raccoon cadaver of colored crayon

3 02 2008

the poet (at his wurst?) as sausage maker …”supplying the pig snouts and rectal tissue of language / which the critic encloses in a thin membrane of explication.”

 

Here’s another Stephen Dobyns poem (see always engaged in revision), found here (where they will read it for you)

Can Poetry Matter?

Heart feels the time has come to compose lyric poetry.

No more storytelling for him. Oh, Moon, Heart writes,

sad wafer of the heart’s distress. And then: Oh, Moon,

bright cracker of the heart’s pleasure. Which is it,

is the moon happy or sad, cracker or wafer? He looks

from the window but the night is overcast. Oh, Cloud,

he writes, moody veil of the Moon’s distress. And then,

Oh, Cloud, sweet scarf of the Moon’s repose. Once more

Heart asks, Are clouds kindly or a bother, is the moon sad

or at rest? He calls scientists who tell him that the moon

is a dead piece of rock. He calls astrologers. One says

the moon means water. Another that it signifies oblivion.

The girl next door says the Moon means love. The nut

up the block says it proves that Satan has us under his thumb.

Heart goes back to his notebooks. Oh, Moon, he writes,

confusing orb meaning one thing or another. Heart feels

that his words lack conviction. Then he hits on a solution.

Oh, Moon, immense hyena of introverted motorboat.

Oh, Moon, upside down lamppost of barbershop quartet.

Heart takes his lines to a critic who tells him that the poet

is recounting a time as a toddler when he saw his father

kissing the baby-sitter at the family’s cottage on a lake.

Obviously, the poem explains the poet’s fear of water.

Heart is ecstatic. He rushes home to continue writing.

Oh, Cloud, raccoon cadaver of colored crayon, angel spittle

recast as foggy euphoria. Heart is swept up by the passion

of composition. Freed from the responsibility of content,

no nuance of nonsense can be denied him. Soon his poems

appear everywhere, while the critic writes essays elucidating

Heart’s meaning. Jointly they form a sausage factory of poetry:

Heart supplying the pig snouts and rectal tissue of language

which the critic encloses in a thin membrane of explication.

Lyric poetry means teamwork, thinks Heart: a hog farm,

corn field, and two old dobbins pulling a buckboard of song.

 

Pallbearers Envying The One Who Rides

 (Penguin, 1999)

 

 I love his struggle —

Which is it,

is the moon happy or sad, cracker or wafer? He looks

from the window but the night is overcast. Oh, Cloud,

he writes, moody veil of the Moon’s distress. And then,

Oh, Cloud, sweet scarf of the Moon’s repose. Once more

Heart asks, Are clouds kindly or a bother, is the moon sad

or at rest?

 

Excellent… Sometimes poetry can go for the technicolor image instead of the truthful one, the meaningless but evocative metaphor rather than true meaning. Of course, there are many other points in this poem, but, after all, you could truly say that I am enclosing another’s post and another’s poem in a thin membrane (oh so thin) of explication myself. Perhaps the thinner the better.

 

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TO A RED-HAIRED BEGGAR GIRL

24 01 2008

     

    Baudelaire, a French poet who lived and died in the 1800’s, is one who deserves his reputation for being a bad influence. Some of his poems are sensual, others are lusty, perverse, abusive or disgusting — many were suppressed during his life.  A selection of his first lines from the end of the wonderful little book of his poems I have here illustrates the range — to read them (and the poems themselves) is to feel a bit shaken (My wife is dead, so now I’m free) unclean (I spent the night with a gruesome Jewish whore), intrigued (My darling was naked, or nearly, for knowing my heart..), or desiring (Long let me inhale, deeply, the odor of your hair). Odor, scent, and the power of smell have force in his poetry, and I have at least one more poem to share from this book, but for now, I’ll just place this poem here, almost juvenile in its sexiness — one of the more innocent of his poems in this excellent translation, but an evocative poem for this evening.

    A few notes first:

    strophes – these are pairs of stanzas – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strophes

    Belleau – a poet of 1500’s, the French Renaissance. ” most known for his paradoxical poems of praise for simple things and his poems about precious stones. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Remy_Belleau

    Patchouli is an essential ingredient in many perfumes, it has a strong heavy odor.

     

    TO A RED-HAIRED BEGGAR GIRL

     

    Gaping tatters in each garment prove

    your calling is not only beggary

    but beauty as well,

     

    and to a poet equally ‘reduced,’

    the frail and freckled body you display

    makes its own appeal —

     

    queens in velvet buskins take the stage

    less regally than you wade through the mud

    on your wooden clogs.

     

    What if, instead of these indecent rags,

    the splendid train of a brocaded gown

    rustled at your heels,

     

    and rather than town stockings, just suppose

    curious glances sliding up your thigh

    met with a gold dirk!

     

    And then if, for our sins, those flimsy knots

    released two perfect little breasts that shine

    brighter than your eyes,

     

    and your own arms consented to reveal

    the rest, though archly feigning to fend off

    hands that go too far . . .

     

    Strands of pearls and strophes by Belleau

    arriving — imagine! — endless streams

    ‘from an admirer’;

     

    riffraff — talented and otherwise —

    offering tributes to the slippered feet

    glimpsed from below stairs;

     

    gentlemen sending flunkeys to find out

    who owns the carriage always told to ‘wait’

    at your smart address

     

    where in the boudoir, kisses count for more

    than quarterings, although the cast includes

    a Bourbon or two!

     

    — Meanwhile, here you are, begging scraps

    doled out by the local table d’hôte

    at the kitchen door

     

    and scavenging discarded finery

    worth forty sous, a price which (pardon me!)

    I cannot afford . . .

     

    Go, then, my Beauty, with nor ornament

    — patchouli or pearl chocker — but your own

    starveling nakedness!

     

    Charles Baudelaire

    Les Fleurs Du Mal

    translated by Richard Howard.

    Baudelaire: Poems (Everyman’s Library Pocket Poets)





through rooms where dust is a deepening skin

23 01 2008

I’m learning to read poetry by typing it in so I notice every word just a bit more. I read too fast for poems. Maybe I type too fast for them, also, but typing, at least is slower.

GETTING THROUGH

Like a car stuck in gear,

a chicken too stupid to tell

its head is gone,

or sound ratcheting on

long after the film

has jumped the reel,

or a phone

ringing and ringing

in the house

they have all moved away from,

through rooms where dust

is a deepening skin,

and the locks unneeded,

so I go on loving you,

my heart blundering on,

a muscle spilling out

what is no longer wanted

and my words hurtling past,

like a train off its track,

toward a boarded-up station,

closed for years,

like some last speaker

of a beautiful language

no one else can hear

DEBORAH POPE

The Poetry Anthology, 1912-2002,

The Poetry Anthology, 1912-2002

1994-1995

p. 416