(First Light over Canaan Valley, WV - where I grew up)

(First Light over Canaan Valley, WV - where I grew up)

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

day 24 - "still, the orchid blooms"

good evening, internet world

sorry I've kept you all waiting - it's been quite a while and rightly so - plans for my new business are going forward rather quickly and there hasn't been a lot of time for poetry let alone posting it online, but I told myself I would make an effort to post at least one this month and I'm sticking to it.

the poem for today is a recent work - i just finished it in the past few weeks and it started as a single phrase in my mind that sat around for a long, long time and eventually gestated into the poem you're reading today. a lot of it came from simply sitting on my porch, interestingly enough, just gazing at my orchids.

i have two of them - one is a phalaenopsis, and the other i'm not so sure - it was given to me as a gift. the one thing that I always thought was so beautiful about the plants, besides their obvious physical beauty, was that even though (as rainforest plants) they were thousands of miles away from their native lands and would never be properly pollinated to reproduce, still they had the nerve and audacity to bloom for their strange new world to see, in stark rejection of the impossibility looming all around.

it's that kind of beauty that produced the single phrase in my mind that grew into 'still, the orchid blooms' - well, that and my love for sufi mysticism, I suppose. :)

so take what you will and enjoy, and, if you happen to own an orchid yourself, perhaps you'll be able to see this spectacle for yourself - not with your eyes, but with your soul.

"still, the orchid blooms"

like a dervish from a foreign land
exotic seasons whirling round
your sufi-spinning Sama
draws all dancing eyes
upon you now
to see your
sublime tariqah glow
so bold and bright
in youth

you’d never stoop to beg a stare -
kashkul hanging at your stem -
yet every falling, tender breath
is counted; kisses to a leaf
your dresses pink
and red as lust
but you’ve long shed
such weak desire
and shorn this life
of want

no childish hopes of pollination
amongst such flowers growing wild
you’ve never formed a gesture once
suggesting you’ve held faith in us

you laugh
inside, intent to hide
and honor us with wisdom’s dew -
wordlessly, in gorgeous dance,
each vibrant, fresh, and flowering stride
invites the koan, provokes a thought
as paradoxes twirl on by

against all nature,
the purest truths
exist in those
who smile at dooms

so might we all receive thy dance
and know why, still, the orchid blooms

- Joshua Clarke

Monday, February 20, 2012

Day 23 - "under the spell"

Happy Monday everyone! That most wonderful of weekdays.

Luckily I have been able to procure this day off on a weekly basis through my job so I don't suffer the ill effects of it's 'new week' influence. But I have a new poem for all of you today, so that should cheer you up, right?

I thought so.

By the way, before I get into the poem, I know it's been a while since I've posted but, unfortunately, I still don't have a reliable internet connection and my dedication to keeping my poetry coming has been waning lately because of a lot of time being set aside for working on my business as well as general mayhem in terms of my weekly schedule - nothing seems to be set in stone anymore and as much as I like to parcel my week out and have some private time for writing, those plans have been dashed to pieces these past few months for one reason or another.

But I'm back now, and my poem for today is one that I wrote a while ago after seeing a production of a musical theater piece called "Godspell" that I had particularly strong feelings about afterwards. Knowing me to be a professed Christian, many of my friends asked me about it and what I thought of it and many of them, before even speaking to me, believed that I must have instantly loved it and had to be a fan. In fact, it was quite the opposite reaction for me. It's one thing to portray a religious faith on stage - it's quite another thing to turn it into a happy, dancing charade with musical numbers and mass consumer appeal. Even my significant other at the time was extremely disappointed to find that, in private, the idea that this play even existed evoked such a disgusted response from me.

It was and is only my personal opinion, and I know not everyone shares my sentiments on the piece itself, but regardless of the backstory involved with this poem it provoked this work in me. I hope you all enjoy it, and if you've felt the same way in a similarly given situation before, perhaps it will reach out to you in particular and convey that sense of being the only one in the audience who chose not to stand up for a certain ovation.

