The De Gaulle School of Poetry
by Doug Lain
Doug Lain (DL) created the DG School of poetry (as it is known) in response to an assignment from the University of Iowa creative writing program. The exact motivation for this poetic form is not known, but some think it came from the spring-scented Paris DL savored in April 2005 - given that the primary rule of the DG School is that each poem must be in the shape of the nose of Charles De Gaulle.
of Light every-
one knows.Les fleurs.
purple petunias,pink roses
that – to fully appreciate one
must use one’s nose. Twisted
sculptures near eglise St. Germain,
red-black, black-yellow, green, bright.
In the US they would say “What a sight.”
Grand boulevards form stars with a place as
the hub and in Café de Flore other stars-Deneuve,
Binoche, S. Marceau, and Auteuil-with elbows to rub.
The statues (how many I know no one knows), seemingly
scattered all over (but really placed very precisely), with their
accompanying flower pots aligned ever so nicely. And the ponts!
bridging banks left and right, make magic the Seine - with spotlights,
uniquely the night. Golden-topped bridge Alexander-the-third extends,
then divides the petit and grand palaces, where France has constructed its
largest of phalluses. A statue of one of Allemange’s greatest foes, Charles
de Gaulle (a true hero of France), and more momentous, his nose. J’adore
all of Paris except! the waiters! perhaps natural foes - when the check is
requested their yeses mean noes. One other small problem that could
be my bane. In Paris, sometimes it’s sunny, but often, it rains.
The School’s second rule is consistent with this theory: that rule of course being the well-known “noses in lots of sentences” regulation. This says that the word “nose” or a word that sounds like nose, must be inserted, integrated, positioned, into the poem-every so often. “Every so often”, DL hoped, would allow for a more OPEN FORM.
The integration of these words goes beyond PERFECT RHYME, as DL understood it, because not only must the vowels rhyme, but the “N” sound must begin each word: nose, knows, nose……dive, but not hose, pose, etc.
Some have criticized the DG school’s third regulation that relaxes the rules of punctuation, allowing a space(s) or no space(s) after commas and periods, as needed to maintain the poem’s form. DL felt that this was “a small price to pay” to maintain the form so important to the genre
In contrast to the leniency of rule three is the strict principle (rule four) that a word cannot be split apart, halved, or otherwise changed (ie; “Said” cannot become “Sd”), in order to maintain the poem’s form. The poet just has to come up with another word, no discussion (after all that’s where the WORK of the poem comes in.)
Per the writing course instructor’s instructions, the above rules were devised before DL manufactured the first DG school poem. As FATE would have it however, DL had failed to read the directions for assignment # 2 in toto, and had left out Charles Olson’s seminal essay about projective verse. After DL digested the essay he suggested other precepts as guides for the novice poet of the DG school.
DL agreed with Olsen that a poem’s BREATH was of utmost importance – especially in a DG poem – so as the poet writes, he should BREATHE THROUGH HIS NOSE. DL has found that, particularly toward the end of a DG poem, when the poem has more BREADTH, a poet can add BREATH, by nose breathing.
DL then contemplated Olsen’s statements on COMPOSITION BY FIELD. He understood right away what Olsen had in mind, but wasn’t sure that it was the correct approach for a DG poem. Granted, spacing nostrils into the nose might add interest, but would it truly – like nose breathing -give the poem more BREATH? DL didn’t know, but found, after a short period of experimentation, the time had not come-technically speaking-for adding poetic nares. So they are out.
In 1950 Olsen found the typewriter to be a creative instrument that let a poet do all kinds of things with his poem. Olson said the poet could “progress forward” both the “meaning” and “breathing” of lines of poetry, “without a progress or any kind of movement outside the unit of time local to the idea.” DL thought (but was never sure) that by this Olson meant the poet could convey the sense of motion just by moving the LINES - the WORDS wouldn’t even have to mention movement.
DL saw his point and agreed that the example Olson gave induced in the reader the sensation of progression and regression. The typewriter business also suggested to DL that the DG school might benefit from the technology of 2005. Although still in the idea stage, at least one advocate of the DG school is contemplating software capable of converting ANY POEM into the shape of De Gaulle’s nose. DL says that this would further Olson’s wish to OBJECTIFY poetry – don’t write about your feelings, focus on OBJECTS, instead. DL’s hope is that nose-shaping poems, will FREE the poet from being chained to objects, because the poem itself will be the object. This will allow the poet to get back to what it was all about in the first place, which - to quote Raymond Carver who quotes so and so – is that writing is about man and woman.
“Which gets us to”the shape of things to come, to the future, what’s going to be. Briefly put, DL knows De Gaulle’s nose-shaped verse will grow. And he is unconcerned about competition from the more recent BH school of poetry, although he admits that, at least in America, Bob Hope is better known than the General.