OF TINHORN DESPOTS
AND SIMPLE THINGS
By David G. Hanger
February 23, 2008
An excerpt from "The Art of Poetry" that I think you
What indeed is a poem?
What makes one jumble of words poetic,
another jumble just words? It does seem there must be some
of theme or point with which to make a beginning. Certainly
a matter of form, though form to poetry in abundance there is,
the words of the poet flow freely like water over and around
obstruction, controllable to a degree but ultimately immutable,
capable of changing their very essence just to break free.
matter of riddle or rhyme; it's there plenty enough, but not
the substance of the thing. Words that transcend simple
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.
He speaks with elated
A simple example:
The sun, my son,
Twelve words, about as simple
as it gets. The complexity of the illusion is virtually
Life is a collage
Another short, one sentence poem that literally bursts upon the
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.
Go with the flow
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, 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 All of Thee Who Go Down by the Sea
Again the memories drift, suspended
Painting vividly the
morning sky their silence.
With the dusk again they fade like the
Passing before eyes
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
But not for me the silent peace,
O bastard sea.
Cold and wet and gray
I crawled ashore and walked
Dance wind, across the waters and over
I'll sit and watch
I'll wait if you want throughout the
But sail on, silent wraith
Enter again the mouth of that wretched strait
And ripple anew the fathoms of my hate.
your banshee's tale of tempest and sea.
hurl your spite at me.
Come sea, I taunt thee, give me your best.
Strike in fury this
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.
David G. Hanger
Received February 20, 2008
- Published February 23, 2008
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