Selections From 11:37: “And I Can’t Keep The Poems Straight Anymore”

For my senior honors thesis at Penn, I wrote two poems a day for six months. It was called Selections from 11:37. Basically, every morning and every evening, at exactly 11:37, I stopped whatever I was doing and gave myself fifteen minutes to write a poem. The idea was to challenge the nature of inspiration itself, to find the beauty in the random, most minute outpourings of my mind. In a way, almost the opposite of why this blog was created.

After reviewing the material, only about 70 poems made it into my final thesis (as you can imagine, not many professors want to read a book of over 350 poems). There’s also an introduction that says pretty much everything I want to say about my project. You can purchase my collection here or click preview to read more about it.

I kept writing 11:37 poems for a while after I’d finished my thesis. Part of it was habit. Part of it was stubbornness  I had the thought that I might go for a full year, document one of the transitional periods of my life in poem. In the end, I made it from the morning of September 9th, 2012 to the evening of April 24th, 2013. There was no special reason for stopping then–I’d petered out, the strict adherence to time finally wearing me thin. I might try another project like it some day. In the meantime, I have literally hundreds of poems that have never seen the light of day. Here’s one of them.

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AND I CAN’T KEEP THE POEMS STRAIGHT ANYMORE                        (Night 3/8/13)

I know something is there but I can’t see what
it is, a lot like pushing upside-down puzzle pieces
around the drawing room table or flying over the sea at night.
I wrote and scrapped forty-seven poems last week,
either because I didn’t know what time it was or they didn’t fit
in my backpack or the bartender tied my mai tai too tight.

There were poems about the sea and vastness contained,
poems about heart pains and a thing removed, a lot of poems
about worlds that haven’t been spun together yet. I know I ask
a lot of questions: what if every single obituary contained
two hundred fifty-three words and we had to make lives fit
into that space? So the garbage man who died of aortic palpitations
during his thirty-second year on the job got as much as the guy
who invented fire, and the people who did too much living
were stuck with a runoff of encapsulated nonsense?

Somewhere, somehow a paper lantern will fly high into the sky
and dash against an ascending plane—the pilot won’t know
what hit him and in that briefest firework, dozens of people
will pass through the ash of infinity. I’d like to write a poem
like that. Maybe that’s why I light my sparest feelings on fire
and break lines like a coward, and maybe that’s why the last turn
towards home always banks sharpest, and maybe that’s why
I know something is there but I can’t see what it is.

————

P.S. Here’s another link to my poetry collection.

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