Dan Harder
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Zipper Poetry...

   Evocative as metaphors can be, they are not the most syncopated way of pairing odd conceptual couples.  
    “The artist is a dog,” is a fine modern metaphor. 
    It works, principally, because the arrow of conceptual expectation (“The artist is...”) hits an UNexpected target (“...a dog.”).  It kinda makes you laugh (the intrinsic joy of experiencing the benign surprise) and then makes you wonder why the arrow was shot in that particular and odd direction.  Almost processional is the experience.  One marches from a subject down the (usually) straight line of grammar to a quirky complement.  Down the aisle we go full of expectation only to find a shocking, intriguing substitute waiting for us at the altar.  There is a beginning and an end, an idea and its provocative Redefinition.  The melody goes crazy but the rhythm is fairly dull. 
    Take, however...

    “The artist
             The dog...”
     for a different example.
    One is not the complement of the other; they are equal and not only can go anywhere but can be taken anywhere by the conceptual/syntactical antics of the other.  Talk about the UNexpected.  The sounds AND the concepts swing and the rhythm (syntactical) is everything (almost).  The magic is in the association of sustainably intriguing notions.  And the game for me has been to create poems that will bounce between two independent units and in their syntactical dance, create a whole new whole. 
   It was this rhythmic and conceptual experimentation that led, twenty some years ago, to the creation of the zipper poem – a poem in which two independently coherent lines of poetry are zipped, horizontally, together and, by the associational wizardry of the manipulated (or unexpectedly discovered) juxtapositions, a third poem, greater than the sum of its parts, is born. 


An Example...

                        Out of Place

Claws retracted, breath
inadequate for this
unaccustomed heat — 
                               to see such danger
fully coated with a useless fur,
                               out of place —
a full grown leopard,
                               a knife hilted in sand,
the kind one finds in Himalayan snows,
                               a letter torn and scattered on the floor, or a metaphor
paces back and forth in a narrow cage
                               of corporal power on a quiet page,
watching me
                               like Blake's tyger,
watching him
                               and the only one he’d ever really seen,
                               jungled in a zoo.


d. harder, copyright 2005


I have, as well, created an entire libretto for the opera, “Zipperez” (music by Nat Stookey) that premiered with the Oakland East Bay Symphony on November 14, 2008.  Information about that can be seen at the symphony.   Reviews can be linked below:




If you are intrigued and would like to see how an entire story can be told in a series of zipper poems, take a look at my book Askew – Found and Lost in the Almost South of France (Pince Nez Press, 2007).




Askew can be ordered through Amazon.  Click on the "Buy" link and it will take you directly to Amazon.


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