"under the spell"

One thought it a fine entertainment to see
Until one had gleaned of its dreadful attempt
At the cruel and senseless mimicry
Of a thing that gave half of its soul to prevent

The damnation of ages upon ages of man -
Who were all the more pitiless, the more that they cheered -
And then bore all the whips and the lash of their hand
For the sake that they all might be free and would hear

Of the bold sacrifice and the promise divine
But one saw all this drowned in a moment by song
And a dance and a joke and a bright glowing sign

And for that lonely one, there was nowhere to hide
Sitting in the front row with a grand company
Watching doom silhouette that most bold mimicry

- Josh Clarke

Monday, October 31, 2011

Day 22 - "to a diamond"

Greetings and salutations everyone, on this spookiest of holidays!

It's been a busy year, to put it extremely lightly, but once again I've found myself in the comfortable, lazy bosom of one of my favorite days - Halloween. A time for scares, chills, and all things nightmarish. Besides that, it's also a day I have off from work, so that's a plus, and it's also the reason why I've actually got a little time to myself to do some blogging and post up a new poem for my dedicated readers out there in the digital world of pleasing procrastination.

I was going to post one of my more frightening pieces today in honor of the holiday, but there's a certain poem I'd written recently that I'd really wanted to post for a while and, in it's own way, is a pretty scary one itself.

I wrote this poem in a very Thomas Hardy "Convergence of the Twain" sort of mood. Often in my life, my mind will drift into a sort of state where it doesn't see an object on its own - whatever it may be - instead, I tend to see beyond the object and everything it's been through to get there and become what it is - the beautiful erosion of experience carving into the limestone block of primordial forms. In this case, I'd recently watched a movie called "Lord of War" starring Nicholas Cage, and one of the last scenes in the movie really struck me - where his brother died trying to save a small village of Africans who were doomed to die regardless of their actions, and the price of this genocide was a pile of glittering stones on a makeshift tabletop set on top of several boxes of grenades.

That such small things - such strange little objects - could be the cause of such misery and drama millions of years later after their formation - the only thing setting them aside from the rest of the dirt and stones around them being the value placed on them by our imaginations; the thought of it really struck me deeply. What is a diamond, really, besides what we make it? What is anything, really, when it comes down to it? Our economy itself, for all intents and purposes, is a widely accepted fabrication. Things of this world carry worth because it is we who deem them worthy - we dream the majesty of kings and, in our minds, if we, the creations, did not know of our Creator, who would be there to know of him and offer him glory?

Anyway, these are just the ramblings of an overstuffed brain that's been reading too much Joseph Campbell and Jack Kerouac, but I digress. I leave you all to the poem and hope you enjoy the late-Victorian style that I am a very large fan of. Perhaps as well you'll grasp the desperate scariness of it that I did slightly while writing it but, like all good horror stories, I believe the weight of its horror is one that slowly sinks in over time after considering the cryptic lines in cold-sweat recollections... insidious little bastard, ain't I? haha

To all of you out there, my fabulous readership: I wish you a wonderful, spine-chilling, and safe Halloween this year!

"to a diamond"

Had you an inkling, little stone -
The value of your translucent hide?

In eons, waiting in the ground
Did gambits ever cleave your mind?

Knew you then of silk white hands?
Of tribal wars and sanguine desires?

Did then you grasp your catalyst
To tender man’s soul unto hellfires?

Or were you innocent; unknown to this?
Name given to that which flows through veins -

Damned then and forever a Helen of Troy
To witness thousands of witless aims.

Yet perhaps you knew nothing of this all along
And ‘tis useless still to question urns:

Where nothing’s held but echoed sound;
Who’d stare in silence as we’d burn.

But if not for thee, what would we be
Without a muses’ sheen to prize?

In yielding to thee, cold, lifeless stone
You’ve granted purpose to our lives.

