Location: St. Vincent & Grenadines

You were driving home in the dark on one glass-slippered heel, window sliced open and bathing in the snowliquor of the night air. We heard you singing, and couldn't bear to wake you.

23 September 2006

Asphodel, that greeny flower.

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.

-- Stephen Dobyns


Anonymous Frederika said...

"In the beginning, there was the word, and the word was God."

Nothing much has changed since then. That article ignores the fringes of poetry, the rappers and the musicians and the zine-makers. And the people who write poems meant to be read by only one person. They all matter, too. Poetry is not only people who publish poems in books and magazines. I think that article is really stupid - no offense to you for making a link to it. It just seems like it's based on a culturally biased definition of poetry that is outdated and uncool and lame.

8:05 PM  
Blogger Felix Helix said...

Oh, I agree with you. The author of the article, Dana Gioia, is just about the only self-professed Republican poet in existence, which is probably why Bush appointed him to chair the National Endowment for the Arts. The poem by Stephen Dobyns is a response to Gioia's article. I think it's hilarious.

Can poetry matter? What a stupid question. Beyond oxygen, food, water, shelter and sleep, what matters is totally subjective. Poetry matters to me, and organized sports not a whit. The relative popularity of those two enterprises strikes me as a bit out of whack, but hey -- whatever turns your crank, dudes and dudettes.

9:48 PM  
Anonymous Fred said...

Good! I was really hoping that was what you meant:)

11:52 AM  

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