Sunday, January 9, 2011

Aimless Reading: The M's, Part 11 (Tom Mandel)


To The Cognoscenti
Originally uploaded by Michael_Kelleher
Mandel, Tom
To The Cognoscenti


Given to me by the author upon his visit to Buffalo in, I think, 2008.

I had met Tom one other time before that when we read together at the DC Arts Space in, I think, 2005 or 6. It was the first time I'd read in DC, where I'd mostly grown up. I invited a friend or two with whom I was still in contact. A friend of mine's mother still worked at my high school and decided to invite one of my high school English teachers, himself a poet, to the reading.

I remember that he would begin each class by having us stand to attention and recite the tend rules of good writing. I can remember a few of them:

1. Write to express, not to impress.
2. Be proud of what you write.
3. Rewrite always.
4. Limit forms of the verb "to be"
5. Use cautiously metaphor, simile and personification.
6. Avoid clichés.
7. Vary sentence structure and create transitions.

That's all I can remember. I saw them written down somewhere years later and discovered that some of were fairly obscure, regarding things like the use of the 'copula.' Seven out of ten isn't bad 25 years on, I guess.

Anyhow, he came to the reading and we spoke for a while afterwards. He said to me that he thought my poems were very "dark" and then he smiled and said, "But you seem like such a nice guy!" And the he asked if I were getting a portion of the door. I said yes, and he slipped me a ten dollar bill and said, "I want it all to go to you." I he think also bought a copy of the book and asked me to sign it.

from To The Cognoscenti

I. how it all began…


For thousands of years you is a terrible idea.
Then it rains for eons on terrain

fresh-formed and so hot that never
a drop joins another but both besteam

the imaginary viewer instantly
until the moment fattens drip-drop

and through the door-peeker
that is his lens on the world

a distorted face swells to symbolize
animal force upon the ground

leaning over on the cooling desert
to suck up any puddles. From then on

time has in common with a whole
in your sock that a stitch to begin

and right away you're done.
Someone looking into the window

frames you where you stand
and as you slowly pass

from sight she notices what
you have done here, tumbling

from present to memory. Geometrical
constrained, you come over the hill

giving an effect of motion, of time
of your fear to be displaced.

When her gaze recoils from the window
its vapors are sucked into the room.

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