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background: a poem called lauryn

i started this poem about 6 years ago and i just finished it yesterday.  initially, the title was “friday night burlesque.”  at that time, i liked parts of it but overall, it felt a little rushed and in some ways lacking.  i cut out the ending and tried to figure out where to go with what was left.  the process required adding some more lines while cutting and tweaking others.  i also just had to step away from it for a while (i kept writing and editing some of my other work in the meantime and would come back to it at random moments).  over time, the title shifted with what i saw as the direction of the poem at the time, going to “lauryn” and then ultimately “a poem called lauryn.”

comments & questions:

i absolutely love it, i wanna work with you for something i have coming up, we should meet for lunch or something…will let u know when i have a free moment – Makeda

cool thanks…and yeah, just let me know

Dope poem – Choo

thanks man

Talk to me about your use of italics in this beautiful poem. I’m hearing this has something to do with your relationship to music and the investment one makes in being an active and accommodating listener in general.

I’m looking forward to the discussion of this piece and to the next one as well. From New Brunswick, Canada. – José

here i used the italics to show a shift in voice and emphasis from the regular narration.  in the first case (“Don’t just trace the surface. Get at the core.”), the lines are spoken by “lauryn” (as a woman and as a poem) and “i” (as a man and as the writer of the poem).  on the woman-guy level of the story, they’re talking to each other.  on the poem-writer level, they’re directing the lines at both the audience and the writer so that each will be “active and accommodating” in their respective roles.  the emphasis in both readings applies extra importance.

in the second instance (“When you see me naked, will you still think I’m pretty?”), the voices remain the same as the first time with the question being asked of each other (w-m level) and the audience (p-w level).  the emphasis in this case varies where depending on the reading, you can take the lines as literal thoughts/spoken words or just as any insecurity felt when one exposes his or her emotions/thoughts/self in a new way.

thanks for posting.

This poem is thought provoking and very well written. Seems like a personification of your stream of consciousness. You artfully walk us through how you produced this very product. Beginning with a lack of words or not enough apt words to illustrate your idea–> finding alluring, yet superficial content –>reaching a groove in the process, but still longing for substance/quality (the poem itself speaking to you)–>concerns with vulnerability reflected in the piece–> and eventually just letting go…and arriving at a resonant message……stark, naked, simple, but with great potential to impinge on the mind. Lovely….. – Kafayat

thanks ma’am

I wanted to write my questions in separate post:

1. Can you talk about your use of the word “copperheads” and “slinking”… my mind you conjured up an image of snakes, but I want to know what your intentions were in deliberately choosing those terms.

2. “I tunes to a muse” can be read in several different ways: (1) I (myself) tunes (incorrect grammar, but) to a muse (2) I tunes to amuse (3) itunes to amuse (4) itunes to a muse etc etc. I read it the third way, but would love to hear your thoughts on the “proper” reading

3. Can you speak generally about the narration and your choice of pronouns? For instance “…WE wanted more”, but “…I gave her a piece of mine”. You switch from collaborative to individualized are you suggesting something here? What does this mean? – Kafayat

1. i’ve heard “copper heads” used in reference to pennies so i’m playing with that and the copperhead snakes.  so when “i” starts scrounging for pennies (where the currency established in the first line is words), adding the snake imagery to it says that the “two cents”/sense found at this point is deceptive (seems better than it really is due to desperation) and hard to grasp/pin down even when i think i have it under control.

2. the proper way to read it is to 1.) read it as is and 2.) see that there are different ways to read it 🙂  usually as a reader or writer, i’d want a more definitive answer since it could be a good anchor for how to read the rest of the poem.  however since i deliberately phrased the line (and the poem) to support different interpretations, i’d prefer people find the valid possibilities (i.e. fits within context) here instead of just resting on one in particular.

