i carry with me a kind of poetic complex. one in which the urge to place poets and poems within a reference, within a frame work, is overwhelming. often times, i unleash these rampant carrying ons to the newly formed and still developing po’et’ship. though on rare occasions like this one i feel it necessary to express my interactions with a particular poem in a more sillimanian fashion.
today i embarked on my regular tour of blogs, clicking from one to the next seeking out the freshly lain words to satiate my appetite and ended salivating (metaphorically, of course) over "..lilla..".
arguably not a poem, this short piece does everything a poem needs to do in order to further bridge the gap between the widely indulgent nature of the novel and the under appreciated collection of fine poetry. though it is not my ambition (wholly) to bridge the gap between these two genres, i am profoundly intrigued by the subtleties and somewhat callous guild lines that separate the two forms of art.
i have explored and have given names to some of the differences between poetry and fiction here.
"..lilla.." is exemplary in that it presents itself as a prose piece in a format which is, in the instance of [Le Vie En Bleu], primarily designated to poetic form, additionally, "..lilla.." contains components of both Objectivism and a distinct sense of time which can best be interpreted through stein's explanation as composition--the history is in the composition.
i'll fall back on my PoemTree intro quite liberally here, so if you have not already made yourself familiar with it, now is as good a time as any.
how is "..lilla.." objective in the sense of the poetic school? let me begin with epistemology. i rather recently explained objectivism in terms of louise zukofsky's sentiments on epistemology and optical lenses to arch which i will dispense upon you here:
so, objectivism is, basically, a way of looking at a poem as a concrete object... here it is in pieces: this is a word, it has been manufactured throughout history, it has been wrapped and shipped and displayed and sold and now lives inside this pocket in this man’s coat. this is the objectivist angle. this is epistemology understood on a functional level.
let me relate this to lenses and prisms for you… Zukofsky used the analogy of an optical lens (which is where my idea for light and poetry came from, directly). “An Objective: (Optics)—The lens bringing the rays from an object to a focus. That which is aimed at.” what i understand this to mean is that the poem is the lens. everything that you the reader understand and associate with “the object” and everything that i the poet understand and associate with “the object”, converge in the poem. when we both put our histories in through the poem the result is a fixed beam. we have now added to one another’s collections of understandings and ideas surrounding “the object”. does that make sense?
i have an idea of what a white chicken looks like, what it eats, where it belongs in the world. you have an idea of all these things too, though they might be very different. now that we have both read the poem by WCW called “the red wheel barrow” we have a new image to associate with “white chickens”. now, after looking through the lens that WCW created we can come to the same conclusion about white chickens.
objectivism, in part, is a way of linking people’s ideas and thus creating a web of understanding. this is the way language develops. one inside-joke after another. for example, on our level. when i say “salamander” i’m sure we both think of something rather unique and different to the rest of the world. [side note: i mentioned earlier that this is part of a dialogue intended for arch, i will leave this little example in to further the point... the inside joke, though it is perhaps less of a joke and more of a secret]
one time on the bus home from school, our freshman year, Danielle and i used to play the word association game, among others. Danielle starts, she says “apple” and i say, without a moments hesitation “cow”. this stopped Danielle in her tracks. “cow? what does a cow have to do with an apple?"
4 years later lauren and i are visiting Danielle at school. i’m on one bed, Danielle across the room on the other and lauren is leaning up against danielle’s bed. she leans over and whispers something to lauren. they both look up at me and daneille says “apple” and i instantly say “cow”. lauren was flabergasted. Danielle had told her “i can make katy say cow, want to see?” it’s a fun trick. every now and again daneille will send me a text message: “apple” and i’ll reply with, you guessed it “cow”.
for me, that’s part of objectivism, part of epistemology. for me objectivism goes far beyond poetry. all of it though, is to do with words. part of it all, too, which i mentioned at the beginning of my objectivism spiel is the idea that the poem itself is an object. this is the part of objectivism that i struggle with only because for me, the poem is relative to glass—i know it’s there but i can see right through it.
that's a lot of words, perhaps. but the point is hardly made clear without all of the digestion, so, back to our little "..lilla.." who, at age 15 saw a volcano erupt.
The dried lava flows looked like elephant skin, piled up together, with Lorax trees randomly dispersed.
reading and understanding the description takes a particular light wave to get the, what i imagine was the poet's, desired effect; "Lorax trees" being a referral to a feature in a Dr Seuss book. anyone who existed prior to the popularity of one Dr Seuss may be lost hovering above the word for some contextual evidence. perhaps this imaginary person from the past would try to understand the name of the tree as being something real or perhaps an adjective yet heard by him to mean ... hmmn volcanoes.. burnt? parched? arid or perhaps even cactus like?
with the right refraction of light inserted into the prism (the poem, or to be more precise, here, the "Lorax") the reader leaves the line with these trees in his/her mind. and with it, hopefully, the reminder of some innocence, some family, some belief in something greater that is lost with age.
the power of epistemology here is evident. the use of the lorax tree as a reference allows the poet to subject the reader to the same sense of growth and loss as lilla is engulfed in within the passage. this makes lilla that much more real.
what the poem also does, besides fracture light through children's books references, is to organize itself (or perhaps i should say, what the poet does is to organize the poem) into a time loop.
i like to condense stein's theories of time and composition as the theory in which the only difference between now and then is the individual and that individual's interaction with the surroundings (which are, as you might have guessed, the same throughout time). this then relates to poetry (to all composition in all mediums) through stein's idea that the only way one preserves time essence is through art--through poetry.
brandy, dear, you preserve your moment in time with the lorax, with your volcano, with lilla's died black hair...
also, within the poem, there is this aformentioned time loop. this loop within the text is related to stein's theories in that all time is happening at once. the character may change, but that is the only marker. there is no chronology other than the changing lilla herself. without her every vision within the poem is happening simultaneously.
this is one of my favorite differences between novels and poetry collections. in a collection of poetry there is no narrator telling you what is happening first or last. the poems, if it were humanly possible, should be read simultaneously. poems ought be read the way the eye sees a where's waldo picture--we are aware, instantly, of the dynamic number of characters, variations, locations, etc. novels, on the other hand, lay out a specific timeline within the text in order to be cohesive and tolerable to the "average" reader. this is the constraint of novels; a non-linear novel is most likely never going to make it onto opera's book list. (there are exceptions to everything, of course, and one of my absolutely favorite novels is little more than a string of prose-poems about the same four characters, though i don't think cohen's on any of oprah's lists.)
in the end, what i'm getting at is, "..lilla.." reminded me of everything i was after in writing that poetics essay for PoemTree. it is a perfect example of a poem which disguises itself in prose and lures the unsuspecting prose-prone reading into it's grasp.
bravo dear blue. bravo.