Thursday, 10 January 2013

Stumbling on melons, as I pass

08:30:00 Posted by Damp incendiary device , , , , , 2 comments
As poets we use our language to disguise aspects of ourself. We dress ourselves up in metaphor and simile, personifcation and allegory.  Regrets, longings and lust are transformed into rain, night-time or vegetables. A poem is always an insight into the poet, even a translation.  Rather than delve into the murky metaphors that disguise this poet, let's look at some dead poets instead.  After all, they can't dispute my claims and that means I win.  Yes, I do.

Robert Frost - The Road Not Taken

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

What he doesn't usually tell people about himself: He finds walking down quiet paths adventurous.Once, in a reckless mood, he poured the coffee into a cup before the milk.  When his wife became morbidly depressed he parted his hair on the left, just to make her smile. 

Emily Dickinson - I'm Nobody!  Who are you?

I'm Nobody! Who are you?
Are you -- Nobody -- Too?
Then there's a pair of us!
Don't tell! they'd advertise -- you know!

What she doesn't usually tell people about herself: Alone in that room for days at a time, it's only natural that one would strike up a conversation with one's mirror, or Fictional Personification of a Feeling of Insignificance (FIPFI with a silent P) as she preferred to be known.

John Berryman - Dream Song 29

There sat down, once, a thing on Henry's heart
so heavy, if he had a hundred years
& more, & weeping, sleepless, in all them time
Henry could not make good

What he doesn't usually tell people about himself: Berryman is a lover of labradors but he lacks Caesar Milan's discipline.  He allows his chocolate lab to eat his leftovers, from the plate, and even encourages it to sleep on the sofa.  The dog is now morbidly obese.  Due to its penchant for sleeping in Berryman's bed, it once crushed the poet, causing him some mild breathing difficulties which lasted until long after breakfast.

Sylvia Plath - Lady Lazarus
I have done it again.
One year in every ten
I manage it-

What she doesn't usually tell people about herself: Numerology wasn't her major but it was a  hobby she practiced with fervour.  There was something about that big, round zero that entranced  her.  For one year out of every ten she had that beautiful ring at the end of her age.  The first time it  happened she turned every dot above the i into a circle.  When she turned twenty she became obsessed with melons ("The world is splitting open at my feet like a ripe, juicy watermelon").  At thirty it was the rings of the hob. 

Hilda Doolittle - The Sheltered Garden

Or the melon --
let it bleach yellow
in the winter light,
even tart to the taste --
it is better to taste of frost --
the exquisite frost --
than of wadding and of dead grass. 

What she doesn't usually tell people about herself: As the instigator of the whole melon craze among women poets of the 1950s, Hilda carved a name for herself in the particular genre of frost-bitten melon.  Although this particular craving never caught on among her contemporaries, Hilda was not put off and was the only person to be laughed off the How Does Your Garden Grow? BBC radio programme (later to become Gardeners' Question Time) after revealing that her cockle shells were yet to produce a yield of cod.  Unable to speak of the humiliation, she channelled her pain into her melon poetry.



Ashley R Lister said...

You should be teaching poetry.

Anonymous said...

Dear Ms Ellis,
I am a chocolate Lab with a centre parting. I am considering an ode to the cantelupe. While my cockles are not strong my mussels are not bad. Should I submit to Poetry Review?