3. in general, the narration fits the story i wanted to tell and how i wanted to tell it.  i could’ve mapped out the pronouns a bit better but as is, they mostly cover who is feeling/doing the way they should.  in the examples you mentioned, i actually read the two we’s in the poem as more individualized than the “i gave her” moment.  the we moments (in 4th and 5th stanzas) are kinda like two people riding on the same train but not moving with or for the same purpose (united in a sense, but still distant).  however, from “i gave her” to the end shows more of a collabo where each side gives up something cherished/guarded to help complete not just him/herself but the other person as well.

thanks for the questions.

i wish i was as intelligent as you are…but i guess i am in my own right. your explanation is just as good as your work, love it! – Makeda

yeah you are…and glad you’re enjoying the discussion end of this as well as the poem.

I read the poem aloud to myself twice to let it sink in and to let the words resonate. What speaks to me here is the idea that there is something inherently erotic about creation, and I use “erotic” rather that “sensual” because throughout there is a sense of anticipation — of pending domination but also communion. The “broke” “I” is willing to “scrounge around” in an attempt to put together enough currency; the hands “groove” over hills, they trace but should do more — ever reaching. Will the “I” get what it’s after? Does it even know what it wants (that a picture was the first goal says something about the visible vs. the invisible). I see a tension between the surface and depth — what can be perceived, touched, traced (the cheap thrill, which provides no real satisfaction) versus getting “at the core,” “needing a home.” The peace/piece of my mind in the fifth stanza made me think back to the copper heads (which I read as pennies), so I could almost hear coins jingling. Currency is only valuable if we believe it can get us something we want. Which reminds me, your use of “cost” instead of “worth” in the first stanza got me thinking about value vs. putting a price on something… what it means to do that… With the Adam and Eve of the final stanza I thought of her being made from his rib (an inner part of himself). She is his partner, yet someone who he will ultimately be unable to control (kinda like this poem, now out of your hands, speaks to each of its readers in its own way). I read your commentary and I like the play on man/woman, writer/poem. If I were teaching this poem I would ask my students how they felt about the gendering — Lauren’s body standing in for the poem as something to touch and reach for, while the male “I” gives his mind, but what about his body? His nakedness? His vulnerability? Very rich poem. Good stuff. – Carolyn

hey thanks for sharing.  some of my reactions to your reactions:

– currency:  good point about the relative value of currency here.  the price she sets is more than he can afford or at least more than he’s willing/able to spend at the time.  in the beginning, the things that he figures will produce enough currency (his sense, turning to inspiration, etc.) aren’t enough.  re: cost v. worth…a difference is where cost doesn’t accurately reflect something’s true worth where it under/overvalues it (more on that in a sec).

– surface/depth:  the need for depth is something that they both share.  they want to explore themselves and be explored beyond the surface.  back to the worth stuff , until he explores her full picture (body + mind + soul), he can’t really know her full worth (part of the reason why his initial attempts to get everything fall short).  his introspective look at himself also plays a part in determining not just her independent worth but her value to him.  similarly even as she makes him works for what he wants, she can’t know her full worth either without trying to find out all that she has to offer.

– piece of mine: this is supposed to evoke “peace of mind” but still mean “piece of mine” (or more grammatically correct “piece of me”).  the enjambment between those last two stanzas joins “giving up that piece” to as you mentioned, adam giving up a rib to make eve.  the idea of a writer giving up something of his/herself to create something naked, innocent and new was actually one of my first thoughts that spurred this poem.

– gender issue: through the different readings, “lauryn” and “i” are both pursuing each other’s nakedness and in the end, they both get what they want.  on the strictly physical level, it’s more fun that way haha.  in a relationship sense (romantic or otherwise), both people removing their layers/barriers to their guarded selves creates a deeper, more fulfilling relationship.  even with respect to the writing, the writer’s laying there exposed with the poem since it’s his thoughts and emotions left vulnerable on the sheets.

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i wish i was as intelligent as you are…but i guess i am in my own right. your explanation is just as good as your work, love it!



yeah you are…and glad you’re enjoying the discussion end of this as well as the poem



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