Thursday, June 11, 2009

Poetry readings, a photo film negative

I acquired from Borders a cd on sale of modern poets reading their own poetry in scratchy worn recordings -- Robert Frost, Langston Hughes, Yeats (!), Dylan Thomas.

I am struck by how, generally speaking, to be a poet is NOT to be a stage entertainer. The few poems I have listened to so far are read hurriedly, abashedly by poets who seem shy to be reading their own work. Frost fairly flies through his great poems, and dismisses his famous "Two Roads" poem with a hasty muttering at the end: that's "an easy poem."

After a few of these, I skipped ahead to Sylvia Plath's "Daddy" where pain enters the production and the broken anger of a daughter does scratch in her voice.

It is painful to hear, to listen to, painful to read. Dark, tragic, lost, pitiful soul. The poem is a wretchedly truthful portrait of the wretched state of mind a bad father bequeaths to his daughter, the inclinations to patricide (metaphorically if not literally), the heavy-hearted plodding in and out of relationships with bad men looking for one pitiful chance to redeem -- to win -- paternal love. We've all know women who have been burdened in life by a harsh or distant or tragically neglectful father -- girls born to pillagers (emotional or physical) instead of the shepherd.

This poem is a negative -- like on photo film; in displaying what can be wrong, it divulges the importance of fathers in viewing life, self and the divine..."a bag full of God," as she says.

And who could redeem a broken soul from this, but God himself?

Silvia Plath
You do not do, you do not do
Any more, black shoe
In which I have lived like a foot
For thirty years, poor and white,
Barely daring to breathe or Achoo.

Daddy, I have had to kill you.
You died before I had time---
Marble-heavy, a bag full of God,
Ghastly statue with one grey toe
Big as a Frisco seal

And a head in the freakish Atlantic
Where it pours bean green over blue
In the waters off beautiful Nauset.
I used to pray to recover you.
Ach, du. ...

Bit my pretty red heart in two.
I was ten when they buried you.
At twenty I tried to die
And get back, back, back to you.
I thought even the bones would do.

But they pulled me out of the sack,
And they stuck me together with glue.
And then I knew what to do.
I made a model of you,
A man in black with a Meinkampf look

And a love of the rack and the screw.
And I said I do, I do.
So daddy, I'm finally through.
The black telephone's off at the root,
The voices just can't worm through. ...

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