I Think I'm On D (NPE 4)

I'm just guessing. If I've skipped a letter, it's only due to the infrequency of my engaging in this little exercise.

I've decided that instead of nit-picking my entry this time around, I'm going to flip and point. A nod to Dada, my favorite D, which will inevitably be the entry I flip to, thus leaving me nothing further to enumerate, as I've so eloquently embodied it in my expertness at nothing much. Paying attention to my breathing. Which I've been doing for the past hour. One should remember to pay attention to one's breathing daily - it's too easy to forget it's there. I remember as a small child having a lot of upper respiratory issues, spending evenings blowing a cotton ball across the kitchen linoleum with a straw. This kind of rudimentary work is not above me. Such is the way with poetry. And figure skating. I've never been a figure skater, personally. I value my coccyx far too much to attempt it, but I've always admired how even Olympic skaters must consider themselves amateurs - it's the folks sequining it up in the Ice Capades who are the professionals. It's the old way, to be sure - nobler for art to be for its own sake, with no recompense other than the satisfaction of having done art. Likewise, fabulous to breathe for the sake of breathing - because it is a beautiful thing, not just utilitarian.

Ok, tangent.

Now that I've done my flipping - not many entries to flip through, as the print is so small (it's rather like flipping through a pamphlet). But, flip, I have done, and landed on Dialogue. One of my favorites. Namely, dramatic poetry (with two or more speakers) or dualism within lyric poetry, namely.

I don't find there's much use of dramatic poetry these days, but a whole lot of dualism. Well, I think if one considers "postmodern" verse, personae within poems have out with each other. This is often an intentional effect - I think of Anne Carson (mostly because I think of her often) especially and the way she channels personae in "The Glass Essay" in Glass, Irony and God. Perhaps "personae" isn't the proper word for it - but she has this remarkable gift for voicing different aspects of her speaker's life through distinct entities (or topics, even, if you'll allow me to be loosey-goosey about it) - her relationship with her mother is a character in itself who dialogues with her self (a woman who has recently lost a lover), who in turn dialogues with her reading of the Brontes and their characters. There are some literal exchanges, but the real, meaningful exchange is made between self and context/other.

Kitchen is quiet as a bone when I come in.
No sound from the rest of the house.
I wait a moment
then open the fridge.

Brilliant as a spaceship it exhales cold confusion.
My mother lives alone and eats little but her fridge is always crammed.


White foods taste best to me

and I prefer to eat alone.


Girls are cruelest to themselves.
Someone like Emily Bronte,
who remained a girl all her life despite her body as a woman,

had cruelty drifted up in all the cracks of her like spring snow.


Healthcliff is a pain devil.

If he had stayed in the kitchen
long enough to hear the other half of Catherine's sentence
("so he will never know how I love him")

Heathcliff would have been set free.
But Emily knew how to catch a devil.


There is a fragment

of a poem she wrote in 1839
(about six years before Wuthering Heights) that says:

That iron man was born like me
And he was once an ardent boy:
He must have felt in infancy
The glory of a summer sky.

Who is the iron man?
My mother's voice cuts across me,
from the next room where she is lying on the sofa.

Is that you dear?
Yes Ma.
Why don't you turn on a light in there?

That's a massive, hacked-up quote and I'm glad you're still with me. But it's really the expansiveness of this piece that I wanted to demonstrate, and you can see how even the objects are in dialogue - the (implied) whiteness of the kitchen, the yogurt, spring snow, the sharpness of the image of "pain devil," and Emily's "iron man," as contextualized by the speaker, as questioned by the speaker's mother. The plain dialogue at the end of this chunk really speaks to the poet's frustration with dialogue. She's infatuated with it and the logic of yogurt to Emily Bronte to Heathcliff to the pre-Wuthering Heights poem makes perfect sense to her. But her mother's voice breaks her spinning, jolts her into the practical, forces her to realize that the spinning is internal and not satisfying the deficiencies in her relationships with other humans (namely Mom).

This is a postmodern gift I enjoy. Filament, filament, filament. Nearly everything is self reaching out of self and pulling back meaning, filtered through self. It's a feat when a poet can bring what is in essence masturbatory out of herself and make a baby of it. Usually there's no baby to be had, which is why there's so much crap poetry out there. Which is why there's always been so much crap poetry. I think of those evil little bits of poem I had to translate in Elementary Latin; stabbing critique of hipster poets is nothing new. Catullus did it too.

Dialogue in dramatic poetry, though, is something altogether different. Aeschylus, Byron, Frost. All these dead white guys did it. And by "it," I mean making a play of a poem (or a poem of a play - well Shakespeare did that, so nobody else can do it). It's not impossible to do now, I think - employ voice as a character distinct from the self, have this character dialogue with another character, just as distinct from the self. But, I fear, we would scoff and call this playwriting. Or just playing. While Carson worked with objects, sets, distance, timing, the movement of a traditional dramatic poem is much more centered around the narrative on the macro level and the immediacy of character exchanges on the micro. So, much like a gussied -up play. I like the way Frost did it, though. I can't remember whether I particularly cared for "A Hundred Collars," but I made copious marginalia, so I must have at least found his form engaging. I won't futz with quoting the thing here, but it's from North of Boston (1914) - very early, but any and all Frost is ridiculously easy to find. Somewhat less with the Carson, though as poetic intellectuals go, I suppose she's old news. I like old news. Like Frost - his dramatic poems aren't the most delectable, but there's something homely and unassuming in them, charming. I can't stand to traipse through the Romantic or Victorian dialogue poems (too much flourish for my taste - imagine - I can write the stuff, but can't stand to read it), though earlier bits (The Rape of the Lock comes to mind) I eat up like the meat and potatoes they are (it's the Age of Reason streak in me, I fear).


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