Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Valentine, Bolina, and the Inadvertent

A couple more poems I’m thankful for. Outside of this, the thought I’m having today is about the purposeful and the inadvertent nature of artistic creation. In classes we can easily talk about the purposeful parts of art. Call it “craft” I suppose. But the important thing is the inadvertent way that the best art reveals itself. I wish there was a way to talk about that profitably, other than just to note it and move on, as I’m doing here.

Jaswinder Bolina
Employing My Scythe

I’m standing in field 17 of the long series, employing my scythe.
Sometimes a conceptual dog bounds
past me, though it’s never my conceptual dog.
Occasionally future laureates gather for colloquium,
though they’re rarely my future
laureates. Thus, evening proceeds precisely
the way the handbook describes it:
as a proceeding: a runnel: shallow and babbling.

Into it a stranger appears. He looks like my friend.
I ask him, Are you my friend? Gravity telegraphs
its heavy message through the lolling
vines. The stranger says, I’ve sold all my clothes
and am considering, for a career, perpetual suffering.
The sun slides a tongue down the nape of the grain elevator.
Lowing cattle. It’s the fourth of July. In Spain.
I say, You are most vague and mysterious, friend.
The dog paces. I set my scythe aside and tell him,
I have employed this scythe mercilessly all my life and still
everywhere these stalks extend. He says,
Someone is always worse off than us
even at our most pitiable. Yes, I say. I read it once
in a magazine. And we laugh, let our enormous bellies jangle.
It is good to laugh with my friend and let the scythe cool, I say.
Yes, he says. Good.

* * *

Jean Valentine
Door in the Mountain

Never ran this hard through the valley
never ate so many stars

I was carrying a dead deer
tied to my neck and shoulders

deer legs hanging in front of me
heavy on my chest

People are not wanting
to let me in

Door in the mountain
let me in


At 12/04/2008 10:21 PM, Blogger Steven D. Schroeder said...

The Bolina: very interested in the second stanza, but lines 2-5 irritate me--I see that "ironic archetypal meta gesture toward old lyric tropes" move way too often.

The Valentine: wow.

At 12/04/2008 10:22 PM, Blogger Steven D. Schroeder said...

I mean lines 2-5 in stanza 1. I liked stanza 2 more all the way through.

At 12/05/2008 4:17 AM, Blogger John Gallaher said...


That's fair. It might turn out that such moves will be the Dep Image stones and ones of our age... but the tone here (for me) casts it as an ironic twist on the turn to the language itself, so I found it rather gentle, acknowledging its belatedness.


At 12/05/2008 7:14 AM, Blogger Steven D. Schroeder said...

And to be fair, my first book has a poem containing a not-real dog who first appears sitting on a mantel and then only appears again to howl in the middle of the poem, so I guess this could be a touch of the pot and kettle from me.


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