Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Parody... O pen 8/23, XJ Kennedy

Why does Shakespeare's Sonnet XVIII last, and what prediction do you have of Howard Moss' poem?

We all chuckled at the "compressed reader" -- how all the fragments of various readers could be "condensed", just like the poem's. What makes for good poetry? What drives it? What wonders come out of the tyranny of form? Are poets working hard enough these days? Does clever vernacular compare to the musicality of well-turned verse?

These are fair questions in an age of mushrooming ezines, and young editors hard-pressed to rival the reading background and experience of the still active octogenarians.

Rachel Kadish, in the Sept/Oct. issue of Poets and Writers, mentions in her rallying cry for writers, (p. 32) the example of the man in Warsaw who told her, "Don't you know parents in this country hope their children will grow up to be poets?"
What does "poet" mean in America, , that our culture seems to consider a poet/artist irrelevant, morally dangerous, or crazy? Does this mean, witty conversational pieces are all that are required? Something that makes language feel less soul-deadened in a politically correct, newspeaking society?

As readers, we do want to experience what John Gardner calls "the vivid and continuous dream" created by good writing.

Given Howard Moss' biography as New Yorker editor, patron launcher of such poets as James Dickey, Galway Kinnell, James Scully, Theodore Roethke, L. E. Sissman, Anne Sexton, Richard Wilbur, Sylvia Plath, and Mark Strand, one can argue, that his summer's day is a piece perfectly aware of Shakespeare's conceit. "Partly as a consequence of [his role at the New Yorker] his own talent has been underrated," observed David Ray in Contemporary Poets. "Yet he has with consistent productivity ... turned out volume after volume and has dutifully and with impressive scholarship written criticism. He is, in short, an American man-of-letters in a sense largely missing from our literary culture."

Let us read on!

XJ Kennedy is a favorite of mine -- particularly his fun volume, "Nude Descending a Staircase" and his children's books.

The poem selected by Garrison Keilor last week, "Death of a Window Washer" struck me as one worth not just reading a few times, but reading outloud, and analyzing.

the 3 syllable words (obstinate, forgotten, copying, barricades) lead up to the 4 syllable "coincidence" and then the 3 syllabled (Uttering, Tedious, Legacy) -- The end rhymes made me look for an equivalent for "sash". Perhaps it is an "H" that has been passed over -- in shhhhh
where "His legacy is mute". By "coincidence" I stumbled on a Giacometti painting, Figure, 1951, who just like the window washer, would be a nameless man, unless some accident framed him... (Uncanny how these things happen...)

You can check out the figure at this site:

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