NOTES FROM A LECTURE ON STERNA PARADISAEA, OR MITQUTAILAQ
The Eskimo name, Mitqutailaq, notes the absent
At the University of Florida, Debora Greger would take her poetry workshop classes to odd lectures and events around campus. We were to attend these events instead of workshopping poems. We were to then turn these experiences into poems. If I recollect properly she had us attend a fancy organ recital, another time we attended a lecture on the "Cold-hardiness of the Monarch Butterly," and another time we attended a "Discussion of Population Studies of the Desert Tortoise."
No poems came of this process for me...but I learned how research, deep research, and the act of alternate discourse on a subject can provide a different tack on the subject of a poem, providing a rich subtext for the work. Years later when running an eco-tourism outfit in Alaska I became fascinated with the Arctic Tern, its etymology in the Inupiaq Language, and its biology as presented to me by the premier ornithologist Dr. Richard Norton of the Naval Arctic Research Laboratory. This poem is the result of that obsession.
In the figuratum poems such as "Wings" by Simias from the 3rd century AD to Caligrammes such as "Il Pleut" by Apollinaire at the turn of the 19th century there is a long tradition of poems that take advantage of shape, of white space, of the visual representation of the ink on the page (or on the Web). That said my poem, "Notes..." appears as notes spread across a page, yet I use standard written English to give the poem sense when read left to right. I try and break the rules by using a "slight" form, i.e. a carmen figuratum, but try make this slight form adhere to the stricter demands of accentual-syllabic free verse. In the end, hopefully, turning the form in a unique way for the reader.