13 October 2015

The Sacred Spontaneity of Nakedness

Ok, that was kind of a weird title.  It's not a title I would ever put on anything that I wrote, because... I don't know.  I don't think "sacred spontaneity" and "nakedness" really belong together.  But in this regard, I differ, it seems, from the young poet Isak Bond, whose volume of poetry bears that title.  And of course, he's right in his choice of title.  Which simply tells us that I could never have written this book of poems.  Enough about that.  I'd like to discuss some of the poems in the volume, which might best be described as "The Horny Young Catholic Boy Thinks About Sex."  (The title of one of the poems.)

The volume is divided into four parts, each of about a dozen short poems.  The first to catch my eye was titled "Metaphysical Barf". (Maybe because I have a tortured relationship with metaphysics.) I'm afraid I've never done poetry criticism before, so I might fail at this.  But I'll try anyway.

I knew I would like the poem when I had to reread the first few lines repeatedly as I worked through it.  One gets the sense of gaining something in the course of reading—gaining at the very least a developed sense of the meaning of the first line: "Next time you see him you will wonder".  The free verse works well.  The linebreaks interrupt the thought make it hard to understand, giving you a feeling almost like the child being described: craning his neck, developing but struggling, then no struggling, growing up.  Writing about it presently, I think of two other poems.  The first is "Seed Leaves" by Richard Wilbur, which is very different:


Here something stubborn comes,
Dislodging the earth crumbs
And making crusty rubble.
It comes up bending double
And looks like a green staple.
It could be seedling maple,
Or artichoke, or bean;
That remains to be seen.


Forced to make choice of ends,
The stalk in time unbends,
Shakes off the seedcase, heaves
Aloft, and spreads two leaves
Which still display no sure
And special signature.
Toothless and fat, they keep
The oval form of sleep.


This plant would like to grow
And yet be embryo;
Increase, and yet escape
The doom of taking shape;
Be vaguely vast, and climb
To the tip end of time
With all of space to fill,
Like boundless Yggdrasill
That has the stars for fruit.
But something at the root
More urgent than that urge
Bids two true leaves emerge,
And now the plant, resigned
To being self-defined
Before it can commerce
With the great universe,
Takes aim at all the sky
And starts to ramify.
Anyway, I think of that because of the tension conveyed in the poem.  But the best part of this poem is not, perhaps, any of its neat poetic qualities, (the enjambment, the use of rhythm to convey the subject), but the attitude conveyed in the last line, dismissing the inquiry into "continuity of self" and all that.  It reminds me of another old favorite:

Let us not talk philosophy, drop it, Jeanne.
So many words, so much paper, who can stand it.
I told you the truth about my distancing myself.
I've stopped worrying about my misshapen life.
It was no better and no worse than the usual human tragedies. [...]

I would like to take up more poems from the volume, but I would feel embarrassed doing so.  Why embarrassed?  Because it seems like these poems aren't meant to be droned on about my someone boring like me.  They have a little more of the tension and... excitement... of the early 20s than I ever had.  And saying this, it's not that I revere the work of Mr. Bond, and refuse to speak on that account, but that it would be unfitting for me to be the one to tell what is found in this little book.  Just like it would be unfitting, perhaps, for JMW Turner to write a review of a Brecht play.  Turner has life in him, of a sort, but not the same sort as Brecht has.

So if you want to know, read it for yourself.