I was going through some boxes of my old writing and came across The Tunnel: Selected Poems by Russell Edson. I had been searching off and on for the book. Like Charles Simic and Stevie Smith, Edson had and continues to have a huge influence on my poetry. I don’t usually write prose poems, but I follow a strange Muse similar to the one that whispered in Edson’s ear. Here’s one of his poems, posted on his Poetry Foundation page:
The turtle carries his house on his back. He is both the house and the person of that house.
But actually, under the shell is a little room where the true turtle, wearing long underwear, sits at a little table. At one end of the room a series of levers sticks out of slots in the floor, like the controls of a steam shovel. It is with these that the turtle controls the legs of his house.
Most of the time the turtle sits under the sloping ceiling of his turtle room reading catalogues at the little table where a candle burns. He leans on one elbow, and then the other. He crosses one leg, and then the other. Finally he yawns and buries his head in his arms and sleeps.
If he feels a child picking up his house he quickly douses the candle and runs to the control levers and activates the legs of his house and tries to escape.
If he cannot escape he retracts the legs and withdraws the so-called head and waits. He knows that children are careless, and that there will come a time when he will be free to move his house to some secluded place, where he will relight his candle, take out his catalogues and read until at last he yawns. Then he’ll bury his head in his arms and sleep….That is, until another child picks up his house….
I love how Edson create his a little world in this poem, replete with its own logic. I’d like to think I do something similar in my poems. I also agree with what Edson says about the creative process:
My job as a writer is mainly to edit the creative rush. The dream brain is the creative engine… I sit down to write with a blank page and a blank mind. Wherever the organ of reality (the brain) wants to go I follow with the blue-pencil of consciousness.
To end, here’s an odd little poem that came to yesterday while my children cavorted in the pool:
Creepy Peter Licks His Last Cloud
“Listen,” the cloud said, “we’ve all
had a meeting and decided the licking
has to stop. No hard feelings, okay?”
Creepy Peter shot out his sensitive,
nib of a tongue and muttered mea culpa,
but the cloud wasn’t having that.
“Okay, actually, we’re in the mood
for a sacrifice,” the cloud declared.
Behind it, the other clouds grinned.
Creepy Peter deflated himself and made
for the farthest coast—somewhere near
Purgatory—and licked lazy flies instead.
2 thoughts on “Russell Edson and the Blue-Pencil of Consciousness”
Love a new poet to get into. Kind of reminds me of Roethke. Although, Edson obviously writes to the beat of his own drum.
He most certainly does.
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