Poetry

The Many Poem Projects of Geoffrey Gatza

Kenmore: Poem Unlimited - Intro

Artists Statement – Or Why This?
Dedicated to Mrs. Lucas, my fourth grade arts teacher
For although a few wind-chime notes filter down
From heaven in the small hours, one cannot help

But note the frequent fanfare of hoofbeats
In the wet, empty street.
No one said it would turn out this way
But of course, no one knew, and now most of them

Are dead.
From Litany by John Ashbery
I love Kenmore, NY. I was born and raised here, educated in the public schools and upon graduation left for the United States Marine Corps. I was looking for the adventure that this town actively seeks to avoid. When one goes looking for danger it should be no surprise when it is found. I found danger in spades.
It took me a long time to understand how great this community is. It is a well run municipality that makes it hard to understand why other towns do not have the same operation in place. Well, no matter. I live here now and am very happy to be here. And don 't get me wrong, this place has its troubles as any place will. That is life, the human condition as only can tumble itself along.
I have dreamed great dreams walking up and down these streets, so it is easy in my mind to understand why I would make a poem series. Memories immediately spring to mind, pulling me back to age 14, or 7 or whatever, triggering moments to write. And what makes one write is what one should write about.
There is a responsibility to this body of work. This may be my poem but this is our village and I still have to live here. Poems and poets are dangerous and the prospect of public art opens the work to the most conservative of readers. My goal is to not upset anyone in any way while fully displaying the dynamo that is Kenmore.
This is not paid for in public funds and there is no politics. My hope is that should someone find this online or in a store, they might feel proud or something along those lines about their hometown. Should this fall far from that expectation please accept my apology and know that it is my poor ability as poet to depict a beautiful place.
This takes place in four volumes of works. This is not what I thought would happen when I started. I thought this would be an epic poem with memories and photos and whatnots of found items to capture the conscious of a community. Over years I gathered up materials and this became untenable as one volume.   Slowly these ideas fell into separate entities and so became several items. All books should be viewed as poems, or poetry or with a poetic eye.
Also check out a series of links to the places on the Internet to check out more about Kenmore. There are links to history, maps, architecture, Wikipedia and the local government page.
Enjoy!
Kenmore: Poem Unlimited
The best actors in the world, either for tragedy,
comedy, history, pastoral, pastoral-comical,
historical-pastoral, tragical-historical, tragical-
comical-historical-pastoral, scene individable, or
poem unlimited
LORD POLONIUS, The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark 
Act 2, Scene 2
 
Synopsis:
It is the way things change that brings the myth to Kenmore, the poet's hometown. This collection of poems is one work, divided. Blending two stories, the story of Gwion And The Wisdom Potion taken from the Mabinogi and the apocryphal apocalyptic text, The Book of Enoch. Through Devils, Giants and Dream Visions; A Magic Silver Fish of Wisdom, a witch and maple keys, the poet passes through life to a rebirth in the womb of a witch to a new life to a death that begins to look like life only to come back to find providence is truly suburbia.
 
 
Movement of the Poem
Birth Re/Birth
The poem begins in Kenmore with a narrator meeting a disfigured young man named Fish, fishing in a sewer grate. He tells the narrator that he is searching for the silver fish of wisdom. This fish will provide a magical knowledge that will undo the spell placed on Fish. The narrator derisively offers to cook the fish if he can catch anything from his sewer. When he does the narrator follows Fish to his home, the stronghold of a powerful witch. Kenmore is embroiled in a dark war fought by wizards and guerillas over the burial place of a saint. The narrator meets the witch and finds that the potion made from the silver fish of wisdom is lethal except for the first three drops, which will provide infinite wisdom. While the narrator cooks the fish he burns his finger and places it in his mouth, thus receiving the magic. Realizing the danger he is in, he flees. Fish eats the potion and dies. His horrified mother, the shape-shifting witch, follows the narrator and a wizard duel ensues. They both fight and evade the other by changing shapes. Eventually, the narrator changes into a kernel of corn and is then eaten by the witch who has turned into a hen. She becomes impregnated by the transformed narrator and is carried to term by the witch. She names him Isidore and places him in the care of a wolf.    
The Watchers
Apocalypse is derived from the Greek for revelation, to reveal. In this section, Isidore is witness to the fall of the Angels, their deeds and the havoc they let loose on the world. The fallen angels, known as the Watchers, reveal many arts such as farming and engineering to the humans. Far worse, they take human wives. Their children are giants who kill and rampage across the lands. God sends his angels to punish the fallen and in a moment of weakness, Lucifer asks Enoch to plead with God for forgiveness, as they can no longer commune with God themselves.   In a dream vision, Enoch pleads for the angels to God. Their plea is rejected and God sends a message with Enoch to take back to the Fallen Angels. On his return, Isidore is accompanied by several angels and shown many places around heaven, including Eden and the Tree of Knowledge.  
The book ends with the Treachery of Poems.  
 
