I've always felt that the Poem is only begun by its author, and that it needs to be completed by its reader or audience. I'm pleased to share the latest incarnation of a completed poem by Cynthia M. Phillips: jewelry!!!! Gal's after my own heart! Here are pics--the first on the kitchen island, next to photos of my beloved cats Artemis and Scarlet:
Second photo of me wearing them as I pick up a bronze figurine that once resided with brilliant poet kari edwards:
Cynthia, the jewelry designer, explains some of the conceptual underpinnings to the purty bracelets--
1) Haiti--red: blood. Green for rebirth and renewal
2) "I consider the woman's choice in liberating / a red dress with pale green sandals" (a line from a poem in Beyond Life Sentences / later in THE THORN ROSARY)
I love it -- am so particularly happy when artists take on some of my poems...Thank you, Cynthia! And I'm cutnpasting below an excerpt from my presentation at the Literature Panel for the Babaylan Conference that relates as well to Cynthia's engagement--
--which also explains why, when I do gigs, I like to rip up my poetry books!!! To wit:
from "Dawac/Action: Babaylan Poetics" (with performance notes for Tearing Up Book!):
In the Philippines’ central Ilocos Sur area where I was born, the Babaylan is known as Man-nawac. “Man-nawac,” from the Itneg language, can be translated as “a healer and caller of spirits.” The Man-nawac heals by invoking the help of the anitos or spirits.
I learned about the Man-nawac from my mother who shared how she, as a child, once witnessed a Man-nawac heal her grandmother. This Man-nawac was also a relative: Apo Ak-kam. In terms of ars poetica, three points reverberated with me from my mother’s account of Apo Ak-kam’s process:
First, the healing process involved the Man-nawac calling to the spirits through statements (“Please come, please come…”) to almost ululating sounds (“woooo…wooo…woooo”). In other words, the Man-nawac does not heal others on her own; she calls to others—she must involve others.
Second, the healing process had to begin on or about high noon. My mother said that noon was the time when the most people in the community would hear the Man-nawac’s calls to the spirits. For me, the significance of noon relates to maximum light and maximum involvement of the community (versus a time like, say, midnight when most people would be asleep).
Third, while the Man-nawac was calling for the spirits to help heal my mother’s grandmother, my mother’s grandfather was on the other side of a curtain where he stood with five beaded strings. Five times, my mother’s grandfather would raise a beaded string over the curtain and each time the Man-nawac would cut off one string, releasing the beads from their tether. By the third time that the Man-nawac cut a beaded string, it was clear that the Man-nawac was “fully possessed” by the spirits….and on through to the cutting of the fifth string. For me, this relates to how, I conceive of a poem’s creation as one where the poet’s role is not to write the poem so much as to be the tool through which a poem is written. The poem writes itself—as Jose Garcia Villa once noted, I believe, about the author’s hands, “The,hands,on,the,piano,are,armless,”. The poem is more than the poet.
As a poet, I call out to you through poems. I don’t consider (my) poems to be art objects—things to be read or looked at from a distance. I offer the poem as an open hand, a space for engagement with others. If no one reaches forth to take my hand, if no one found my poem sufficiently engaging or of interest, then the poem never reached fruition.
And this is why, I approach you now with poems, these from my book Nota Bene Eiswein:
[Tear sheets from Nota Bene Eiswein and hand out to people in audience, explaining...]
1) My poems don’t mature if they remain unread, if no one engages with them….so I give them to you.
2) Note that by tearing out pages, I am destroying a book. Well, yes, the publication is not important….the poem may be what’s printed on the page. But Poetry is not something trapped by a page; it’s an engagement involving others beyond its author.
3) When I give you pages, they may be fragments – incomplete excerpts of poems…that’s fine. A poem is inherently a fragment—it is began by the author, but it can only mature into wholeness if it’s engaged by a reader; an audience.
Poetry is verb. A poem may be words. But Poetry is an act. Poetry is engagement.