8.10.2005

a poem for the moment (again...)

As some of you may remember, I've posted poems of interest here before. I've even posted some of my own (strange little dudes they are). Well I offer a new poem for your consideration and consumption. My first intermediate poetry composition class at Brown was taught by Christina Mengert, an accomplished young poet currently pursuing a PhD at DU. Her poetry has been brutalized by our dear old friend Joan Houlihan in her Boston Comment column. We asked her about the article and she was good natured and informed us that the poem which Joan so haphazardly attempts to invalidate was actually incomplete. It was one part of a much longer poem the rest of which the magazine--for whatever reason--decided not to publish. I think the whole poem exists somewhere out there in the WWW.

All that aside, at the end of the year she gave a reading of her manuscript "Stranger Is A Bird" with Gale Nelson [I think] (another instructor I've had) and the usually humorous Keith Waldrop. I enjoyed it, but one poem specifically made an impression and I've wanted to see it again since then. Today, I decided to do a search on Technorati, and lo' and behold: What do I find?

ROTTEN WOOD, BAD SOIL
Christina Mengert

A line. A long line. A long account of a line.
Not being one for graduated response I severed
My right arm and shoved it northward. A long
Account of an arm as a line. Maybe you think
The truth is ridiculous and nothing ever grows there.
You may be right, but yesterday roots shot
Out of my right stump like the branches
They would become. A long line. And what that
Proves is the northernmost star is never always
Northernmost, and yesterday's distraction is today's
Perfect artifact. Listen: a longish account of the earth
In my shoulder. Throwing water on it
I never thought this would petrify. Never thought
The leaf itself would become a star, passing for its
Permanent dying impression. A vein then, in response.
A vein as a line thrust up as if to reach.

Bravo! What a poem.

2 comments:

Seb (curiously) said...

Out of curiosity, how do you "invalidate" a poem?

Scott said...

It's not necessarily possible, but one can try. Check out the article. Here are some excerpts in reference to the mentioned poem (not the one above).

Since we don't know what original effect was intended, and since the only one we can experience directly is bafflement, we don't know how the line, or the poem for that matter, could be improved. What does improvement mean here? Or damage for that matter? How could we make the poem better or worse?

Or:

The poem is unaffected by change of any kind and therefore impervious to evaluation of any kind. It is SuperPoem, with powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal poems. Such a poem defies revision because—revise towards what? or away from what?

Operating from the premise that one can alter the poem and then use those alterations as proof of the poem having no 'meaning' is as close to invalidating as one can get. It doesn't work though, because it's completely pedestrian. And wrong.

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