Blog #111: Poem prefaces and postfaces, and “Relative Resolution”

List of Matremoirs

List of Patremoirs

Children of Writers

I’m almost ready to leave for London and Paris, where I will be attending a biography conference at the Sorbonne. My daughter is traveling with me, and I am more than a little excited. Cardiff and St. Ives are also on our itinerary, and Bentley will teach me a lot about Dr. Who while I will preach Virginia Woolf to her. In Paris, we will focus on Rodin and as many good restaurants as we can afford. The conference already has us eating at the Le Pharamonde, Le Bouillon Racine and Le Club des Enseignants at the Sorbonne. My cousin Joel Michiels is also going to spend time with us in Paris, and with him the eating will start at the Brasserie Terminus Nord.

Lest this blog degrade into a diary, I’ll end with a poem and some thoughts about a future project. Spare time for the next couple of years will be spent working on a Virginia Woolf project, but after that I want to publish a book which will be part anthology, part original poems. The book will be titled Explications, and among the poets included will be Andrew Marvel, John Donne, and Samuel Taylor Coleridge. The two requirements are that the poems be favourites of mine and that they be in the public domain. I’ve had it with permissions.

Each piece will be prefaced by comments which help explain aspects of the poem. I want to thumb my nose at the convention that poems should be allowed to speak for themselves. Certainly poems are best met fresh and unencumbered by interpretations, yet many poems have depths that may be inaccessible without some outside assistance. When I wrote the prefaces for the poems in Fathers, I tried hard to avoid imposing my interpretations on the poems. I dug up relevant information that was not accessible to the average reader, and I worked to make my comments suggestive rather than prescriptive. I’m also thinking that for Explications my prefaces will follow the poems, postfaces rather than prefaces. Maybe, as regards my own poems, I’ll also include misinformation. Reader beware.

The postface for the following poem will be published in a future blog.

Relative Resolution

Unlike my father’s solitary uncle,
Who,
Out of muddled mercy
And a need for fellowship,
Took his old grey cat
And hung it from the cherry tree
With a twist of binder twine
Before he climbed the ladder
And, in the hayloft’s cathedral gloom,
Lanced with slanting beams of sunlight,
Gently kicked away a box
To float
– Large, dark and solid
Despite the scratches on his hands –
Among the golden motes
Stirred by his easing,
My cousin’s daughter’s husband
In attic silence
Went alone,
Leaving behind
An infant son and his young wife,
Your granddaughter.

When I admired
The flowerless, apple green lily pads
In the Monet shimmering waters
Of his pond
I did not see the scaly golden carp
Suspended in the particulate murk beneath.
Nor did I see
His dangling full sacked weight,
The clay grey neck,
The cord forced eyes,
In his slow turning future.

After the horrors of the black touque
(Blindfold or thoughtful screen)
Kept me mute
Before him,
His bulging tongue withering mine,
You, my aunt, my father’s sister,
Judged me wilful -
Without knowing
The compound facets
Of the blinding sunflowers
My tongue-tied mind had seen -
And, without a word, sentenced me,
My crime with yours confounding,
To silence.

How are we
To speak again,
If
Not
Through
This?

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