Monday, February 12

Putting the poetry back in poetic feet

Here's a new slam poem because there's got to be a new slam coming up soon here. Let me know what you think. (On a scale of 1-10 preferably.)
I'll put a little commentary in the comments.



A poem for Red Smith

The great sportswriter Red Smith once said, “Writing is easy. You just open a vein and bleed.”
This is a poem for Red.

“Somebody may beat me, but they’re going to have to bleed to do it.”
Pre said that.
Pre said that.
Steve Prefontaine said that.
Skinny kid from Coos Bay, Oregon.
I used to get winded just saying his name.
Steve Prefontaine.
Runs like a maniac.
Runs like a work of art.
Runs like the will of God
If God would will a man
To leave all doubt of victory behind.
Somebody may beat me, but they’re going to have to bleed to do it.
Somebody may beat me, but they’re going to have to bleed to do it.
Damn it.
I want to be that somebody.
I want to bleed.
Do you want my blood?
Do you want my blood Steve?
I’ve got blood to give.
I’ve got heart.
I’ve got desire.
I’ve got passion.
What do I think about when I’m running?
You mean
What do I think about when I’m training?
I think about nothing.
Nothingness.
Emptiness.
Heart beating fast,
Spitting up blood on the track
Until I’ve got nothing left to spit
And then I dig deeper.
Because I’ve got blood to give.
I’ve got a life to live.
I’ve got a race to run.
Yeah, I know
The sun is going to shine
It always shines for Steve.
Parts the clouds at Heyward Field
Steve’s amazing.
Steve’s special.
And I?
I’m just a nobody
With a dream
And an imagination.
But listen.
You want my blood.
You want my blood Steve?
I want to give it to you.
I want to give you the race of your life.
An I know I’m going to have to bleed to do it.
You better believe I’m going to bleed.
I’m going to bleed for a reason.
I’m going to bleed for a dream.
I’m going to run until I can’t walk.
I’m going to run until I can’t stand.
I’m going to run until I can’t stand myself.
I can’t stop when the sun goes down.
I can’t stop when I’m tired.
I can’t stop if I can find a way to keep going.
I can’t stop.
I can’t stop.
I can’t stop.
I can’t stop.
Because nothing good ever comes easy.

8 Comments:

Blogger ocho said...

Just because I use the word I, this isn't really autobiographical.
It's more about writing than it is about running.

And the line about spitting up blood makes me personally uncomfortable, but it seems to fit with the poem.

But I always think it's good when I can quote a Samuel L. Jackson character. You know the movie I'm talking about?

February 12, 2007 9:18 AM  
Blogger veintiuno said...

I don't know. This poem doesn't really do it for me. Maybe if I imagine it better.

Are running and writing really that similar, anyway? If they are, are you running to someone or away from them, or are the words the runners, sometimes going from place to place, sometimes just going on a loop trail?

February 12, 2007 4:40 PM  
Blogger ocho said...

Yeah, I'm torn.
I read it today and I didn't like it as much as I did yesterday.
I don't know.
A lot of people who have read it though liked it and I'm just not sure what to think. Maybe it just needs more work.
On whether or not running and writing are similar, I think that of course there are similarities and differences. But one are of sameness, I think, is that you can approach it as a craft. And if you work hard, you can get better to some degree. At least, that's my experience.
There's also the matter of talent - some have it some just don't. But then talent is also to an extent, the ability to enjoy hard work in a given area.

February 12, 2007 6:00 PM  
Blogger veintiuno said...

The parts I like are the bleeding parts. Bleeding for your art. Bleeding in the craft. They resonate more somehow.

February 12, 2007 9:57 PM  
Blogger ocho said...

Hmm. So what parts don't resonate?
I was thinking about how you said you don't like speedwork and I was wondering if that was part of it.

But I was also coming down to type how I see running and writing as similar in that I'm not running away from or to anyone like I'm not writing for anyone in particular so much as writing for the joy of writing.

But maybe that's not the right phrase. Not writing for the joy of writing but writing for the pure act of writing itself.

Writing and revising because I have to write like some people have to run.

Kind of like that quote I've referenced before - I don't run to add days to my life, but to add life to my days. It's the same with writing. Writing may not make me live longer, but it may make my life more interesting, more imaginative and creative.

February 12, 2007 10:12 PM  
Blogger ocho said...

I'm cutting and pasting a comment here to help add to the conversation. And perhaps I'm going to try and figure out why this didn't get posted here initially.




middleclasstool said...

I can't log in to comment on your blog for some reason, so I'll put it here. Such as it is, anyway -- I don't know much about poetry and can't articulate as well as I'd like.

To wit: though I think it works fairly well as a whole, there's something about it that doesn't. How's that for commentary?

I think it's something in the interplay between the lines about Prefontaine and the lines about the narrator bleeding. Even though that quote of his is what ties the two together, there's something in the way that dynamic comes out in the poem that doesn't seem to hook them as tightly together as I instinctively feel it should. I don't know, maybe it's that there's too much emphasis on Prefontaine, too much hero worship there, but I'm not sure that's quite right, either.

That said, like veintiuno, I do like the stuff about bleeding. The metaphor works very well with both writing and running. I especially like the sections about what the narrator thinks when (s)he runs:

What do I think about when I’m running?
You mean
What do I think about when I’m training?
I think about nothing.
Nothingness.
Emptiness.
Heart beating fast,
Spitting up blood on the track
Until I’ve got nothing left to spit
And then I dig deeper.
Because I’ve got blood to give.
I’ve got a life to live.
I’ve got a race to run.


That resonated quite a bit with me, because that nothingness is something I also go through with running and writing, something I both love and fear. Even if I've got headphones on to distract me, that nothingness always appears. That's my favorite part of the poem, I think.

You're right, "spitting up blood" is a bit graphic, but I also think it's both useful and true. I'm going back and forth on that.

The repetition at the end also works very well, I think:

I’m going to bleed for a reason.
I’m going to bleed for a dream.
I’m going to run until I can’t walk.
I’m going to run until I can’t stand.
I’m going to run until I can’t stand myself.
I can’t stop when the sun goes down.
I can’t stop when I’m tired.
I can’t stop if I can find a way to keep going.
I can’t stop.
I can’t stop.
I can’t stop.
I can’t stop.
Because nothing good ever comes easy.


It evokes the sensation of running to me. As I read those lines, I found myself counting off my steps in my head, the way I do when it's getting rough and I need to start regulating my breathing better. I keep a sort of unconscious litany in my head to keep me going through those moments that feels very much like this section reads. So that's a keeper, definitely.

I just reread it after writing all this bumf, and I like it better than I did the last couple of readings. The dynamic between "Pre" and the narrator works a little better this go-round. On the whole, I give it a seven. It's got a good beat, and I can dance to it.

8:23 AM

February 13, 2007 8:49 AM  
Blogger Lauryl said...

I am anxiously awaiting your performance of this poem. I am not much of a critic, unless I am reading and inking up high school kids' writing. However, you are a proficient and professional writer,and I do not feel comfortable telling you what to and what not to write.

February 17, 2007 5:01 PM  
Blogger ocho said...

Lauryl - thanks for the comment. However, slam judges are randomly selected from the audience. They don't know much about writing. Just what they like.
And boom, they hand out scores from 0-10.
And sometimes, who knows why, I don't get the highest scores.
You're welcome to dish out any criticism you liek.

February 17, 2007 6:12 PM  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home