What a Poem Can Do

Two o’clock. I just started reading A Cold Spring. So far, much better than North & South. Bishop’s use of details is really great. I like her idea that the world is her teacher, her source of knowledge. And she substantiates this with her love of travel. Her sketches are so realistic, with surprises here and there. Lots of colors. She interprets landscapes and scenes on their own merits, gives them their own expression, as little biased as possible. In A Cold Spring, she advances from being simply personal to being a chronicler, transmuting these places with her poetic voice into a revelation. It’s like the art of Van Gogh in this sense, except more realistic and not so impressionist. And the difference between a poem and a photograph is exactly this kind of Platonic revelation that a poet can give. A poem reaches in and pulls out the sublime essence of an image. Emily Dickinson was a genius at doing this.

I miss the soda I didn’t buy this morning. I might make a run for my cranberry ginger ale even now. It doesn’t feel too warm this afternoon, so why not?

Midsummer Monday

Three o’clock. My sleep last night was shallow like a slumber. I don’t remember it very well. Mind is a blank but for brief blips. I miss my mother today. Last night I could remember the hospital stay in August 2016. The schizophrenia was not well managed at the time, and the hallucinations were very bad. I also felt so alone with the illness. My remaining family couldn’t give a shit less, and even now they only want to pick fights with me. I might as well live my life my way since they don’t care about me. I feel terrible. Part of me would like to drink beer and get drunk, partly to negotiate the voices. But the cycle of addiction is vicious. Soon I would be out of money… I’m reacting to the chocolate I had in my ice cream. Caffeine fucks me up. The body gets so sensitive as you age. And my brain is on the fritz.

Four ten. Not to mention that my mood is going downhill. I had a good idea for revising Ellie’s poem this morning and I shared it with her. She said she would play with it. But other than that I’m quite uninspired today. Out of nowhere I recalled an old song by John Ford Coley that Janet down the street liked during grade school. The hit was released in 1976, so I was 9 or 10 years old when Janet obtained a copy of the single. “England Dan” is a big joke; he was from Texas. The only music we knew back then was American pop except for McCartney and Wings, obviously British. Oh, and a little bit of Supertramp and Queen. And from Australia, The BeeGees and Olivia Newton John. But it would be another five years before I heard Rush and Yes and Genesis, much harder to find in Eugene.

Five twenty. I put my ginger ale in the freezer for a few minutes. It’s 82 degrees inside the house, but my chocolate buzz is going away… I ordered three ice cube trays. Arriving Wednesday. When the second book of Bishop’s poetry comes, I think I’ll place it in the book share on Fremont. Somebody could benefit from some good poetry. Btw, “The Fish” is a great poem. I don’t think it’s symbolic necessarily. It’s about catching a warrior old fish with a lot of previous hooks in his mouth. This time he didn’t put up a fight… and she lets the fish go. I think it’s good for its detailed descriptions, and the more the details, the greater the emotion. The narrator’s feeling is exultation for catching this great prize. And then you wonder why she let it go. Maybe because he’d struggled so valiantly against being caught before. Maybe it would come as a surprise to the fish to be released. Then again, her victory over the fish could be symbolic of something…


Quarter after one. I just finished reading North & South. I picked up on the element of the Second World War especially in “Sleeping Standing Up,” where Bishop suggests that the tanks are lost in the woods like Hansel and Gretel, with no way to find the “cottage.” The poem “Roosters” is packed with connotations of men and war and deserves another read. I really like “Seascape” for its dissension with orthodox religion, the character of heaven and hell. In “Monument,” she suggests that the wooden building of her self is “ecclesiastical,” perhaps more so than the conned words of the church. That’s what I glean from the first collection of poems. I think my favorite poem so far is “The Man-moth” because of the moth’s attraction to moonlight on one hand, and then the poem takes you to the subway. I’ll have to read it again…

For a moment it is silent as death in this room, as the air grows close and stifling, smothering. There’s nothing going on outside either. The silence is oppressive. Now, the refrigerator kicks on at last. There passes a car up my street. The market was nearly out of things for me to eat, but I bought chocolate chip mint ice cream for a treat. Soon it’ll be time to turn on the fan. Survival in the summer.