Mean or Not, It’s a Feat

Poetry, December 2021. Cover art by Haein Kim/Canvas.

Can a poem hurt the reader into glimpsing its cargo? The poem discussed is ‘From “Banana [ ],”’ Poetry, December 2021, by Paul Hlava Ceballos.

I encounter poetry I perceive to be all kinds of icky: cryptic, elliptic, hierophantic, delphic, hermetic, jesuitic, typographic, (occasionally ironic); also oblique, discontinuous, nondescript, arbitrary, formless, aimless, obtuse, aleatory, taunting, unforthcoming, inchoate, withholding, slangy, out of reach; a shrill small thing, a large no thing, or a some thing between.

Reading such poems has for me the under-wallop of picking up a stickle of glub stuck to a rugosity, sliding fingerishly over its crigginess, finding no tactible sally for the poesy squat but to drip the bobbit where it lagged, step over its void sprockets, and bumble griffishly along my starry-idle flustered way.

How does that make me feel? It feels like being told to stop feeling with my head. To read harder. To locate my heart’s cockles. Does it have cockles?

A poem that is somehow about bananas, or that is referentially involved with bananas, or that is inflamed thematically by bananas, may have taught me a lesson.

Arrogant, indulgent, outlandish, glib, provoking, insulting, flagrant and intolerable was how it loomed. Its first 3 pages have a skittering of verbiage inhabiting hyper-space.

Third page of “From ‘Banana [ ]’”

Then it settles into a one-hundred-fifty-line banana blitzkrieg:

… to banana / be banana / a banana / domesticated banana / object banana / overripe banana…

At this point, bent solely on reaching the end as soon as possible, I ceased reading aloud and shifted into scan mode. Then I realized, reading against the grain, that a vertical sequence of quasi-utterances emerged:

to…be…a…domesticated…object…overripe…as…an…empire… / what…manufactured…nanostructure…prevents…grace…blossoming

These are not necessarily jejune utterances. They are sort of poetic. Does the poem succeed in some way on its own terms by rubbing me so wrong that I give up on it midway in disgust? Then having forced me into the very expedient I took, reduce me to glimpsing strands of message? If I dwell rosetta-stonishly on the poem, might I perceive they twist into a thread? Is it worth the trouble? Should I not, after all, drip the bobbit where it lagged?

(c) 2021 JMN — EthicalDative. All rights reserved

About JMN

I live in Texas and devote much of my time to easel painting on an amateur basis. I stream a lot of music, mostly jazz, throughout the day. I like to read and memorize poetry.
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