Odds and Ends (and a Poem)

June 19, 2007

Find below evidence of my growing web-savviness in the Regina Spektor live performance of “Samson” I found on YouTube:

The quality leaves a bit to be desired, but I opted for this bootleg over both the music video (which is ok) and the produced live version from a music festival in April. I found this more real somehow. Whatever that means. If you like the song, you can get it here.  

Also, DawgE will live! She is without parasites or any real health problems. She had some gland issues that needed to be flushed out. And I should tell you that I did not enjoy putting a headlock on the poor girl as the vet swabbed out her rectal cavity with two well-lubed fingers. The dirty look afterwards, however, was masterfully expressive. Who needs language when you have daggers like hers? Plus, I got shunned for a few hours afterwards. We’re good now, though, thanks to a treat and a long morning run.

That’s about all on the odds and ends front. As for today’s poem, it’s a piece from Yusef Komunyakaa’s Talking Dirty to the Gods. A brief bio on Komunyakaa can be found here. Though this is not the poem I wanted to post, it’s a strong piece worth the time to examine. The book is taut, and Komunyakaa imposes a systematic design to both the form and organization of the individual pieces within the collection. Each poem is four quatrains long, which adds a cohesion and a design befitting the abundance of gods, goddesses, and the geometry of nature the poems tackle. Here’s the bibliographic information:

Komunyakaa, Yusef. Talking Dirty to the Gods. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2000.

And here’s the piece:

Body of a Dog

(Cadavere di un Cane)

 

He’s chasing a hare.

In eleven or twelve countries

The philosophy of the hourglass

Has turned into weathered stone,

 

But he races the same sun

Through threadbare silhouettes.

If there were human prayers

Left, they wouldn’t reach him

 

In Vulcan’s dream come true.

Did he know when vicissitude

Eased over hills like mist or scent

Of a bitch? Given another month,

 

He would have made the boy

Into a very good master.

He’s treed his own ghost

In a nearby poppy field.   

With “Body of a Dog,” I think we’re being asked to confront our transitory existence on earth. Referring to the “philosophy of the hourglass,” “Vulcan’s dream” and closing with the surreal and vivid image of the dog in the “poppy field,” Komunyakaa uses the ethereal and lofty connotations in philosophy, dreams, and poppies to contrast against the penultimate sentence, which spans the end of the third stanza into the first line of the fourth and helps us realize more clearly the importance of the hourglass in the first stanza. If the dog were given that month, things would have been different. In essence, it’s potential unrealized. Time had run out for the dog (and the boy, too, in a different way), and as it is those plans are left unfulfilled. 

As always, there’s plenty more to say, but I will shut it here. Feel free to drop your own thoughts on the piece or question mine.    


A Glance at Jack Gilbert’s “A Stubborn Ode”

June 5, 2007

For those of you who are unfamiliar with Jack Gilbert, please take a look at the bio link in the previous post. For those of you who know about his work or just don’t care, read on!

For a few years now one of my favorite poets has been Pittsburgh’s own Jack Gilbert. According to his bio, he is currently living in Western Massachusetts, and his work reads, for me at least, as a sensitive yet tough-minded exposition on the realities of rust, decrepitude, and the sufferings of our day-to-day lives. Yet, a sense of grace and acceptance, a tenuous dignity, belies the heartache and very real sorrow that accompanies his speakers’ lives. Enough with the lead-in! Please note the bibliographic information and if you like this piece below, I bet you’ll want to get a copy of the collection for yourself.

Gilbert, Jack. The Great Fires: Poems 1982-1992. New York: Knopf, 1994.

Here’s the poem:

A Stubborn Ode

 

 

All of it. The sane woman under the bed with the rat

that is licking off the peanut butter she puts on her

front teeth for him. The beggars of Calcutta blinding

their children while somewhere people are rich

and eating with famous friends and having running water

in their fine houses. Michiko is buried in Kamakura.

The tired farmers thresh barley all day under the feet

of donkeys amid the merciless power of the sun.

The beautiful women grow old, our hearts moderate.

All of us wane, knowing things could have been different.

When Gordon was released from the madhouse, he could

not find Hayden to say goodbye. As he left past

Hall Eight, he saw the face in a basement window,

tears running down the cheeks. And I say, nevertheless.

  

The stubbornness here is the speaker’s refusal to succumb to the sorrow suggested by the “sane woman,” “the beggars,” and the “farmers,” yet, at line 6 Gilbert moves into his own biography to make more poignant and power the final sentence of the 14th line. Michiko was his wife, who had died from cancer, and Gilbert manages to include her passing (by mentioning her burial city) amongst the other injustices and sorrows that befall the living. Here, then, Gilbert’s speaker is associating himself with the survivors, with those who are “waning.” And in doing so, the poem seems to suggest that, despite the “blinding,” “the power of the sun,” and seperation of friends, the speaker will accept it all without qualification, explanation, or complaint.

 

There’s a lot more to say, especially about form here, but I’d rather stop now, and let the piece work itself into your mind and heart. Feel free to use the comment feature to open a dialogue about this piece, what you like, don’t like, don’t get, or where I’ve misread in my scant gloss above.