sobbing. I don't tell anyone the code words stuck to my coat. Without you, all the proverbs are halved in my mouth. Where there's smoke there's. Where there's smoke.
BY EMILY SKAJA
Marrianne Moore is a hugely influential modernist poet and stone cold icon. She was born in Missouri, though she worked in New York for most of her life, and she never married, if you know what I mean. She's the most important modern poet you've never heard of - or at least I had never heard of her until I learned about him until my second or third class on modernism. We all know why - everyone, after all, has at least heard of T. S. Elliot (we'll talk another time about my feelings on The Wasteland). And this despite the fact that Elliot was a fascist, if only casually. Ezra pound, another well known modernist, was so vehemently supportive of fascism and so antisemitic that he was actually arrested for treason. Not so, it goes almost without saying, for Moore. In the dichotomy of modernist poets, who split rather dramatically along the lines of the second world war, I'm comfortable saying she's safe to admire. She also worked for womens' suffrage. It's always interesting (and by that I mean stressful) learning about historical figures, but you're safe here.
Besides being an unproblematic fave, Moore was an astounding poet. Consider her poem An Egyptian Pulled Glass Bottle in the Shape of a Fish. I selected this poem for its brevity. There's so much to say about Moore's style and technical faculty, and I didn't want to keep you here forever (maybe a little bit). First, it's of note that animals are a regular subject of Moore's work. She loved animals, and they come into focus in much of her work on nature. One of my personal favorites, Peter, is about a hunting house cat. Here, we're given not a fish but the image of a fish. Also characteristic of Moore's work are quotes, which aren't on display here, but are relevant when reading Moore more generally.
If you've studied Shakespeare in any detail, you'll be familiar with the concept of a metrical foot, and relieved to know Moore didn't use them. The balance of structure and rebellion is always a consideration when reading modernist poets, and Moore's relationship is interesting. This structure is fairly typical of Moore. She counts syllables in most of her poems, and frequently increases syllables per line in each stanza. There is a loose AABBCCDD rhyme scheme here, though it's applied fairly her mastery of form, her interweaving of nature and quotation and contrast. And then consider nothing. Examine the effects of her skill, but also take time to merely absorb them.
An Egyptian Pulled Glass Bottle in the Shape of a Fish
Here we have thirst
BY MARIANNE MOORE
Where to start -
Besides the above poems, the very professor who introduced me to Moore was adamant that Observations was the only collection worth anything.
Hello, lovely friends. Welcome to the beginning of the Final Hour blog. From all of us here at The Last Day of the Year and The Final Hour, we're so glad you're joining us. We're a small literary magazine founded in Brooklyn, seeking to share and magnify excellent voices in poetry, literature, and the arts. Please submit your work, tell your friends, and reach out if you'd like to be involved. Follow us here, as well as on social media, to receive updates. Yours, Sekhmet
Welcome to the Final Hour Blog
This blog is the companion to The Last Day of the Year Literary Magazine. Follow us here for thoughts, process, and our own work. We're so glad to have you.