I found this article originally printed in the now defunct Numero Cinq to be a satisfying read, its relevance to the issues of the day a reminder of a long stretch of history holding little originality with regards to conflict resolution.
While the author’s own poem did not resonate with me the same as the poems he analyzes so well, he acknowledges that would be a tall order to fill. My main ache after it being that I didn’t feel I knew the elderly woman he elegizes much more by the end of the poem. Though maybe that was the situation he was aiming to illustrate – these are the vestiges with which we were left – and would align with other discussions of the artists often unacknowledged in their lifetimes as pointed out on the site. How much does recognition matter, once the work of living one’s life has been written? And I agree with the strategy to apply the impersonal narrative voice in avoiding sentimentality, which is rarely palatable. Still, it strikes me as pompous, this presumption that her life would appear to matter less, and that he has been so kind as to honor her through a lens that sees “Accumulated junk as sad old maids/ Hive against a cold retirement.” And how do we even know she was sad? Because her eventual line of work was in filing these papers, and he I suppose one of the composers, the writers of said papers? I can hear her rolling in her grave laughing at naive mortal delusions of self-importance. I guess I wanted a glimmer of what mattered to her peeking out here.
Still, the article allows for a celebration of poetry and the power of a chosen word, in a world where the word can so easily be used to manipulate and obfuscate. Do some ideas require this room in order to enlist the active participation of the reader, whose eyes and ears will inform her reading of the work? Yet within this celebration is a sobering, as this also carries the pain of the poet’s final product having been misappropriated for violence, and is this just a necessary condition for that ambiguity which appears to allow for a more accurate rendition of beauty, of truth? (And when a word is too cliche or at least too ubiquitous to carry the potential weight of meaning, can we not find a way to write around it? Are all words feather light at their core, or are details the grounding force that we crave when we’ve whirled around in the sky of abstract ideas for what feels like too long?) Can we really bring ourselves to sacrifice art for clarity?
The stare in this case seeming for me both a stare (eyes wide open, a fixed or vacant look), a stair (set of steps), a starling (an old world songbird), a vowel in motion or flickering in and out, a medium which is both missing and present, as it exists too in its absence, like a little fiction I wrote long ago, with shapes cut out of a piece of paper. And that is one way that I like to present my stories, by drawing attention to the element which I subtract from the telling, so that the story becomes about the space between words, more than the words themselves. This offers the reader further freedom to move within the world that is being offered, and to insert her own experience into the narrative.