Cartography

One of my cowork­ers is a poet. Last week we assigned each oth­er an assign­ment: to write a poem to be work­shopped by the assign­er on Mon­day. My assign­ment was to “write a mus­cu­lar poem about mas­culin­i­ty.”

Car­tog­ra­phy

A man is an old map
chart­ed in sharp lines and lies;
where north is up and west is left
where puff-cheeked faces blow and fume
where grim Atlas crouch­es at the bot­tom;
bear­ing up his leg­end — the half-truth map
where moun­tains have no height
where water is not wet
and past its paper edges
there be mon­sters.


What fol­lows is the text of the email I sent to her about what I was aim­ing for with this poem.

what i’m going for is to show that mas­culin­i­ty is not a com­plete defin­ing con­cept for a man. like, a man is a three dimen­sion­al thing, but mas­culin­i­ty is only two dimen­sion­al. thus, the earth is three dimen­sion­al, but a map is only a two dimen­sion­al rep­re­sen­ta­tion of it and there­fore incom­plete. i also want­ed a feel­ing of impla­ca­bil­i­ty and tur­moil and maybe even a dash of deter­mi­na­tion. i was also think­ing about how dan­ger­ous it can be to be male and live try­ing to be ‘mas­cu­line’ only. to not give the oth­er dimen­sion of being a chance to assert itself. i guess this could be called the ‘fem­i­nine’ side, but i think fem­i­nin­i­ty holds the same dan­ger. mas­cu­line and fem­i­nine are just roles that peo­ple play, but we’re all just peo­ple in my mind.

i don’t know if this is ‘mus­cu­lar’ or not, since i’ve only heard that used in your mouth, but i tried for my own feel­ing of solid­i­ty.

Feel more than free to work­shop or com­ment on this as much as pos­si­ble. And give me your own assign­ments if you want. I feel that, at this stage, I write bet­ter when I’ve been assigned some­thing.

v.2

Car­tog­ra­phy

A Man is like an old map chart­ed
in sharp lines; a plot­ted thing —
where north is up and west is left
where puff-cheek faces blow and fume
where Atlas bears his leg­end — a land
where moun­tains have no height
where water is not wet
and past its paper edges
there be mon­sters.