- Josh Clarke

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Day 21 - "what a ferryman's gleaned"

Hey everyone,

Yeah, I know it's been a while since I put a poem up - there's been a lot going on, especially with getting the book published and getting the funds together to purchase an ISBN and all that, but I ran into some readers of my blog recently who were wondering when I was going to start posting again, so I decided to throw something new up there for anyone who's been craving a new poem recently. This one's for you - you know who you are. :)

This is a poem I just finished the other day actually and it's one of those few poems that I've written that after it's finished I can honestly sit back and say to myself "I don't care what anyone else thinks of this work - this is a good poem exactly how it's written, and there's no way I can see it any differently." I don't say this very often, as many of you know - I'm definitely my harshest critic, but I don't totally abandon the propensity to appreciate my own style and ability as a poet.

Something I've been knocked for a lot in the past is my tendency to be "in love with rhyme" and also my "archaic sound and diction." At one point I did consider this to be something I felt I needed to get away from and work on, but the more and more I've paroused a recent book I purchased titled The 100 Greatest Poems of All Time, the more I find that the style of writing that I currently embody is, for the most part, eerily similar to most of the poems in that book that have stood the test of time to become truly memorable and powerful pieces of literary history.

I suppose, then, I'm a bit proud to be considered archaic, and am definitely proud to be who I am as a poet. :)

My next book, which I'm already about 1/4 of the way into, is entitled "Faux Show" and is a composition dedicated to 'abandoning' the pretenses of life and getting down to the real, honest, meaningful meat-and-potatoes of existence. Gritty truth, real emotion, and none of it getting lost in translation, worrying about the semicolons and such. Thus, it will likely end up including a lot of things I once thought were inappropriate in poetry or things I thought I was unable to do properly or well enough to be considered objectively "good." It's a bold move, but I think it's worthy experiment and I hope you will all enjoy it once it's finally done.

But, I digress. Getting back to the poem for today, it's a poem that started out in a similar fashion to J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit. Much like his epic mythology started out with a single line - "In a hole in the ground, there lived a hobbit." - this poem was gestating within me for months on end, beginning seminally with the line - "Drifting twixt thy gutter and stars." Though those exact lines didn't actually make it into the final draft, the general feeling of the piece remained the same, and from that feeling grew the poem that eventually became "what a ferryman's gleaned".

I sincerely hope you enjoy reading it as much I enjoyed writing it.

"what a ferryman's gleaned"

Charon, bear us in a little while
Across your brown and dirtied creek
But first come sun upon thy shore
And tarry with us for a week

Pray tell us of your thoughts and dreams
That sailed these twilight beams of doom
And show us your collections of
The coins you earned this afternoon

Come share with us the many songs
You’ve overheard upon your rides
The warbles of the heaven-sents;
The moanings of the hellish tides

But most of all, please offer us
This chance before we make our trip:
To know why all this happened so;
Why others climbed while some did slip?

(A ferryman ought know much of this
For middlemen prove the victors more
In truth, the ones that sold the guns
Claimed hefty sums; survived the war)

We doubt it due to forces grand
‘Twas we who learned to fall and fear
We taught ourselves to kill and hate
Despising each short-passing year

We’ve seen, as much as wisdom gains,
That downfalls rise; are born anew
And here, by Styx, we’d all but beg
You’d spare us with a word or two

‘Tis far too late to make amends
Our final payment’s left us broke
But crueler still would be our fate
To die before we got the joke

We know you’ve not much time to waste
Yet before you bear us on your way
Pray tell us what a ferryman’s gleaned
As critic to our tragic play

Sing lullabies of last regrets
Like pennies dropped in empty jars
And we’ll listen as yon river flows,
Slow-drifting twixt the silent stars

- Josh Clarke

Sunday, August 14, 2011

red team, hold this position... (book update)

Hello all,

I know I haven't been posting very often lately. It's because I'm finishing up the editing of my book that's going to be published in the very near future.

Good enough of an excuse? I hope so - it's going to have to do for the moment.

