Email me at jmayhew at ku dot edu
"The very existence of poetry should make us laugh. What is it all about? What is it for?"
“El subtítulo ‘Modelo para armar’ podría llevar a creer que las
diferentes partes del relato, separadas por blancos, se proponen como piezas permutables.”
He's not about to start gilding the lily now!
That's something that's always annoyed me about Simic's work -- w/ just a little more editing, so many of his poems could be drastically improved.
or...."a forlorn corpse sits in the yard""a happy god sits in the yard"But still, there is something about the PL writing an anti-war poem. Better to engage the Body W. Politic than write about the opening of a new turnip. (Though Simic did write that poem about the opening of a stone.)
A forlorn four-legged Bjorn Bjornsson fornicates in the foyer.
Interesting, I recently wrote a poem with fruit flies fornicating on the parquet floor in a diorama. I should be laureated.
I'd support the institution of the laureateship if the laureate would actually wear the friggin' laurel. OR, if they would write poems on occasion of state, such as the visit of the Queen, or the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development's wedding anniversary. The forlorn so-called laureate sat in the laurel-free foyer.
But what if the forlorn mutt really was sitting in the yard? Charles Simic can't just take liberties with real life to make his poetry better, can he?
His house around the next turnA forlorn laureate sits in the yardWaiting for someone to come home.I can see the TV is on in the living room,Canned laughter in the empty houseThe sound of Wallace Stevens tied to a hearse.
A forlorn muzak sits in the yawp.Tom King
Real life conforms to our sentimental ideas of it? Since when?
I went and read the poem.That forlorn mutt is straight out of Norman Rockwell. And I do love Norman Rockwell, but not his forlorn mutts. (I posted on one of his forlorn mutts a couple of weeks ago -- strange coincidence.)I will accept, on reflection, the possibility of a forlorn mutt. But not, unfortunately, in this context. The mutt would have been forlorn when the soldier left for war. The soldier's death has nothing to do with it. My impression or should I say prejudice is that the mutt's period of mourning would have been long completed before the soldier died.
I happen to like the line "A forlorn mutt sits in the yard". In fact I like the whole poem, in its ordinariness, its understatement, its sadness, its politics & beyond-politics. It doesn't try to do too much, & so it gets it just right.I like the flatness of the line. Probably because I'm from the midwest, & never tried to get an MFA or teach writing or be a gleesome NY-Schoolboy.
I respect your opinion, Henry, although you are almost always wrong when you disagree with me just to disagree. You are also wrong the defend Brodsky's rhyming "bio" and "Clio." But just to argue seriously against your point, with all due respect-- It's not flat at all; it's too literary, too cute. Too Garrison Keillor/Norman Rockwell. "Mutt" is supposed to be endearing. Would the dog be any less forlorn if it were a pure-bred dog? No, but it wouldn't have that endearing humilty. There's a whole ideology in tht word. Far from being opposed to the MFA ethos, Simic's poem exemplifies it. He wants to be a European surrealist but one acceptable to the midwest. It doesn't work for me, that particular combination.
Jonathan, I respect your opinion too, especially when you're wrong.You read too much into this, like Monday-morning quarterbacking or 20-20 hindsight... ie. what Simic is trying to be as a surrealist etc... what the implications of "mutt" are... in other words, you are nit-picking the poem to death.In my idiom a "mutt" is simply a mutt, and word sounds better in this line than "dog" would, or "parrot" would, etc.
I think Simic is a good example of what goes wrong in the American reception of a certain European mode of writing. The way it gets flattened out. Surrealism becomes absurdism becomes midwestern sentimentality. Not all that is visible in that one line, but I'm talking generally about a problem in Simic generally. He's not as good as he should be, even doing what he is doing and on his own terms. He's like half an intellectual. The intellectual side of him has atrophied by his proximity to Garrison Keillor.
Maybe it's good I don't know Simic's work very well, & can focus on this particular poem, & not so much on the ideal Charles Simic of my dreams.This little poem-choo-choo train just gets stronger as it goes along. The car, the Bible-belt preacher on the radio in the car, the car, the mailman, the mailman's son, the orphaned mutt, the TV in the room, the hearse, the car.
I'm not likely to be able to persuade someone not to like the poem. I do indeed see how the details work together in the mini-narrative he's put together. The choo-choo train is a good metaphor for that!
Well obviously Charles Simic is just a good old boy who writes what he sees, like Randy Newman. Though Simic's downhome brand of everyday reportage is lost on some, it's important to stay in touch with what he touches, and what he touches are the things most folks glean over, what with their always their mobile phones, computers and video disc players, for good luck. You see, Charles Simic shows us our innner spookiness that is in the backyard, and makes real life conform to his sentimental ideas of ours. That's why he's so great!
Henry,your enthusiasm sent me back to the poem, and while some of it still clangs over-sugaredly to me, I enjoyed it more than before -- so, thanks! I waver in dissonance between liking that he's addressing the doomy preacher, and then feeling annoyed at the poem's patina of condescension to the doomy preacher. The beer cans on the hearse are good. Just Buried! (Cue the canned laughter.)
The forlorn mutt sitting in the yard is not the problem. In another context, it might be part of a good poem. "Sentimentality" in and of itself is not the problem either. Sentimentality is one of the many human phenomena expressible in poetry, and as such it may be expressed more or less effectively.The problem is that the poem as a whole, including its war theme Macguffin, transparently exists as little more than an excuse to get to that final simile of canned laughter being like beer cans tied to a hearse. Nothing before that point is of any linguistic or rhetorical interest. The poem could be reduced to those two last lines with no real loss. Even those two line, I have to add, are marred by the pointless repetition "canned"/"cans" (a repetition already initiated by "can" in line 10).
I like the canned repetition. But I get what you're saying, K. Silem.As Irving Berlin said, he certainly can can-can.
I don't think so, Kasey. The fundamentalist "voice of doom" seems a very effective way to start from generic WARLIKE THINKING (the fundamentalist could be from either side of the war, say) and penetrate to the disconsolate pathos and emptiness of one very particular person's "doom" (the soldier's death).
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