Saturday, May 30, 2015

The Wu-Tang Clan Helped Me Edit My Poetry

You've heard me say it before: hip hop can inspire, can get you wired, float your boat down a sacred river of liquid purple inspiration you can't exactly access in any other way. That's just my opinion.  I read poetry, books, short stories. I listen to audio books and music most hours of the day. I want words in my head, words that rhyme, words that wow and evoke wonder. It is a constant education, a vocabulary lesson within a fun, surprising context with a catchy beat. 

This week, while my nightstand featured "American Sideshow," an incredibly fascinating book about the myriad assortment of carnival freaks of the late 1800's- my car stereo featured Wu-Tang Clan's '93 album titled "Enter the Wu-Tang" which is - and I concur - regarded as one of the greatest hip hop/rap albums of all time. I'm not going to claim to be some sort of hip hop super fan nor do I thump down the streets of my smallish suburban town with my windows down, aching for slanted glances, for recognition of my incredibly sweet taste in tunes. No, I mostly listen to punk rock, rock and roll, alt rock, talk radio (NPR), and currently, with my kids in the car, Rudyard Kipling's Jungle Book (all hail Shere Khan - the ultimate in "Tiger Style!"). But every time I take a musical side road and dip into my hip hop collection, I always find myself simultaneously dipping into my poetry journal to re-work and revise poems I've written on the fly, in moments of white light-pure, blinding inspiration. These are the poems that I know have gold in them - nuggets of value scattered about my scrawl -but they need some sifting, sorting, before they can land here on my laptop in what I feel is a jewelry store display case of perfectly placed words and spacing. So thank you Wu: Ol' Dirty Bastard, GZA, RZA, Raekwon, U-God, Method Man, and Ghostface Killah. When you brothas from Brooklyn made your soon-to-be legend album in the early 90's, would you all ever have guessed that you'd be - in effect - facilitating the editing process of an aspiring middle class white female poet!? You tell me: "Can It Be All So Simple?"

Poetic Voice by Jennifer Jones

If you read enough poetry,

your voice takes on a musicality

of speaking in beat, pacing,

perfect pauses,

then up and down

your sound begins

to dance.

You’re a singer of words,

think in rhyme,



of letters that settle in gutters

and funnel like drops of lettered rain

onto the


Funnel your rage

push passion through pen

a dragon’s exhalation, a snake’s shed skin.

Hands hover over a vacant keyboard

ready to be a better builder.

To mother a novel -

not borrow from another’s

shed skin.

You’re a dragon hoarding word-treasure

wagons of rhymes whipped in your listener’s ears

shiver up their spines as

little dancers that shimmy and shake.

Take those precious stones, those

well chosen words

(that tap like tiny shoes
on the cillia, the cochlea)

up the spiral cartilage

knocks at the brain’s door.

Skates its neuron-rich dance floor.

Words reach that tender pink place

strike a chord with what sounds oh so right.

No end in sight (just echoes)...

Music on strings of light 

strung together,

walked by, witnessed at night.

Stars strung together

as constellations of light

our eyes

fight over.

Want to see, want to hear

these golden lights

these golden notes

that flake into being,

into sense-making glowing


Your head threading, your hands weaving…

So read and train that tender pink brain,

that dragon that is waiting / racing.

Learn to listen, weave the strands

of musicality,


perfect pause,

and pacing.

Owl by Jennifer Jones

Mysterious and lovely, fluffy and deep
He sweeps the misty grey meadow.

Searching for scurrying low-legged meat
He dips, dives, hides from view
swings on silent wings.

Night things cower when he sails low...
talons skimming grass and frilled weeds.

His eyes widen - frighten - pupils big as midnight.

His target is seen.,
yellow eyes like slits of moon
                                               catch fire.

Head down to aim his laser sight
                                  then plummets with a rocket’s flight.

Hooks grasp - squeeze - close tight
forming a horrible cage.

Tiny heartbeat pulses.
Mammal mouth pants.
Sucks short bursts of its last air.

Owl closes his cage.
Brings warm body
to open beak.


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