November 16, 2011

Mr. Pumpkinhead, a jack-o-lantern
washed up on the beach,
is being picked apart by gulls, who scatter

and wail and keen at our intrusion.
You can almost see its dancing footprints in the wet
silt sand, see its shadows waltz among the surf…

We pause in a kind of clownish longing
inside an equally clownish longueur—
as if poetry itself should get louder and longer.

Every wave is listening now.
They have been made so brittle and dumb by
the approaching storm, they seem to be

lace cutouts stitched and wreathed together.
A clam shell will serve us for their ears.
The maestro’s hand is in the maestro’s glove.

His baton is ready. The music appears.
Is it an old Michael Jackson tune?
Or the Camptown Races song?

Is it even sound at all that approaches us this morning?
Or is it just the sun, soft and quiet on the horizon,
conducting all the ocean’s giant calliope?


5 Responses to “Notation”

  1. extrasimile Says:

    Thanks, Thomas, and welcome to Extrasimile. You are quite right, there is a complex listening going on at the end of the poem. For a good musician listening and playing go hand in glove—yes?—but I’d like to think that they/ we can hear the immense quiet too.

  2. Thomas Davis Says:

    The last lines, Or is it just the sun, soft and quiet on the horizon,/conducting all the ocean’s giant calliope?, match the rest of this poems originality. You have waves listening to poetry, clam shells as ears, and a maestro who must truly be the poet who imagines the sun as a pumpkin head.

  3. John Stevens Says:

    Vigorous lines certainly. Clear images too.
    And since you’ve set that organ playing, I reckon you’re right that Polyhymnia can’t be far away – I bet you can’t pull that one off though!
    You are right about Jeremy Prynne. I’ve just re-renewed my library loan of his collected poems, but there are easier pleasures to be found on the same shelf.

  4. extrasimile Says:

    I was thinking of a large orange globe (that is, something sun-like) that could be ‘picked’ by the gulls as they wail and keen. Mr. Pumpkinhead is borrowed from Mr. Potatohead—which is a ‘toy’ kids used to get when I was a kid. You decorated a potato with a nose, mouth, and, yes, eyes. Not too different from carving a pumpkin for Halloween, I think. But of course it is also just debris floating in on the tide. The rest of the poem makes this into the ocean’s calliope. Nice, isn’t it that Calliope just happens to be the muse of (epic) poetry? I think I see Polyhymnia out there on the horizon. Maybe she’ll come in on the next tide.
    The relationship between different arts is worth exploring further (to reference your recent wonderful exchange on Bebrowed’s Blog.) J H Prynne’s poetry does get us into a lot of interesting areas. A poem connected with the entire structure of language, hmm. My problem with Prynne (I’ve only read a little) is that he gets too far away from the sentence, that the tension between the word, phrase, and sentence is not maintained with the line of poetry. It seems a lot to give up (if indeed he has.) Another issue, only brushed upon at Bebrowed, is why one should choose, say, reading Prynne as opposed to Ashbury—or you know, WCW, or Shakespeare, or Plato.
    Vigorous lines, eh? Thank you, sir!

  5. John Stevens Says:

    This reminds me of your paintings. It’s highly visual: all those specific details observed and recorded precisely: the gulls who scatter at our intrusion, the wet silt sand, the waves in the approaching storm.
    But there are metaphors and similes too, and also precise – I noticed especially the waves as lace cut-outs stitched and wreathed together (I can see them clearly) and the ocean’s giant calliope (I can certainly hear that – felicitous phrase!).
    Who is Mr Pumpkinhead, the jack-o-lantern? I read this as a some creature from the deep, perhaps fish or jellyfish, thrown on the beach by the storm-burdened waves. Whether that’s what you had in mind or not, it’s an eye-opening starter.
    Vigorous lines. Most enjoyable!

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