Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Summer Blogging-on Lisa Jarnot

Well, so now that composition class is over, what's to blog about? Indeed, I can only do this while sitting here next to the window in the sun. It's time to talk about poetry. It is summer after all...

Having just read, and discussed with my class, Lisa Jarnot's Black Dog Songs. Didn't know if I liked it at first. The class was mixed in their responses. One girl didn't like it b/c as a person with ADD and some type of dyslexia she had a hard time with all of the repetition and seeming nonsense writing. Jarnot goes for the repitition kill that's for sure. And seeming nonsense is the point at times. She writes a poem for Dick Cheney, I'll start it here--actually by the time I finish I will have copied the whole thing b/c it's quick and fun...

Dumb Duke Death

down dire
death day
dim dale
ding dong
dame chase
cheap date
dance dodge
do dive
dull duck
do doze
dork deal
door dirge
chip cheer
dusk dew
duke duel
dab dash
chin chink
dim dark
dog dawn
dank dive
deep debt
dour dose
deem dead
ding dong
dug dirt
ditch dib
chimp chore
damp dank
death do
dead deal
duck dell
do deem
dawn down
dark deep
dog dawn
dig ditch
deed done
dead duke
ding dong

Just the title makes me thing of Ronald Reagan (via John Wayne wasn't he called the Duke or some such thing, that's what I think of) and Darth Vader like dark death, or maybe I just associate Cheney with Darth Vader but, yes, the death thing comes up a lot in the poem too. You've got your usual sound and alliteration stuff in there too, the two word lines with single syllable words, the repitition of 'ding dong' for instance, the animals (chimp chore...)...read and make of it what you will. But this poem is the 5th in the series called "My Terrorist Notebook," the introduction to which is a poem in a prose block that may be poem or prose introduction or neither or both that in any case begins "This is the beginning of my terrorist notebook--all terrorism all the time." And ends with some talk about we the terrorists blowing up all the little mousies...and the mousie moon...and it sort of ends in this totally open way so that what comes after, can be anything.

In class we talked about the use of animals in the poems throughout the book as possibly allegorical. She is making some political commentary, overt in her references to figures like Cheney and Bush and Rumsfeld but less so in the content of the poems (as in these are not directly, old school political poems). How and why do the animals figure in, stand in for people or as 'symbolic' for lack of anything better, but they are not symbolic, not in the old poetry way, rather they point around and point toward (multiple) possibility. The animals give us a way to see and hear differently. The animals detach from our otherwise reality and we don't realize we are even more in reality through our interactions with the animals in the poems...not so weird as that sounds. Jarnot doesn't like animals weirdly... but when we get to the sestina that invokes Noah and the Flood we may or not realize we are learning something here.

But before what may or not be a reference to the flood, we have this section called "They" which includes poems that seem to parody something........ah ha, brilliant.....ok, so there are many ways to read these and indeed we had some varied interpretations in our class. One of our favorites was "They Loved Paperclips" and it begins "They loved harmony they loved ant hills they loved food and cookies and harpoons they loved the sound of laces of the shoes and snow..." The section then ends with the sestina called "Story" which may or not be about the flood, but it repeats versions of lines about rain, and ships built in stories about rain...and you get the idea. There are a lot of animals here too. And you get this past tense sense, what we also talked about with the "They" poems, that you could read these as some sort of parody of silly (suburbanites) contemporary people who talk and don't mean anything ("Oh, I love that, I love this, I love Starbucks...") and nothing is important b/c everything is made important, or some such thing. But you also get this past tense sense, like looking back (after the apocalypse) everything looks nice and wonderful ("I loved that stapler!") before it was gone before everything was wiped out...This section, following the "Terrorist Notebook" ends with the story which ends with the lines:

that had always been the trees, that had been there near the sun,
that had harbored all the birds, having eaten what was ate,
inside the rain near little ships with sheep in shadows of the sun.

more on the last section of the book later....oh, but in the meantime, check out Lisa's Blog: http://www.angelfire.com/poetry/lisajarnot/blog/