Theatrum Mendacia

September 25, 2011

That title, it’s terrible. It sounds like
something a pumpkin head would shout
to scare the little kids at Halloween.
Or like the goat is being castrated again.

(Or it could be the stage where I steal
the shadow from the sunlight,
or the re-sounding of all

the sunlight’s gifts, until, in the current eye’s
current orderings, they become the stage
where I am either re-breathing the soft night air,

or the stink of the night soil once used to breed
life for us.) So the curtain wall is closed
yet again, eh, Mr. Pumpkinhead?

(In the Theatrum Mendacia,
you get my blood
for every show of hands, every moment, sir…
and every apple left by every Eve
and every rib left by Adam is left)…
either as applesauce and/ or as applause.



4 Responses to “Theatrum Mendacia”

  1. extrasimile Says:

    Thomas, as both you and John perceive, the announced dishonesty isn’t somehow ‘fair’, is it?—somehow dishonest itself. Suddenly we’re not talking poetry we’re talking…what, ethics? An ethics of poetry? Even the title (which I just looked up via Google’s Latin translator, as I recall), which might be more pretentious than dishonest, seems intent on sending us off on a false scent. Why would I want to complicate things here?
    Yet it seems a reasonable thing to say of a…if not a poem, than of a poet…or, if not a poet, than a person…that he/ she is dishonest. And writing poetry does necessitate a full strength conscious effort as well as a serious investigation into your peripheral consciousness(es). Can you do this dishonestly? You make a good point by pointing to the writing process—one thinks of Shakespeare creating Shylock—as a mitigating factor. That thicket of meanings that are both a part of us and outside our control has to be an actor on this stage—but it a stage where, if there is truth to be found there has to be lies as well.
    Perhaps I am simply trying to see something about myself here. Some of this stuff I’m writing is pretty alien, disturbing. Perhaps I’d prefer it if it wasn’t the result of honest thought, honest effort. I don’t know.

  2. Thomas Davis Says:

    This is a clever poem, I think, but I don’t see the dishonesty, except maybe in the title. The problem with writing a dishonest poem is that you have to write it, and the writing gets in the way, getting all tangled up in what you are trying to do while, at the same time, escaping off on its own into a thicket of meanings that are neither truly honest or dishonest, but are. Like most of your poems there is enough serious complexity and metaphors in here to send any honest reader running, but the work to figure something out is worth the effort, I think. ” the stage where I steal
    the shadow from the sunlight” is not only a brilliant line, but it seems to be the heart of the poem. “you get my blood
    for every show of hands, every moment, sir…
    and every apple left by every Eve
    and every rib left by Adam is left” Or, if you steal shadow from sunlight, as we humans are wont to do, you get blood, the life of us, the network of veins and capillaries, every moment of sin (apple) and creation (Adam’s rib). And all of this leads to applesauce or applause. Applause. If I keep reading this blog I’ll probably turn into a critic and forget how to write poetry.

  3. extrasimile Says:

    It’s fortunate, I guess, that no one has asked me to specify just what is so dishonest about this poem. Perhaps it seems like asking that Cretan who thought all Cretan’s are liars how he actually knows this. I mean, has he actually checked each and every Cretan?
    When one writes a poem, or writes anything, the ‘honesty’ part (or shall we say, the ‘motivation’) (or shall we say the ‘self-awareness’)of it tends to lead us into a rather slippery territory. How could one possibly know the rigor of one’s own self scrutiny process?
    I am, in a way, by announcing dishonesty, simply setting the problem on its head. Yet dishonesty is more apparent. While I can’t finally know if I am being honest, I can know if I am being dishonest—though maybe you can’t—at least I’m banking on your lack of certainty.
    In any case, I guess I’d buy a used car from someone else.
    And John Armstrong is quite correct in looking for honesty in poetry. What would be the alternative? Insofar as poetry is a conscious construct, it should be an honest one—we do think this, do we not?
    So, do we pity the poor goat being castrated once again, or do we admire him for having the—uh—balls to…
    No, I don’t think I’ll go there. Seems dishonest.

  4. John Stevens Says:

    Ah … a poem that announces itself as dishonest! Does that make it an honest poem, or double the crime like a double agent, or reduce to half-and half? I can’t do the math.
    You’ve given us some great lines here. “Re-breathing the soft night air// or the stink of the night soil” for example – that’s a vivid contrast and has a very satisfying sound to it with the subtle repetition and assonance. And the Adam and Eve lines.
    I feel sorry for the poor goat though: castrated again – again?!
    And a cheeky conclusion too.
    So …

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