Sunday, September 22, 2013

ModPo 2013 #12 Abandonment and Epiphany: On Armantrout's "The Way"

My own drawing. :-)

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.

The Way


Card in pew pocket
“I am here.”

I made only one statement
because of a bad winter.

Grease is the word; grease
is the way

I am feeling.
Real life emergencies or

flubbing behind the scenes.

As a child,
I was abandoned

in a story
made of trees.

Here’s the small

of this clearing
come “upon” “again”

I agree with the video discussion: this is the most difficult poem of week 2! Guidance was definitely needed for this poem. I even missed the meaning of "pew pockets," to think I grew up a Catholic. I also would have totally missed the collage of "I's" if I didn't sit in the discussion.

But, having read the poem in full appreciation, I must say that I am enchanted. Before the video discussion, I did catch a glimpse of the magical in the phrase "a story/ made of trees." There's something about it that invites further reading. And, yes, I was rewarded. I wrote in my notes: "Something magical in the fractures."

Why are difficult poems worth reading? Well, this one in particular, was a revelation. There are multitudes of "I's" but there is, ultimately, the I that has emerged from reading. Because, I am an advocate of reading, this poem holds special significance to me. I am always worried about whether my children will be readers. Maybe because I have "trophy parent" tendencies or maybe because I just want them to experience what I did in my childhood.

I love that notion: "I was abandoned/ in a story/ made of trees." I forget that reading is abandonment if it is truly enjoyable. No one can force anyone to read. But once the reading begins...there is a sense of abandonment. Not in a negative sense...but in a context of pure play, pure exploration. One must abandon one's children to reading if they are to enjoy it.

As a parent, that was reassuring to me. I need to let go some more!

And lastly, I loved that "into the woods" gasp in the clearing. For me, it stands for epiphany, one of my ars poetica elements. Let's stop here: "Once upon a time..." Those were my favorite few words, growing up. I couldn't wait to read. I wanted to hear the story. And then I would tell the stories to my own siblings. There is a moment of surprise, a moment of discovery that defines the life of a reader...and also the life of a writer. Combined with Cid Corman's notion of relationship, Armantrout's story of abandonment and epiphany help me see reading (and writing) in a new light.

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