Not content to describe, he dares to search for meaning, as if the world in all its multifarious manifestations were a text to be deciphered. The poems are like rocky crags. With a sudden shift of weight, the cleft that was your handhold turns to a jagged edge that cuts you open. Canterbury is the prodigal son of a Baptist minister. Soon he had joined the road crew of singer-songwriter Jamie Brockett, whose touring included the East Coast Folk Festivals from New York, up the Eastern seaboard, down to Philly, and to Festivals across the Rockies, including Colorado, Wyoming and points west.
During summers spent in the back of the tour van and on the stage crew, he began to write songs, play keyboards, harmonica, and sing harmony. When Canterbury composes, often songs will begin as poems. A song lyric will distill out of the poetry, followed shortly by a melody. His approach to songwriting focuses on the importance of the lyric, allowing the craft of songwriting to remain visible to the listener, through the interplay of syllables, tempo, texture, and tone. Doors open at p. In the conclusion, I will place this work within a broader concern with a humanities of speaking approach Epps, Webster and Woodbury, Where, that is, does poetry come from?
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The similarities between poetry and prophecy are often claimed against the unenunciated background of this difference between craft and inspiration. What we call poetic language is language, whatever its specific form, in which we think we recognize a tilt toward the metalinguistic. Sometimes he would begin writing a poem and realize that it was really a painting and thus put aside the poem and take up the paint brush.
Some composed by pen and then transferred the poems to the computer and in that transferring editing took place. Though some Navajo poets I know have experimented with writing haiku poetry in Navajo and in English, Jim has been explicit about rejecting a connection between his short poems and haikus. Form and content were here intertwined see Webster, , I do this not to argue that Jim or I spoke in poetry that night, but rather to give a sense of the cadence, the rhythm of the conversation.
I will intersperse commentary that will clarify some of what Jim tells me. I have also discussed portions of this transcript in more detail elsewhere Webster, What I am after here is whether or not the puns precede the poem or if they come after the creation of the poem.
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Punning, after all, is one of the ways that Jim pushed English and Navajo. RLJ: You think of something tree then you think of the branches and that looks like broccoli then it goes to broccoli that looks like food you know how it starts connected, I think. RLJ: and that means going deep and within and once we do that we can surface anywhere and understand the heart of things that an example is the more and more Navajo I think I become the more and more genuinely Navajo I think I become. Here is part of what he tells me:.
RLJ: or speech but before that for me saad means sound sound that communicates [car goes by loudly] even if my eyes are closed the sound that just passed by tells me car went by. Sound in these poems is quite important. RLJ :okay so now do you, what needs to be done what does the poem suggest what does it say. AKW: Okay. Lot of time With these shorter poems come that way And some of them are really just sayings that my grandfather use to say [I have edited out some material here for issues of space] And so sometimes it comes out of what others have said.
Jim has translated and discussed both the poems he recited that night as well. A little bit later Jim follows up by stating:.
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This Wind is sent to the individual by deities such as Talking Gods and Calling Gods who are inner forms of the sacred mountains and who are themselves absolutely faultless. Allen Webster, a. AW: when you first started writing poetry that was because you were in school. My method of writing poetry is not such that I sit down somewhere and pick up a pen and write a poem. But poetry… several couplets [at a time], in an unconscious, very natural way from an ordinary incident, an ordinary feeling, come to me and I write them down—whether they come in my sleep, or at work, or on a bus.
The coming of a poem, the process of a poem, is very natural in my mind.
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Poetry either came from jinns or it comes from something internal, some emotion. At the beginning, a feeling reaches out to you […]. It can come from seeing an event, a poor person, a beggar, a photograph. Or for example it can be something in your mind, something that comes into your mind at one particular instant.
And this is transformed into a poem. And then when that moment is over and that feeling has ended, when you have turned to your normal state, you can look back at it and change some parts of it a little bit. Today I was walking around the house—my sister is pregnant and she was in pain. That was all it was. And the writing was done in notebooks or on a computer.
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After this flourish of inspiration and composition, poets often seek out feedback from friends or fellow poets Olszewska, What seems interesting here is that for some Navajo poets, while there is inspiration and creativity, they are not wholly autonomous or original. It is a refinding of what has been put down before. Miller outlines a particularly interesting theory of poetry and poetry composition.
Miller goes on to describe it in the following manner:. Poets describe this experience of responsive desire as an acoustic, aural agitation that is untranslatable in the language of humankind. This process varies among poets. As Miller describes:. The process of writing down verses that are first heard and imagined by the poet can vary considerably between individuals.