Her Reverence

September 7, 2014

It seems for her, reverence still came down
to little toads alongside little frog ponds
in gardens of toil and tuition.
She stops, screams, inhales.
It is as if a bee has landed on her lips.
A toad jumps, tries to escape, fails.
*
Likewise, it seems all ideas should be
a pasture of places, not plagued
by ugly wart-toads asking stupid questions.
The bees have trespassed on her world forever;
the frogs have always laid eggs in her mud.
Her reverence is like a snake uncurled.
*
She could taste the nape of his neck
as she began to pull his skin apart.
So calm, the life of a plant.
So many seeds to scatter.
Her body’s tears resembled a rainbow.
Her reverence was hot inside her, like a bee.

Advertisements

3 Responses to “Her Reverence”

  1. John Stevens Says:

    Hello again Jim. I’ve only discovered your response today (we are in NZ visiting daughters and have limited internet).
    You raise a good question. I’m not sure that this ‘self-compulsion’ is either good or bad; rather it’s a question of sharing or not-sharing. Part of the answer for me is that many people write poems because they have to and readers are a bonus. For 40 years I did that, and only in recent years found that others might have an interest. It’s rewarding to discover that this is possible but then one has to decide whether to write in a way that welcomes a reader in. “The door is open, come in, have some coffee — and then look around and find the secret stairs.” Cynthia Jobin is very good at this. Others too.
    One the things I learnt from you early on however was the value of leaving room for a reader to think and imagine, the possibility of multiple interpretations. Some of my poems were too prescriptive. That’s not always inappropriate: sometimes the writer wants to convey a particular point, or description or emotion. But you persuaded me that there is value too in the open-ended suggestion.
    It depends what one wants to do. I’m still trying to find the balance for me. But too great an obscurity reduces the welcome offered to others; it reduces the opportunities for sharing.
    I don’t think writing out of self-compulsion necessarily means excluding others but it is harder to pull off. Emily Dickinson manages it for example. Wallace Stevens? Yes but not so well.
    I think on the whole I go for the welcome mat.
    Hmm … Incomplete thoughts, these.

  2. extrasimile Says:

    Hi John, and thanks again for sweating through another hard one. I consider this poem something of a failure—something I’ve worked the life out of. I put it out there as a study, that’s all. You need to experiment, I think. One can learn from one’s failures.
    I wonder what you think of an argument made by April Bernard in the current NYRB. In a review of some A. L. Kennedy novels, she posits an author whose sole motivation for writing is self-compulsion. She suggests the poverty of having such a motivation—only. There should be some further reason for the reader to be interested—instruction, pleasure, that sort of thing—outside the writer’s inner needs.
    …and then she goes on to cite such authors as Kafka and Melville and Emily Dickinson as examples of artists who have succeed in spite of this ‘handicap’—but ignores the opposite position—that rather by boring into the self-compulsion abyss—emptiness, the void, etc.—one emerges with and honest—moral, mature—perspective that the poem/ literary fiction can legitimize. One thinks further of Beckett and Thomas Bernhardt here. Paul Celan also fits in here—does he not?
    Is ‘Her Reverence’ a self-compulsion poem? I’m afraid that it is. But is this necessarily bad? After all, Kafka and Co did some good work. I think I’d like to use the word ‘dangerous’ rather than ‘bad’. Is it dangerous to get into such a self-absorbed world, dangerous to write as if it were really the sole concern, this self-consumed state? Communication is threatened. The problem of other minds looms. Isolation. Desolation. Dangerous indeed.
    As you say, John, there doesn’t appear to be a ‘door’ to this poem. You can’t get in. And no way out either.
    A couple of possible doors. One might be—maybe not a door, maybe just crack in the floorboards for someone to crawl through—might be Maryanne Moore’s idea about poetry being a real toad in an imaginary garden. I mean, for the toads, this is well and good, but what is the status of a frog in that situation? And do the bees ‘be’, or are they imagined?
    Another door might be to consider just who is speaking here. And to whom?
    You also might looking at its ‘modular’ nature. There tends to be a correspondence between the line and sentence. You can switch sections around. Try reading the first half of each stanza as a complete poem, then the second half. First in the three sections, then the poem as a whole. That is, read the first three lines of each stanza as one ‘poem’ then the second three lines in each. Would it be too much to read the top half of the poem as one poem? And the bottom half as another poem?
    Who would read a poem in such a way? No one. Except the very eccentric author.
    So, a poem that’s keeping to itself, staying hidden in spite of being in full sight.
    One has to ask, ‘Why read it? Why bother?’
    I wonder what the answer is to that question.
    Jim

  3. John Stevens Says:

    As always I come to your poems with interest, Jim, and I’ve read this latest one on several occasions. It’s a bit of a puzzle. I can’t find the door to come in by. However, once again I recognise the wealth of imagination with which it is invested, and the careful control of tone and syntax, and I shall rest content with that. Keep ’em coming!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: