Polyhymnia Disinterred

December 8, 2011

If Polyhymnia could be
a winter afternoon’s great beauty,
or night, as it fills the moon’s girth
with still translucence restored from earth…

If Polyhymnia could be like the sleigh
we got for last year’s Christmas day,
not so  hot for winter’s snow,  but good once spring’s
trapeze and high wire act started up…

If Polyhymnia could be a spider moved
up from creation’s mold to sewing skirts
for dandelions… Polyhymnia, who likes shedding gowns
for scales, who never sings, who never clowns,

who never tempts the winter’s night with a serenade—
Polyhymnia, disinterested, disinterred, delayed.

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6 Responses to “Polyhymnia Disinterred”

  1. Anna Mark Says:

    Thank you for the link to this poem, too, Jim. I didn’t get to it last night. It is quite captivating both because I find it difficult but also for the way the words all work together, the images and the rhyme and rhythm, even though they seem to break down. I enjoyed Thomas’ comment regarding how she, Polyhymnia, is shining and well. The muse of sacred poetry. The mystery of language. Excellent.

  2. Thomas Davis Says:

    Jim, I’m going to have to think about all this. I read bebrowed’s short essay, and both it and your response are stimulating. Is the poetic, elevated language such as Ashbery tries to use, only sometimes successfully, often rambling into the never never land of private symbols that have meaning but do not have meaning, a danger to poetry? Or do we need a sacred poetry, a poetry that tries to explore all the sacred, rather than what? the plain and direct? in life? Your Polyhymnia.
    When I write poetry I suspect I am not clear on that dichotomy.
    I tell stories, practice the best craft I know how, try to keep in mind as much of the western folio as I know, relate the truths in my own life, try for the universal within the particular sometimes, and generally reach for power, beauty, interest, or any of the other emotions/thoughts/ideas that flow through my thought/spirit. When I write rhyme I sometimes use a near rhyme, but only once in awhile. When I use meter or a form I follow that form closely if not always perfectly.
    Your poetry is densely packed with allusions and craftsmanship and metaphor that often makes me think about it for awhile. You and I, I think, and John Stevens, for that matter, get to a then as do several of the better poets I know.
    I can see Polyhymnia as a danger, but also, as she is intended, as a blessing. Oh, oh, I’m getting close to
    Ssh! It’s all right, child. Go to sleep.
    May the poet in you have pleasant dreams.
    I love your poetry.

  3. extrasimile Says:

    Thomas, it gets worse. Polyhymnia is actually the muse of sacred poetry. Calliope does lyric poems. Consider this quote I found on the intranet:
    Nonnus, Dionysiaca 5. 88 ff (trans. Rouse) (Greek epic C5th A.D.) :
    “[At the wedding of Kadmos (Cadmus) and Harmonia:] The nine Mousai (Muses) too struck up a life stirring melody: Polymnia nursing mother of the dance waved her arms, and sketched in the air an image of a soundless voice, speaking with hands and moving eyes in a graphic picture of silence full of meaning.”
    How the internet is changing our sense of knowledge is one topic this poem has floating behind it. If poetry has something to do with this ‘sense of knowledge’, and I am of the opinion that it does, then Polyhymnia might be the muse of an emerging consciousness.
    The muse of an emerging consciousness!
    Naw…I’m kidding.
    I think.
    Anyway, one of the origins of this poem comes from John Armstrong. He raised the issue as to whether poetry (the poetic) was the problem with poetry in his Bebrowed blog, which I do recommend looking at.
    http://bebrowed.wordpress.com/2011/11/29/is-poetry-too-poetic/
    Think of ‘the poetic’ as bloated, pretentious language and this makes sense. Think of it as the language John Keats wrote in—and it makes no sense at all. Having stumbled on Polyhymnia on the internet, though, I wondered: if the poetic is a danger to poetry, how much greater at danger when we are also talking ‘sacred’.
    Is this poetry in a broken vessel? The rhymes break down, though maybe not the underlying structure. The sentences break down—all those if clauses never quite get to a ‘then’, do they?—though maybe the questions hold.
    Should we disinter a disinterested Polyhymnia? Delay her? Will disinterment delay her? Will…
    Ssh! It’s all right, child. Go to sleep.

  4. Thomas Davis Says:

    Polyhymnia disinterred. What do I make of that? The goddess of lyric poetry “who likes shedding gowns/
    for scales, who never sings, who never clowns” and “never tempts the winter’s night with a serenade,” all written in sonnet form. This sounds like you have pulled contrarianism to a new level, singing like the poet you are–I agree with John’s comments about exquisite phrases and images, while digging Polyhymnia out of her internment and letting her live again, but “disinterested, disinterred, delayed.” Admittedly this is, perhaps, not Polyhymnia’s age. Admittedly if only, if only…still, as John points out, Polyhmnia lives in these lines, and she lives, disinterred or not, shining and, well, lyrical. This is a poem that makes you ponder–and is that not always good?

  5. extrasimile Says:

    Thanks John. I wanted a sonnet that was decidedly imperfect. It just worked out that the form broke down(at least the rhyming part did) under the weight of the spider weaving it’s weighty web, trapeze and all. Poly seems to have absorbed the brides though—unless they are the author of the poem. I think I see a certain style…
    I understand that you recommended Thomas Davis pay extrasimile a visit…Thanks. I’m enjoying seeing some of the poems through his eyes. I know I have professed to be writing for ‘myself and strangers’ and all that, but it is sort of nice to have all these positive vibes shimmering over the internet. Have you noticed, by the way, that if you take the first ‘i’ in extrasimilie you get extrasmile? I’ve got one on at the moment.

  6. John Stevens Says:

    Very beautiful, Jim, and with such a sustained mood of yearning.
    I suppose the muse can often seem disinterested and delayed (and why not also ‘disinterred’?) but there’s a paradox in this poem: just as the speaker expresses all those wishes, look, here she is, the old tease, popping up with exquisite phrases and images (I love that spider moved up from creation’s mold to sewing skirts for dandelions!).
    I think you took a good decision to adopt the sonnet form and to let it rhyme – most appropriate for the subject matter – almost as if the old dear had herself directed you to traditional forms for the occasion.
    Splendid lines! Congratulations!


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