SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska


By David G. Hanger


February 23, 2008

An excerpt from "The Art of Poetry" that I think you will like:

What indeed is a poem?  What makes one jumble of words poetic,
another jumble just words?  It does seem there must be some kind
of theme or point with which to make a beginning.  Certainly not
a matter of form, though form to poetry in abundance there is, but
the words of the poet flow freely like water over and around any
obstruction, controllable to a degree but ultimately immutable,
capable of changing their very essence just to break free.  Nor a
matter of riddle or rhyme; it's there plenty enough, but not really
the substance of the thing.  Words that transcend simple meaning
provoking imagery unstated?  In the end all can really be said is a
poem is a poem is a poem.

I had a friend in college, a little guy named Arthur Pease; talented our little man, and it was he introduced me to that wonderful Italian proverb, "The smile is abundant on the face of the fool."  But Arthur and I parted company on one subject, that being that he felt good poetry must be complex both in language and in form, whereas, albeit I consider prose and rhetoric fair fields for linguistic flourish, with poetry I have observed that simpler form and simple words more frequently creates that complexity of illusion that is the goal of the poetic form.

A simple example:

He speaks with elated imagery,
The sun, my son,
Said he.

Twelve words, about as simple as it gets.  The complexity of the illusion is virtually infinite.

Another short, one sentence poem that literally bursts upon the senses:

Life is a collage
incessantly moving
Upon an unpredictable course
Through unseen corridors
and living rooms bedazzled
By the fire of the infinite spectrum.

Simple words are not necessarily simply met and entwined to create that higher caste called art, but on occasion come these flashes.
A different kind of work, elevated to the status of poetry only by the elemental truism at its heart, otherwise doggerel; but leading on to that I want to show you:

Go with the flow
Go with the flow, they say.
Go with the flow.
The flow is a trajectory striking distance with predication.
What if the flow is going the wrong way?

This is my last contribution to Sitnews.  I am eternally grateful for the opportunity to present to you several of the interesting cases on which I have worked and my occasional opinions on other subjects, but there has come a calling, and besides the day job that calling will require all my time and energy henceforth.  Grant that one old man cannot begin to clean up the mess that is Alaska politics at all levels, and accept that this old man has sense enough to know that, may it be that others restore checks and balances, integrity, and a functioning two-party (or more) system to this great state.  The tinhorn despots running rampant at all levels of government in this state are becoming both inconveniently expensive and absolutely embarrassing.  Good luck.

My calling has already taken me on journeys covering five years and more than 50,000 miles, and that is just for my introductory piece, 15 to 20 pages.  On the far side of Toynbee the physical part of that journey began, and soon I will tell you a story about a nook known as the Bull Pasture, a cranny called the Coaling, and of things that happen when the cicadas sing.  Have you heard of the Namozine Church road?  It seems just a thin gray ribbon, but seeming so isn't.  It is the road to the end of war, and I have been there.  A story worth the telling.

In parting I leave you this gift.  Do not be confused.  It is a love poem with a twist.  The love object is non-specific, the poem allegorical, and the reader, if not the survivor is witness thereto; a universalization of the concept of love.  Nor a flash this work.  The word 'quay' should be pronounced 'key.'  Again from "The Art of Poetry:"

It is a lonely thing, a love poem, augmented solely by the mind of the reader
and the illusion created thereby; that ever-changing illusion limited only by
the number of passersby.

For Joe and Steve and Roger.
For Mick and Al and Wild Bill.
For all of thee who go down by the sea.


An Ode to Ketchikan and You and Me
And All of Thee Who Go Down by the Sea

                              Again the memories drift, suspended in time
                                Painting vividly the morning sky their silence.
                             With the dusk again they fade like the currents
                                            Passing before eyes downcast.
                                 How hard it is to move beyond the past.
                                       But the years go by day by day
                                    Memories are but flotsam along the quay
                                                So some say.
                                    Yet though I wander this pebbled beach
                                             It is wind and rain and distance
                                                            My heart doth seek.

                                     Years later I still love you.
                               The song of my soul echoes unheeded
                                                Over an empty sea.
                                       Death rode the wind that day.
                             Shattered timbers on the beach marked its reach,
                              But not for me the silent peace, O bastard sea.
                                               Cold and wet and gray
                                           I crawled ashore and walked away.

                             Dance wind, across the waters and over the bay.
                                                I'll sit and watch
                                         I'll wait if you want throughout the day. 
                                    But sail on, silent wraith
                                    Enter again the mouth of that wretched strait
                                        And ripple anew the fathoms of my hate.
                                 Sing, wind, your banshee's tale of tempest and sea.
                                             Hurl, witch, hurl your spite at me.
                                       Come sea, I taunt thee, give me your best.
                                            Strike in fury this bony chest.
                                    I'll stand, then boast you've nothing on me.
                                                     You'll do the rest.

                        Remember ye, and all of thee who long to go down by the sea
                                        The best that one can pray
                                                On his particular day
                                    Is a fifty-foot swell and a ton of spray,
                                      A fleeting deck as you slip away to nowhere.
                                                            And YOU are there.
                                    And yesterday is tomorrow the day before yesterday
                                         And tomorrow it will be true, too.
                                                Thus might one remain
                                                       Who yet may refrain
                                                Years later I still love you.

Adios, folks.

David G. Hanger
Ketchikan, AK

Received February 20, 2008 - Published February 23, 2008



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Stories In The News
Ketchikan, Alaska