Thursday, March 21, 2013

"End" - A poem by Jorie Graham

As soon as I bought Jorie Graham's new poetry collection entitled "PLACE", I leafed through the book looking for a quick entry point. A poem that would stand out from the rest, a quick gratification reference, a turning of a phrase that would drag me in, chain my eye to the page.

From one poem to the other I drifted, looking for familiarity in presentation, looking for hooks in the titles, the phrasing, the opening lines. I soon realised that I would have to dig deeper to unearth the treasure chest. I found myself skipping pages, unable to penetrate the strange form, syntax and ideas contained in the poems. No less than five or six times did I put the book down and returned, only to be denied access once again. Then, one fine morning, the "sound and vision" of the poem "End" progressively revealed itself  and there I was balancing the shifting emphasis from fragment to fragment and back. It all came together and the last words of the poem, I feel, really leave an indelible mark on the reader. What can that be other than the sign of great poetry in the making?  

In a very interesting interview by Thomas Gardner for the magazine "the Paris review", Jorie Graham is asked if she feels she is asking too much from the reader... This is what she says:

"...I do worry considerably about a reader’s patience—how much mental or emotional space they have in their life in this crushingly full world to give to the reading of a poem. Many of today’s readers prefer fast poems with stated conclusions, partly because they can fit them into their day. Who can blame them? They have precious little time. They want the Cliff Notes to the overwhelmingly huge novel. Of course, it is poetry’s job to try to provide the very opposite—to recomplicate the oversimplified thing. This doesn’t require going on at length—lord knows some of the more complex acts of human awareness occur in Basho. At any rate, it’s not hard to see where the shortened attention span has gotten us, the desire for speed, for the quick rush or take or fix . . .


Some of that is the impact of technology.


Yes, don’t you think? For example, when you have a split tv screen giving you main news (images), secondary news in text (often war facts), weather, stock reports, and even an “update” in the corner, on sports, how is a person—let alone one in a democracy and therefore responsible for clear-headed choice—supposed to feel any of the information she’s gathering? One is reduced to simply scanning the information for its factual content. The emotive content, unless reported to one or rhetorically painted onto it, is gone from the experience. It seems almost in the way. And yet it’s in the overtones of the facts, in the emotive overtones, that much of the real information lies. None of this can be separated out from contemporary poetics. The “multitasking” asked of us by the CNN screen is precisely geared to dissociating our sensibilities. It forces us to “not feel” in the very act of “collecting information.” But what value does information unstained by emotive content have, except a fundamental genius for manipulating dissociated human souls? Why, you can frighten them to the point of inhumanity. You can get them to close their eyes and let you commit murder in their name..."


(November 21, 2010)

End of autumn. Deep fog. There are chains in it, and sounds of

                                                   hinges. No that was

                                                   birds. A bird and a

                                                   gate. There are

swingings of the gate that sound like stringed

                                                   instruments from

                                                   some other

                                                   culture. Also a

hammering which is held

                                                   in the fog

                                                   and held. Or it is continuing to

                                                   hammer. I hear the blows.

Each is distant so it seems it should not repeat. It repeats. What is being hammered

                                                   in. Fog all over the

                                                   field. The sounds of


on soil in groups those

                                                   thuds but then it is

                                                   cattle I

                                                   think. The sound of the hinge the swinging chain it won’t

go away. But it is just the farmer at work. He must be putting out

                                                   feed. Fog. Play at

                                                   freedom now it says, look, all is
                                                   blank. Come to the

                                                   front, it is

                                                   your stage it

                                                   says, the sound of the clinking of links of

chain, I think it is someone making the chain – that is the hammering – the thuds – making

their own chain. But no, it is the gate and the herd is let in again, then

                                                   out. I can hear

the mouths eating, dozens maybe hundreds, and the breathing in and out as they

                                                   chew. And the

                                                   chain, for now I am alive I think into the hammering

thudding clinking swinging of metal hinge – of hinge – and also think maybe this is

winter now – first day of. Fog and a not knowing of. Of what. What is inner

                                                   experience I think being

                                                   shut out. I look. A gate swings again and a rustling

                                                   nearby. All is

nearby and invisible. The clinking a chinking of someone making nails. The sounds of a crowd

meaning to be silent, all their breathing. Having been told not to move and to be

                                                   silent. Then having been told to

                                                   move and be

                                                   silent. The crowd is in there. All the breaths they are trying

                                                   to hold in, make

inaudible. And scraping as of metal on metal, and dragging as of a heavy thing. But it is a field

out there. My neighbour has his herd on it. When I walk away from the

                                                   window it’s a violin I

                                                   hear over the

                                                   chewing out of tune torn string but once it made

                                                   music it might still make

                                                   music if I become a new way of

                                                   listening, in which

                                                   above all,

                                                   nothing, I know nothing, now there are moans

out there such as a man accused and tossed away by his fellow beings, an aloneless, and

                                                   listen, it is blank but in it is an

appeal, a ruined one, reduced, listen: in

                                                   there this


                                                   dying slowly

                                                   in eternity its



  1. Καίριες σκέψεις, υπέροχο ποίημα, καταπληκτική ανάρτηση

  2. Νίκο, σε ευχαριστώ πολύ για το σχόλιο. Μου άρεσαν πολύ τα "ζωγραφικά" ποιήματα που ανέβασες.

  3. D., βρήκα τρομερά ενδιαφέρον ότι αυτή την ανάγκη που περιγράφεις για ένα "quick entry point", για "familiarity in presentation, for hooks in the titles, the phrasing, the opening lines", την έχουν ακόμη και οι ίδιοι οι ποιητές όταν γίνονται αναγνώστες!Κοίτα πώς το περιγράφει ο Μπίλυ Κόλλινς στο "Reading an Anthology of Chinese Poems of the Sung Dynasty, I Pause To Admire the Length and Clarity of Their Titles"

  4. Εξαιρετική παραπομπή! Νίκο, σε ευχαριστώ. Πρόκειται για το δεύτερο ποίημα του κυρίου Κόλλινς που καταφέρνει να με εντυπωσιάσει στο διάστημα της ανάγνωσης μιας ανάρτησης... Προβληματίζομαι αρκετά πάντως με το ζήτημα της υπομονής του αναγνώστη που θίγει στη συνέντευξη της η J.Graham. Πόσες φορές δεν έχω προσπεράσει κείμενα, μόνο και μόνο επειδή στην "διαγώνια ανάγνωση" δεν βρήκα κάτι το γνώριμο στο πρώτο επιφανειακό επίπεδο. Η σύγχρονη εποχή με τη συνδρομή της τεχνολογίας σε σπρώχνει στην γρήγορη κατανάλωση και στην αποφυγή κάθε "χρονοβόρας" ανάλυσης. Κι όμως η ικανοποίηση είναι πολύ μεγαλύτερη στην περίπτωση της φανέρωσης του γνώριμου μέσα από το προσεκτικό και "σκεπτόμενο" διάβασμα και την ανάλυση. Το γνώριμο σε αυτή τη περίπτωση διευρύνεται και εμπλουτίζεται και δεν περιορίζεται σε μια στείρα επιβεβαίωση του.