August 22, 2011 § Leave a Comment
In ‘Nocturne in Black and Gold,’ Mark Doty transforms “harbor and heaven,” the tangible and the ineffable, into “one continuum / sans coast or margins,” and compels the reader to dissolve into the residual vapor. The poem, from Doty’s 1995 collection Atlantis, is an ekphrasis, a literary depiction of a visual work of art, the subject matter here being James McNeill Whistler’s “Nocturne in Black and Gold: The Falling Rocket.” Doty references the painting as well as a famous soprano part of Mozart’s opera The Magic Flute, weaving these works together into a poem aimed at the possibility of transcendence. « Read the rest of this entry »
March 16, 2011 § Leave a Comment
“Boy howdy what’s the deal with bottled water?” asked Adam Robinson from the podium, his eyes on us expectantly. Robinson’s beard recalled Rutherford B. Hayes, and his poems stumbled out of him with a nod to Andy Kaufman’s infamous faux stage fright. Initially, an audience unfamiliar with the schtick recoiled, but Robinson won us, using his intentionally stilted delivery and penchant for colloquialism as sugar stirred into the sadness of his poems, like a mother sneaking spinach into cupcakes. When he read “Glenn Tipton,” a narrative poem addressing his parents’ intolerance, and deadpanned, “I wasn’t raised to appreciate other people’s opinions,” we giggled. In another reader’s hands, this theme could evoke pathos, but not pathos and titters.
I welcome poets who give thought to stage presence. Though I may love a poem upon first read, I, as many, can find it difficult to engage upon initial listen, no matter the reader. In the audience, my mind gropes the air for concrete images or potent phrases to hopefully, by poem’s end, amass a tower of meaning somewhat close to the poet’s intention. Often I end with a rickety lean-to or abandon construction halfway, wandering off, contemplating whether to blame my tools or the poet’s supplies. The poet loses me, and I may not come back. But some readers are seasoned in the art of luring us in.