Sutra as poem again thoughts

Am just writing the notes section to my first published collection of poems, I’m a Pretty Circler, and having worked out with my editor Colin Waters which of the poems would benefit from notes, am now treading that line between explaining and overexplaining.

A happy diversion for the moment is that I was writing a note for my poem Birthday Sutra, which is one of two poems with Sutra in the title that’ll be in the collection. I knew that I’d gotten the title from Ginsberg (there are two Sutras in his complete works, Sunflower Sutra is the most famous I think) but I thought I’d just doublecheck again whether there was any sort of googleably recognised poetic form definition, and I found this from a school-essay-help website that I liked so much I thought I’d share it here:

‘Ginsberg titles the poem as a “Sutra,” a Buddhist form of literature in which a string of aphorisms compose a body of work. An aphorism is a kind of quick line – spoken or written – that uses wit or humor to state a deep seeded truth. Ginsberg’s poem is more complex than a simple Sutra, however, though by titling the poem as such he means to suggest that the message of the poem is really quite simple.’

Not sure about that last sentence with its heavy handed didacticism, but I find the the chaining of aphorisms idea helpful, and happily in tune with the loose forming of the two poem structures I gave the ‘sutra’ name to.

Then again, I also offer my own definition of a sutra poem halfway through my Sunny Sutra, the second sutra poem in my collection. So I’ll leave that here too:

‘Sutras: poems occasional, read at times which are propitiate
Sunny Sutra: the long poem about the sun in which I know how to say things and
think like a fire poet.’

…wondering now about the word ‘propitiate’ too, which I realise is officially a verb, but I use it here as an adjective. Maybe I liked the sound better than propitious, but I think there’s a ghost word that’s a real, although old-fashioned, adjective lurking behind my use of it somewhere. Maybe it’ll pop up in my consciousness now I’m thinking about it. The phrase ‘this initiate May’ is coming into my head, but that doesn’t seem to mean anything previously…

Thinking Verse – online journal recommendation

I haven’t yet found time to read the articles within this online journal – Thinking Verse – yet, but over the last week, there have been lots of posts elsewhere with poets I respect and admire praising it. At a quick look, I think it’s aims are valuable. Here’s their ‘About us’ section quoted:

‘T H I N K I N G    V E R S E   (ISSN: 2049-1166) aims to provide a forum for discussion and debate in poetics, specifically regarding verse as a feature of writing, and the different kinds of thinking — aesthetic, linguistic, philosophical — that verse engenders and necessitates. In so doing the journal seeks to reconcile a close attention to the technical aspects of verse art with these broader stakes, not least given that it is through an engagement with technical minutiae that these stakes are articulated, and that without an understanding of these stakes the focus on such minutiae cannot grasp the object it purports to discuss. In particular, it seeks to reconcile a close attention to the technical aspects of verse art with these wider questions for ‘thinking’.

I like this sort of proposed switch around between the micro-macro and macro-micro: how does a big idea use small-scale organisation to articulate itself; how does the sum of verse technique deployed give us an understandable road-map towards furthering our understanding big ideas, or shape the way we think to allow us to arrive at new perception?

I put it more crudely there. And part of me questions that it is an entirely reversible link – I have a slight intuition that the ideas can’t be arrived back out at through a process of reverse-engineering the way they made it into the crystalised verse, and I think the journal mission may imply that. I wrote that last sentence more like the below sentence first, and I leave it in, as even though I think it’s more mysterious, it might be closer to what I was trying to say: the technique doesn’t latch on to the ideas in the way the journal might imply is the equivalent of the way the ideas might be worked through the space of the technique’s actions.

These are questions I enjoy thinking about, and if this journal lives up to people’s appraisals of how well it is thinking about them, then I look forward to reading on.