I will, of course, keep you all updated as it goes into its final stages and is posted for purchase on different websites. Currently I have some people looking over the draft and getting some other eyes on it to check for mistakes and other typo-errors before I convert it into an Epub format.

And there you have it - for the time being my posting of new poems will be on a somewhat indefinite hold, but rest assured that during this time I will continue writing and have already started working on my next book. There'll be plenty more coming down the line in the future for all of you die-hard readers, so stay tuned and keep experiencing life, my friends.

I'll be back before you know it. :)

And get ready for my Ebook!!!

- Josh

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Day 20 - "I know you in your poetry"


This is certainly turning into the month that took a year, isn't it?

Interesting concept. I like it.

Today is a big day for me. I'm expecting this weekend will be a major life change for me. My fiancee and I will be reconciling our situation face-to-face for the first time - we haven't seen each other since early June. We've both gone through major shifts in our personality and attitude towards the world as well as incredible amounts of personal suffering and sadness over this decision.

To be honest, I have no idea what will happen. Que sera, sera I suppose.

This is also one of the last few days that I will be living at my family farm. It will be auctioned off soon and it's hard for me to bear thinking of it being totally gone. It's finally starting to hit me hard now that it's so close - I tried to ignore it for so long, but now it's time has come to stand up and refuse to be ignored any longer.

I'll be taking a long walk today along the land, remembering - storing images in my mind that I'll hopefully be able to hold onto for years to come.

Enough of this, though. It's too much to dwell on.

I wanted to post a poem today after last night's New Mystics meeting in Fairmont, which I heartily enjoyed and thank everyone for coming out and inspiring each other with their works.

Somewhat spontaneously, I had written a poem two nights ago based on something that Ted Webb had mentioned at one of our Morgantown Poets meetings earlier this month. It's something I've felt for quite a long time and had been unable to give it words, but thanks to Ted it was eventually able to make its way into ink. It's about listening to each others' work - something I'm able to do much more often these days given that I'm now a member of two poets' societies - and, more so, being able to know more about a person than most people ever get to know, just by hearing their hearts poured out upon the page in the way that they have chosen to craft their meaning; in the way that they personally adorn their emotions; how they choose to be and view the world; who they really are, inside. It has always fascinated me that whenever I read something that someone has written that means a lot to them or was written in secret or in confidence, I feel like, as I read those lines, I've never really, truly known that person until that moment, hearing those words. It's almost supernatural, the kind of link that is created when things like that are shared. It's a faith and a trust that exists in those instances. Maybe that's why it's so powerful... I'm not quite sure.

Anyway, I'd like to dedicate this poem to Ted, and I admit I'm secretly probably one of his biggest fans. Every one of his poems I've heard thus far seems to hit the mark precisely - he is easily one of the most talented poets I've had the privilege to share with between the two groups.

Also, before I get to the poem I would just like to 'shout out' to my old friend Micah Plante up in VT who has been constantly inspiring me with his music lately. Each one of his songs seems to just pop into my head from time to time and I find myself thinking, "what's that tune from?" and then I realize, "oh! that's right! that's micah!" It's funny - his songs tend to stick in my mind even more than all the catchy pop songs I unfortunately hear over the radio a bit too often, and that's really saying something, believe me. I know way too many bad songs and bad lyrics for no good reason. That's the double-edge of a poetic mind, though, isn't it? Whether you like it or not, your brain is forced to suck it up just the same. :)

If you're interested in good folksy singer/songwriter music, I'd give his stuff a try - you just might love it. His website is http://micahplante.bandcamp.com/ and his four song EP is only 5 bucks. Definitely worth a listen.

There, now that I've shamelessly plugged my friend, I present to you my latest work, and I hope that you all, as always, enjoy.

