Saturday, September 21, 2013

ModPo 2013 #10 By My Hand: On Niedecker's "You are my friend"

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Note: I am currently taking a course on called Modern and Contemporary American Poetry taught by Al Filreis of the University of Pennsylvania. I will be posting my thoughts on the course discussions here.

Lorine Niedecker's "You are my friend"

You are my friend--
you bring me peaches
and the high bush cranberry

          you carry

my fishpole

you water my worms
you patch my boot
with your mending kit

         nothing in it

but my hand

I'm glad I watched the video discussion! Otherwise, I would have been stuck with the macabre image of a severed hand in the boot of a car.

I loved reading the poem again. "My hand" has so many levels of meaning: Independence, the act of writing, the power to choose. I also liked how the poem turns the tables on a conventional reading like Margaret Atwood's "You Fit Into Me." She begins with gifts being given: peaches, high bush cranberry. Then moves into acts of service like carrying a fishpole, watering worms and mending a boot. The last line deliberately disorients. What I thought, initially, to be a bitter ending (well, I don't have a friend, I only have myself) can actually be read as a happy self-sufficiency and, more than that, I also liked how this self-sufficiency is also the act of writing itself.

Among the poets we've taken up, I really enjoy Niedecker's brand of thumbing her nose at convention. I guess that's why I like her.

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