Thursday, October 4, 2018

Garden of Verse: A Change in the Air in Verse-Virtual's October Poems

           Maybe it's just the end of the warm season in the northern hemisphere, the end of the growing season for summer gardeners -- the end of the beach season, vacation season, and boating season -- but there's a tinge of melancholy in the air.
            Of course there's everything else going on in the world, as well -- but I'm not going into any of that (now).
            Let's stick to the universal questions. Like for instance, the meaning of "a horseradish layer cake."
            That's the image brilliantly concocted by poet Robert Wexelblatt in his poem "The Comedian," which begins this way:

Imagine, he said, a horseradish layer cake.
It took some time to conjure that up, then
a little more to get the point, nearly.
We guessed he meant you can make something
sweet out of what’s bitter, or that looks sweet,
or that the best jokes tend to bite back.

            I love the notion of that last line -- "the best jokes tend to bite back." There's a whole theory of humor in that idea. You can read the rest of poem in the October issue of Verse-Virtual, the online journal that publishes a new issue every month. 
            Wexelblatt's second poem in this issue, "Trois Adieux," bites in many directions. It offers a major seminar in analyzing the vernacular, a lesson book in 'how we speak today' -- especially in emotionally loaded contexts. Three stanzas analyze the meaning of three common expressions: "I'll see you later." "I can't do this any more," and, "This isn't easy For Me." The poem raises questions such as these, looking deeply into the second of these expressions:

And what, one is
left to wonder, is this?  Such a duplicitous
accordion of a pronoun, this. 

            To top it off each stanza ends with a brilliant rhyme. This is a killer of a poem.
             Melancholy isn't the first word I'd associate with Donna Hilbert's poem "Teaching the Fish to Let Go," a poem that begins with a depiction of a fisherman casting flies. It's a relaxing idea, but life doesn't simply do one thing at a time. "Susan calls," the poem tells us, "we talk/ about death." 
          We learn more about Susan's connection to this topic in the next few intensely packed lines, including a visit to the hospital that ends with his diagnosis: "you didn't swallow enough."
          Then we come back to the fisherman, who's had a strike, and are treated to an unexpected and perfect hook-up between these two very different themes.

            A different sort of melancholy, the kind of emotion that used to be called "pleasing" and was associated with 19th century poets, is called to mind by Marilyn Taylor's "Crickets: a Late Chorale." That late season chorale is a favorite end-of-summer sensation for me and, I expect, many of us. Every summer when we first hear the crickets get up on their hind legs and sing, it's a telling seasonal announcement, like the crocuses opening in spring or the first flakes of winter. Except rather than beginning, it's a sign of the ripening climax of another summer -- and summer, for many of us, is a epitomizes much of what we love about life. 
            Taylor's poem is a rhetorical whole in five metered stanzas. We have elegantly descriptive stanzas on the cricket's annual performance, followed by analysis of our response:

Repetitive cacophony
becomes the leitmotif—
they know their time to reproduce
is growing brief.
And we who listen will do one
of several likely things:
deny the deviousness of time,

 or fold our wings       
            Please read these poems in full, and all the others, at Here's the link

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