Why this epic and how this relates to the town of Kenmore 
that it does not at all represent.
The heroes of the present will retreat to the imitation they are anyhow.
—Charles Olson
This is not at all what I intended to write when I began this project. I was going to write many small memories of a town. It quickly became obvious these small antidotal notes were irrelevant. Not to say that Kenmore holds no gripping stories; it does. But that could not be the poem I needed to write.
The mind hovers between fact and myth. We need our stories as much as we need our facts to make informed decisions. And going through the stories I took as fact and tales told as mythic I began finding many similarities. I started looking to their roots, definitions and core stories and came up with this amalgamation.
The myths and legends and belief structures that influenced my understanding of the world are best represented by the Roman Catholic Bible, the King Arthur cycles, and Hamlet by William Shakespeare. However, I did not want to use these texts directly, choosing to not stare directly into the light for fear of blindness, I chose to go to their source texts, The Book of Enoch, The Mabinogi and The Tragedy of Amblet by Saxo Grammaticus.
Hamlet has been viewed as a figure of inaction, however in the tale translated by Saxo Grammaticus, Amblet must act insane to save his life from his Uncle who killed his father. In his actions Amblet uses deception to win back his crown. Grammaticus elevates Amblet to a great actor, as one who must imitate not to just make a living, but to keep on living until he can have his revenge. So to sculpt a tale of a great poet, the Tale of Taliesin is a great place to begin.
The Four Branches of the Mabinogi is a quartet of short stories written in the Middle Welsh language.   It is one of the oldest and most complete repositories of British Celtic Myth. One story, The Tale of Taliesin, narrates the mythical origins of the famed poet. Taliesin, the 6th century Welsh poet, whose work survives in the Book of Taliesin, was a renowned bard believed to have sung at the courts of at least three Celtic kings, including King Arthur. The idea that he was a bard at the court of King Arthur dates back to the 11th century, and was elaborated upon in later works of poetry, including Tennyson's Idylls of the King. In the myth Gwion Bach was the servant who wins the gift of poetic inspiration intended for Morfran and becomes, when reborn from the shape-shifting goddess Ceridwen, Taliesin.
To complete the story of the poet I was at a loss as what to do to make the story interesting. Poets do not make for great fight scenes and the act of writing is not compelling. So I turned to The Book of Enoch which is a non-canonical biblical text detailing the experiences of Enoch, the great-grandfather of Noah, the man who walked with God. Although apocryphal, it was quoted as a prophetic text in the New Testament and is thought that the writers of the New Testament were familiar with it and influenced by it in thought and diction. The work is considered Apocalyptic Literature and is divided into five sections each represented in the poem. They are The Book of the Watchers, Book of Parables, The Book of Heavenly Luminaries, The Dream Visions, and The Epistle of Enoch. The Book of Enoch describes the fall of the Watchers, the angels who fathered the Nephilim (bene Elohim, Genesis 6:1-2 ). The fallen angels went to Enoch to intercede on their behalf with God after he declared to them their doom. The remainder of the book describes Enoch's visit to Heaven in the form of a vision.
          
You are here: God >> The Bible >> Genesis 6
1 When the human population began to grow rapidly on the earth,
2 The sons of God saw the beautiful women of the human race and took any they wanted as their wives.
3 Then the LORD said, "My Spirit will not put up with humans for such a long time,
for they are only mortal flesh. In the future, they will live no more than 120 years."
4 In those days, and even afterward, giants lived on the earth, for whenever the sons of God had intercourse with human women, they gave birth to children who became the heroes mentioned in legends of old.
5 Now the LORD observed the extent of the people's wickedness,
and he saw that all their thoughts were consistently and totally evil.
6 So the LORD was sorry he had ever made them. It broke his heart.
7 And the LORD said, "I will completely wipe out this human race that I have created. Yes, and I will destroy all the animals and birds, too. I am sorry I ever made them."
8 But Noah found favor with the LORD. 
I chose to change the name of the poet to Isadore Ducasse, the Comte de Lautréamont the creator of the Les Chants de Maldoror . His influence on surrealism made this an obvious choice for this work.
This may not explain fully why this poem is as it is. But it is my hope you will understand where this came from and how much of me is in these stories and how these stories make up the me that sees and filters and envisions all that is the connection to the space on the planet I inhabit.
 
Kenmore: Poem Unlimited Vol. Two
Photos Unlimited       (260 Pages)
To avoid smarmy poems that recall my childhood I choose to create a book of photo poems. Using no text, these poems narrate a photographic study of a town. But not any town, the town I grew up in. This is a wonderful village just outside of Buffalo, New York, and is as wonderful and as it is dull. There are moments of excitement, sure. They happen all over and even now, the lights of a police car rush down the street.  
The premise of this work is rejuvenation as these photo poems detail Kenmore in the 21 st century. Through an extreme ice storm, the destruction and construction of a one-story school into a set of new homes, a springtime in bloom, and many other things that are just outside of my door.
 
Kenmore: Poem Unlimited Vol. Three
Memories Unlimited     (75 pages)
In this volume handwritten memories, scraps and found objects create a moving experiment of scrapbook and hysterical diary. Taking the idea of non-computer generated memories in a one sitting purge of ideas, this is a moving portrait of a town through touch. Scans from the originals.
 
Kenmore: Poem Unlimited Vol. Four  
Ghost Book     (130 Pages)
Alone with our madness and favorite flower
We see that there really is nothing left to write about.
Or rather, it is necessary to write about the same old things
In the same way, repeating the same things over and over
For love to continue and be gradually different.
From Late Echo by John Ashbery
To conclude the series, an echo of the first section is found in one-word poems. Each poem corresponds to a street in Kenmore, New York. The minimal nature of these poems in part a comment on the fundamental instability of language. Taking a cue from Little Sparta by Ian Hamilton Finlay, this work can be read as an installation to the town. The quoted poem above, concluded with these lines, That speak so deeply into our unprepared knowledge / Of ourselves, the talking engines of our day. These words mean to me what they mean to me, this land and the words will mean differently to you, and differently to the next reader. It is my hope that these will be those talking engines. Enjoy !
 
 
Acknowledgements
Special thanks to Didi Menendez! Without her unwavering support for this project this book would not be available. Didi is also the cover designer for this book. Her vision to see the silver fish as the cover was inspired and I will always be grateful!  
Big hugs to Kevin Thurston, Rich Owens, Edric Mesmer, and John for their early readings and wonderful advice. And of course, special thanks to Donna, Blaze and Clarice for a warm home.