March 9_Byron’s Star

See Tupelo Press to read the poems for March 9, 2014 by scrolling down to “Day 9/Poems 9” and of course, to read my poem Byron’s Star / by John C. Mannone.

The backstory is as follows:

Prompts comprised of a list of words (and categories) have consistently proven to be fruitful in producing strong first drafts, many of which subsequently become published poems. I have discussed how the list stimulates a poem in the March 3 poem, “The Art of Lying.” I posit that the kernel from which the poem grows is recognizing the association between two (or more) of the words in the list together with a link to an experience or memory. “Byron’s Star” emerged from list (see below) but not in this usual fashion. I experimented with a new approach. Instead of looking for associations among the words, I examined each word in isolation. I would write short interesting expressions for each word (blind from the rest of the list to avoid bias). I’d try to involve word-play, image, metaphor, etc. After I did this for the list of words, in sequence, I collated them in a new list of expressions. It was then that I tried to associate the newly formed expressions with each other and witnessed the magic. Don’t be surprised if this approach produces a surreal poem.

(a) The list:

-snap
-blister
-tangle
-revoke
-toll
-loop
-type of plant
-type of tool
-style of dance
-a musical instrument

(b) The collated generated expressions:

The snap in my neck
unleashed fire like
a brittle sun, hot tar
blistering on steel, bones,
intumesced with fiery words
and strands of light tangled
in the seaweed of galaxies
rising from darkened depths
of the universe where the moon
revoked the law of gravity.
It flung itself to the outer reaches
while the sun, like a drum
snared, the swish of heat. A seething
nuclear power plant of burning
hydrogen, coronal loops dancing
in cosmic wind, magnetic field lines
draped with plasma sway
in choral rhythm to the beat
of the sun’s heart. Helioseismic.
Stellar quakes inside—
ball of gas shuddering
like a bell with a million tones.
Its gong, a heat hammer. But
whose bell tolls? That of freedom
or that of death?

(c) Associations with early lines—snap-fire-light-moon—led to a sun metaphor for what I thought would become a science poem, but needed some literary depth or context.

(d) Evolution to the current form is a direct result in trying to find context. It turned out not to be a science poem (but took advantage of science metaphors). The epigraph helps the reader understand there is a Biblical subtext.

The title of the poem was accidentally perfect. I had been thinking of simply using pathetic fallacy for the moon and planets seeking answers about the world they live in by looking up to the sun for answers, as in the eremite in Keat’s poem, “Bright Star,” and in Frost’s poem, “Choose Something Like a Star.” I thought Byron referred to the eremite also and that’s why I called the poem “Byron’s Star.” But in my poem, I wanted the sun to be sinister, not a wise eremite, or god, at all. After the fact, having decided to use an epigraph, I researched Byron and learned of his poem, “Darkness,” which is virtually a perfect fit in theme to my poem. It’s post apocalyptic stance is echoed in my poem, but my work is not nearly as fatalistic. (See an interesting analysis of Byron’s poem; I then felt the title was perfect.

I thought about using Isaiah 14:12 (New American Standard Bible) in its entirety,

How you have fallen from heaven,
O star of the morning, son of the dawn!
You have been cut down to the earth,
You who have weakened the nations!

or even the King James version, which spells out the pathetic fallacy, but felt both versions gave away too much too soon.

How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations!

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