Wednesday, April 17, 2013

BPR LIT TRIP 18 with David Wagoner

Finding David Wagoner’s two poems “Poem” and “Running Scared” toward the end of the Birmingham Poetry Review volume 40 made the Steiny Road Poet question if this was The David Wagoner, the writer who is author of 19 books of poetry and ten novels of which The Escape Artist was made a film by Francis Coppola. Yes, the BPR Contributors section of biographies confirms one in the same and reaffirms what the Steiny Poet observed in reviewing a poem by Edward Hirsch—well credentialed poets are mixed in with emerging poets like Caitlin Doyle BPR 40.

To understand Wagoner’s “Poem,” which catalogs what a poem might be, such as a narrative—“It has a beginning and,/eventually, a middle and,/wait a while, an end…” or an observation on nature (in the widest sense possible) “A poem/ may have roots, stems,/ blossoms among leaves,/ and repeated scatterings/ of what may be reborn,/ or a poem can be a core/ around which blood, muscles,/ and bones may calculate/ the slow and sudden means/ of awareness…”, the Steiny Poet found she had to read “Running Scared.” And, given the horror of this week’s bombings at the Boston Marathon, the Steiny Poet was immediately drawn by Wagoner’s title “Running Scared.” Here’s the problem presented by the end lines of “Poem”

and here comes one of them
crawling on all fours.

In “Poem,” Wagoner presents what seems to be a focused writerly poem on what the essence and make up of poetry is. Then the end lines have one of the poems crawling on all fours, making the Steiny Poet think this is Wagoner doting on a baby, maybe a grandchild. And yes, poets and writers celebrate their work as if the work was a child, their latest baby.

What “Running Scared” does is open up the meaning of this poem crawling on all fours. Here are the last lines from “Running Scared”:

a glance over either
shoulder, which would be more
...........useful if you were down
...........on all fours, like the game
...........animal you used to be, instead
of only helping your arms
pump your fists against
nothing, nothing as usual.

Clearly “Running Scared” is a companion piece to “Poem”  and might be part of a series Wagoner has written or is currently writing, Thinking about what is crawling on all fours as a game animal—an animal made legitimate quarry by law—changes the tone about the conversation on what poetry is and how it is viewed in the public world. It speaks to vulnerabilities, about people who shoot first and ask questions later, about people who say you aren’t from around here, are you? So, look at some of the lines previously quoted along with connecting lines not yet quoted. Also notice the formats of both poems include deeply indented lines.

or a poem can be a core
...........around which blood, muscles,
...........and bones may calculate
the slow and sudden means
of awareness of what isn’t
...........a poem on all six sides
...........of an exterior world,
and here comes one of them
crawling on all fours.

The Steiny Poet now has an image of a beleaguered creature (the four-limbed poem) crawling around a hexagramatic fortress, maybe similar to the U. S. military headquarters known as the Pentagon. Nothing like another point of view to open the world wider.

1 comment:

Grace Cavalieri said...

Karren's take on poetry (and the world) is a contribution to counter those who think there are edges to thought or horizons