Recent Puritan author Daniel Scott Tysdal discusses his poem “Poem, Phone, Farm” from Issue XX: Winter 2013.
“Poem, Phone, Farm” is part of a larger poetry project, 24 Hours of Everything, which came about for two reasons.
W.B. Yeats loves him a good gyre.
First, I had been disappointed with how little writing I was getting done during the school year, so I decided to devise a plan that would encourage me to dedicate more time to poetry throughout the term.
Second, I read a story about some poor (probably unpaid) marketing intern whose job it was to manage a corporation’s vacuous Twitter account between the hours of 8 p.m. and 8 a.m., and this got me thinking about the idea of twenty-four hour access and availability, which, when I was a kid, was a novelty (i.e., shopping on Sunday!?!), but is now the status quo. I was keen to explore the technologies and venues that enable, embody, and encourage this particular illusion of the “infinite” (infinite production, consumption, communication, etc.), particularly in terms of the strain these technologies and venues put on the finite body (both individual and communal).
Hence: 24 Hours of Everything.
The project is simple: every couple of months, I visit a relevant site (physical (ex. Nuite Blanche) or virtual (ex. the deep web)) for twenty-four hours and compose a poem, series of poems, or long poem. The restraints, to put it another way, are threefold, placed on time (twenty-four hours), space (a relevant site), and body (my ability to compose as I tire).
“Poem, Phone, Farm” marked my first stab at the project. I had initially planned to begin the piece the morning of Thursday the 16th, but I went to bed with no idea what to write and I woke up the same way. The night of the 16th, I was reading Paul Muldoon’s lecture on W. B. Yeats in The End of the Poem, when I was struck by two passages.
The first passage was from Yeats’ A Vision:
Each age unwinds the thread another age had wound, and it amuses me to remember that before Phidias, and his westward moving art, Persia fell, and that when full moon came round again, amid eastward moving thought, and brought Byzantine glory, Rome fell; and that at the outset of our westward moving Renaissance Byzantium fell; all things dying each other’s life, living each other’s death.
The second passage was from Frank Kermode’s The Sense of an Ending:
One of the assumptions prevalent in sophisticated apocalyptism was what Yeats called “antithetical multiform influx”—the forms assumed by the inrushing gyre as the old one reaches its term. The dialectic in Yeats’s gyres is simple enough in essence; they are a figure for the co-existence of the past and future at the time of transition. The old narrows to its apex, the new broadens towards its base and the old and new interpenetrate.
Paul Muldoon says: No shampoo? No problem.
I immediately felt the poem’s impetus, grasped its horizon, in this figure of the interpenetrating of the old and the new, the antithetical multiform influx, when all things die each other’s life and live each other’s death. In that invigorating surge of inspiration, I saw that I needed to stage a series of meetings between the conventions of the poem, the creative capacity of my iPhone, and the modes and materials of the family farm, as a way of exploring a range of personal, familial, aesthetic, cultural, and historical transitions from old to new that characterize the contemporary moment.
On the afternoon of Friday the 17th, I brainstormed a list of possible poems and I narrowed this list down to three sets of three poems: three poems that utilized the Hol-e Trinity (Google, Facebook, and Twitter), three poems composed using iPhone apps, and three poems composed employing iPhone apps I made up. In the end, I stuck with the Hol-e Trinity, but I only needed to utilize two real apps (Halftone and Pano) and one fake app (iSeeng).
I woke early on Saturday, August 18th, and began by posting a picture of a box of rusted bolts on Facebook and soliciting descriptions. I wrote the poems (roughly) in the order that they appear (though, for those who are keeping score, I did not compile “A Comment” or complete the rubbing stone comic until the Monday after I returned to Toronto).
I spent so many days on that land, and on the original homestead just to the south, wandering and writing and doodling and shooting and wandering some more. If I am capable of making anything of worth, I owe it to the openness of that land and the openness and love of the family that raised me there. Spending my final twenty-four hours on the farm making this poem was the best and only way to say goodbye.
[For more on Daniel Scott Tysdal’s compositional techniques and inspirations, see his interview with E Martin Nolan in Issue 12 of The Puritan]
Daniel Scott Tysdal is a poet of ill-refute (he just can’t say, “No!”). He is the author of two books of poems, and he teaches creative writing at UTSC.