"I know you in your poetry"

I do not know your name

Or what you are,
How you came to be

I do not know your touch or smile

But I know you in your poetry

I have swam within your ocean
I have dug the earth you’ve made
I have heard the voice inside of you

That bold and fiery bursting sound
The one that booms
Like Krakatoa
Deafening the world around

Though whenever I have seen your face
My exterior says
It has nothing to say -
Nothing to you
To your well-stitched puppet
To your flesh disguise
And its enterprise

By this I mean
To cause no strife

But my button eyes
They have looked beyond your button eyes
And have seen each and every
Nook and cranny
Each rip and tear
Each nom de guerre
Each naked secret of your life

And now they cannot help
But know
Behind this
Punch and Judy show
Lie sunlit gardens
Of your soul

And when they find these
To be more real

They cannot bear
To view you as
That dangling, awkward marionette
Still hanging from
This old vignette

I ask you then
To whisper to me
Another private minuet;
Perform a scene behind your skin

And I will journey there
With you again -
Our artful hands at rest once more
In rich, familiar fantasies

But please, no names -
They mean nothing here

No more characters, acts, or revelry

Your everything is plain to me

Let nothing else escape your tongue

I know you in your poetry

- Joshua Clarke

Monday, July 11, 2011

Day 19 - "Pallas Athene"

Good afternoon, all ye blog-absorbers of the world.

It's a blisteringly hot 94-degree day outside and now that I've watered my garden and gone back inside for some mild relief from the heat, I thought maybe it would be an appropriate time to post a new poem for the day.

In other news, however, the book itself is really coming along. Only about 10 more pages to go and I'm going to start formatting it for Ebook standards which should only take oh about a century or so, considering I'm pretty rusty on my html skills - they were at their height my senior year of high school. Since then, I don't think I've written over one or two pages of html code in total. That's pretty sad. Well, perhaps not - I've since made up for it with other interesting life skills, I'd like to think, and have spent much less time in front of a computer screen. :)

Anyway, back to the poem for today: It's one I'd had on the backburner for a while in my mind, and when an opportunity finally presented itself while reading a book of Greek myths I seized on it and let the two moments collide in Pallas Athene - the goddess Athena's 'extra' name.

The conversation between the children in the poem is one of my favorite little trinkets of life I've picked up over the last few years. The lines are almost taken verbatim from a conversation I overheard on a New York subway train a few years back between a couple of 4-6 year olds. It was so priceless - so perfect - I could never forget it. And then when I came upon the story of the relationship between the goddess Athena and her mortal friend Pallas, I finally knew I'd found the perfect fit to bring the pregnant meaning in those words to life in poetic form.

There are many things we must come to grips with in our time on this earth and some of us, it seems, are almost obsessed with the "awful black spears" of this life. Somehow, I believe, it is our duty to shun these things - to shun them proudly and live as if they shall never pierce us. To exist and enjoy the happiness in every moment, and to find in ourselves not an ignorance of those facts, but a full and cheerful embracement of them, as if to say to death itself: "You're quick... but you'll have to be quicker to catch someone like me when it's time."

This we must do, if we do not wish to forever carry Pallas's skin upon each of our aegises to remind us of our careless sins. It's something I still struggle with, but this poem always comes back to remind me in the end.

And without further ado... enjoy the poem! And if you have the means, read up on some Greek mythology in your spare time. It truly captures the imagination, in so many ways.

"Pallas Athene"

A very young girl, named Athene, said to her friend,
“We are all of us going to die someday.”
And the other young girl, named Pallas, replied,
“No we are not, that’s a lie.”
And the first spoke again, saying,
“I was told by my father,
And he said that we are all of us going to die,
And that we are all of us going to die just the same
No matter what -
Even if we don’t do anything wrong.”
And the young girl named Pallas looked askance,
And then down,
And said to her friend,
“I don’t want to play with you anymore.”

And, after many long years, the girl named Pallas did die,
And old Athene bent down
And took up her name
To honor her end.

And never, ‘til then,
Was she filled with such contempt
For the ways of this world;
For the mortal delight
In carelessly revealing
The foolhardy knowledge
Of its awful, black spear.

- Joshua Clarke