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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always engaged in revision

29 01 2008

[HIS LIFE WAS THE PRACTICE]

 

His   life   was    the    practice   of   forming   a   single

sentence  which,  as   he  grew    older,  he   tried   to

simplify,   reduce  its  compound-complex  structure

into one statement ruled by the  separate, inviolate

pronoun within which he attempted  to live,  always

engaged in revision and the act of becoming;  as the

distilled   statement   gradually   became  a   fleeting

inquiry, a mild interrogative, which he repeated and

refined,   making  it  increasingly  concise, almost, at

his  conclusion,  producing no  more  than  a  distinct

sound,  not  quite a word, less than a  cry,  which his

death  erased  leaving  the question mark hanging in

the   air,   like  a  broken  halo,  emblem  of  his  birth,

evolution and release: a full life.

STEPHEN DOBYNS

 

You can read another of Stephen Dobyns’ poems, Yellow Beak, here (recommended!): http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/16845

 

He is a poet and an author, including the detective stories featuring Charlie Bradshaw, each title of which has Saratoga as the first word.

 

Here’s 2 somethings from The Porcupine’s Kisses:

 

Look at this dark night: no stars, no moon. Look at this crowd of

people. Do you know one better than the other?

 

It isn’t yours until you can stand to see it break.

 

The Porcupine’s Kisses (Poets, Penguin)

 

His book of essays on poetry, Best Words, Best Order: Essays on Poetry, looks like a good way to pull myself further into this new world of the poem that I have started to enter. Here’s a bit more about Dobyns, from the Amazon.com review:

 

Dobyns, the author of eight volumes of poetry (and 17 novels), believes, like Baudelaire, that “each poem … has an optimum number of words [and] an optimum number of pieces of information … and to go over or under even by one word weakens the whole.” Poetry, he says, belongs to the reader, not the writer, and as readers, “at the close of the poem, we must not only feel that our expectations have been met but that our lives have been increased, if only to a small degree.” And, if that’s not challenge enough for the writer, add to it “that the conclusion of a given piece must appear both inevitable and surprising.”

Best Words, Best Order, 2nd Edition: Essays on Poetry

 

I’d add that a good story always seems that way — inevitable and surprising, just like a good life. Surprising at the time, but in hindsight, how could it have gone any other way?