Ann Lauterbach’s ‘Door’: Trouble Me, Poet

A noun or pronoun, with a participle in agreement, may be put in the ablative to define the time or circumstances of an action. This construction is called the Ablative Absolute… The Ablative Absolute is an adverbial modifier of the predicate. It is, however, not grammatically dependent on any word in the sentence: hence its name absolute (absolūtus, i.e. free or unconnected). A substantive in the Ablative Absolute very seldom denotes a person or thing elsewhere mentioned in the same clause.

World fills up
imperious pace

vagrant matter
into the humming

pooled at the feet
what soul went down

what inventory
mud slippage tracks

marked shells
anointed there

the ravenous real

above torsion of waves

thrown open crossed.

(Ann Lauterbach, from Poetry March 2023)

Here’s how I read it:

World fills up. Imperious pace. Vagrant matter into the humming. Pooled at the feet, what soul went down! What inventory mud slippage tracks, marked shells anointed there! The ravenous real flowering above torsion of waves. Unexpected threshold thrown open: crossed.

Other phrasings can be inferred. For example: Vagrant matter into the humming, pooled at the feet. What soul went down! Etc.

I have an affection for the verb “cohere” — the state of being joined up, of hanging together. I also like “construe,” which is a feat of elucidation resulting from analysis. Whether it’s a painting or a verse that one reads, does it overstate the case to say reading is construal in pursuit of coherence? We’re meaning seekers; we want to claw message from noise. Figuring out what relationship words have to one another conduces to signal reception. One way to confirm we’ve been signaled is to restate message in our own terms, albeit paraphrase is a widely deprecated expedient. I like to think of it as translation.

“Door” is a sustained interjection built with declamatory ecce language: Behold! I speculate that a confluence of intensely perceived marine stimuli triggered a private ecstasy, a flash of insight into plenitude and convergence, a breakthrough to transcendent understanding, a “door of perception” moment which the writer sought to freeze-frame in haiku-esque shorthand. Terse headline language cascades through elusive dependencies, disputable enjambments, and a succession of power words — imperious, vagrant, soul, anointed, ravenous, torsion. Where I glimpse poem at last is in the ravenous real. I’m smitten with substantivized “real” and how it flows participially into a flowering above torsion of waves. Ecce coherence!

Whatever they say about “connecting” with an audience, writers who identify as poets fulfill themselves first. Perhaps “Door” scores artistic achievement by forcing me to come to terms with it to this extent, at this cost in spent treasure of life-moments. The question a reader must ask always is, “How does verse-speech fulfill me?”

(c) 2023 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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