PLOG – Poetry Log
(Started 25 April 2011)
These are the flags: Code Mauve, Code Beige, Code Gray.
Code Mauve: I can understand the poem’s language and can make sense of what the language describes or asserts. This can produce pleasure and excitement, or not.
Code Beige: I can understand the poem’s language but cannot make sense of what it describes or asserts. Pleasure or excitement may still occur, though less likely.
Code Gray: I can’t get to first base in understanding what the poem is saying or how it’s saying it. Obscurity rules. Fleeting pleasure and excitement aren’t out of the question, but indifference may crowd them out.
Many poems seem to have a flow that involves (1) Hook; (2) Complication; (3) Resolution. Or at least some do. Or should. It means the poem starts in some way that’s comprehensible, or appears to be, spins out into darkness, then comes round to a petering out that itself seems inconclusive. Of course a petering out isn’t a climax, is it?
William Logan, “Mysteries of the Armchair”, The New Yorker (Dec. 6, 2010), p. 66.
News of the world lay in the rain.
Maple leaves fell, pre-foxed,
As if stored for decades on library shelves.
I had to look up “foxed” since the only meaning I could think of, “deceived,” didn’t work. It refers to the yellowish-brown staining, as by age, of the paper of old books or prints. Maple leaves lying in the rain are compared to discolored old books. Perhaps they carry information, like books – news of the world. It’s not old information, but old-seeming, like pre-aged jeans. The leaves look old before their time. I wonder about this pre-foxing of leaves and why it matters.
The horse chestnuts had been oiled
their waxy polish glowing
like the Madonna in the Portuguese church
up the harbor. Immaculate, without sin,
by winter they burned with mildew.
Wet nuts on the ground are shiny as if oiled. A much-polished figure of the Madonna in that church by the harbor has a similar shininess to it. This comparison is easy. But suddenly the chestnuts are given the attributes of the Virgin – immaculate, without sin – and said to “burn” with mildew. Something snaps here for me. Is there something about horse chestnuts that I need to know? (I’ve never seen one.) If they are attacked by mildew does it [PLOG ends]
(Copyright 2018 James Mansfield Nichols. All rights reserved.)