Thursday, October 4, 2007

Utopian Poetry

After a couple of weeks of missing the caravan in the Traveling Poetry Show, I've finally been able to catch up. Here's my interpretation of this week's prompt -- Utopia. By the way, the story that this poem refers to is Ursula Le Guin's story "The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas." If you haven't read it, you should go. Right now.

Topos

I faced them, white board behind me,
blank unsmiling faces starting at me.

Only half had read the story:
an emaciated child, imprisoned in a basement

so that everyone else could live
in blind hedonistic bliss. The language

was difficult, predicates and modifiers
constructed in too tall towers. They gave up

by the end of the first page. I drew a line
on the board, wrote UTOPIA on one side

DYSTOPIA on the other. I asked them,
what does a perfect world look like to you?

The told me: no school, no worries,
money whenever we need it, no responsibilities

no jobs, no nagging parents, teachers or wives, no
children to feed.
Their answers spun around me,

no, no, no. They slashed the ties that bound
their bodies to their heavy, weighted lives,

lives of waiting and listening and not doing. So,
I asked, how could this go wrong?

At first they were quiet, unable to imagine
how these limitless lives they just constructed

could topple. We wouldn't know anything,
we couldn't have anything, we'd get bored.


I imagined them drifting, experience to experience
like slowly deflating balloons, imagined

these driftless, half empty lives they try
to escape. I brought them back to the surface,

the root of the words, from the Greek:
topos means place. Dys means bad --

ruined utopias are bad places. U means
not, topos means place. Utopias

are not places, not realities
we can imagine existing, even for a while.

7 Comments:

Marie said...

You have such a way with words...even before you used the balloon metaphor, I could feel them lifting their heaviness and thought of a balloon. You're good!

How do you find all these interesting books and people! I LOVE poetry and I never seem to find any cool books...our libraries and bookstores have the same poetry books they've had for years! And of course, those are the regular, known ones...

wendy said...

Such a good twist on the theme.

A very strong moment in time feel,
this leaves me with a memory of a moment not my own.

very well done.

sbpoet said...

I was lucky enough to do a workshop with Ursula LeGuin -- as wonderful a person as she is a writer. She would be pleased, I think, with this.

...deb said...

I haven't read the referenced book, and will sometime. She had been a favorite author during a certain time, and we are both Oregonians, after all :)

I liked your work with words, the title, how you show the differences in topias both concretely and abstractly.

liz elayne said...

fantastic. i wish i had been there. and reading this gives me the gift of feeling like i was...

i am a fan of le guin (am reading one of her books of poetry right now) and will check out this story...

Jo said...

I haven't read it either but I have read this and as usual am mightily impressed. This has a wonderful flow and an important message. My favourite lines:

I imagined them drifting, experience to experience
like slowly deflating balloons, imagined

these driftless, half empty lives they try
to escape. I brought them back to the surface

Well done.

Jaime said...

I look forward to the day when I can say I knew you when. :)