|Walton Ford, Falling Bough (2002)|
Read the poems here:
Poetry, Literature, Whatever // An Online Presence of Michael S. Begnal
|Walton Ford, Falling Bough (2002)|
Lie close to me, my poem, and comfort me,He does not fetishize the image of a pagan god, à la Lawrence; instead there is only the poem that can redeem, only the poem can “breathe me alive.” The idea that “once to have thought, once to have used the earth” is enough to have made something “durable,” to become something durable — i.e. that to have lived once or at all means one has become part of the cosmos for all time — collapses time and metaphorically blurs the line between death and life, suggesting a view of death as only one part of something larger (which doesn’t have to be religious per se). Only this can be comfort for a poet, or for Bynner anyway, that a trace of the act of making a poem, an act of living, can be contained in the words themselves and might survive in the poem.
Console me with substance lovelier than mine,
Breathe me alive a thousand years from now,
Whisper — beside that rim of an empty moon,
Under the earth, the moon I thought with once —
That once to have thought, once to have used the earth,
Is to have made a god more durable
Than flesh and bone. Lie close to me, my poem. (57)
What is this might, this mystery,Here the rhyme is a bit heavy-handed, but the passage sums up Bynner’s perspective (and his repetition of rhyme is often meant to work as emphasis). Though he does not articulate a codified system (aside from the broad strokes), he does intend to take a political stance, having asserted at the start of this section, “‘Beauty,’ they ask, ‘in politics?’ / ‘If you put it there,’ say I” (23).
Moving and singing through democracy,
This music of the masses
And of you and me —
But purging and dynamic poetry! — (page 25)
To stop the wound and heal the scarHere, the rhyme is more subtle, with enjambment and the near-rhyme of “aptitude / flood,” even as the message remains stridently egalitarian. Bynner makes similarly strident statements about wealth inequality and war, while avoiding the ideological approach we sometimes later see especially in the poets of the 1930s — Bynner was not a Marxist, but more a radical progressive, albeit when the term still had something of a party-political connotation.
Of time, with sudden glorious aptitude
Woman assumes her part. Her pity in a flood
Flings down the gate.
She has been made to wait
Too long. . . . (37)
Let me receive communion with all men,There are some weaknesses here, though; sometimes Bynner’s frequent talk of the “soul” or “joy” becomes a bit too indistinct or clichéd. Pound, with his Imagist principles, had a point in this regard, the better strategy often being to avoid or at least critique such abstractions.
Acknowledging our one and only soul!
For not till then
Can God be God, till we ourselves are whole. (39)
“Who eats a face?” John Menesini asks in “Bathsalt Vaudeville.” Menesini himself eats a face, metaphorically speaking. Read these poems and find out in the reading; don’t take my word for it.
I’m writing this from a very subjective point of view. I know John and have been digging his poems since we first met in 1998. In Ireland then, his stuff struck me as a strange gust of “home,” whatever that is: “cracked macadam basketball courts / knee-high weeds in tangled clusters” or 4th of July parades with “hordes of drunken / volunteer fireman.” Or “Psychobilly Novaboys,” the first one of his I ever read, I think.
The range of his poetic insight, however, is long, much longer even than a shit-town inscape. Samurais sometimes lived a life of “archaic working-class toil”? Yes, I guess so. The idea connects them to the figures of old Pittsburgh in “Black Cemetery Wall.” I like the sweet elegy for Lou Reed (and Sterling Morrison) and the strange images of “Black Snow”: “cry black tears / sharp shards / become puddles”
Reading these again (and some for the first time) reminds me how good Menesini is — as if I needed reminding. I won’t go on, except to say that he is a poet of singular intensity and a complex sensibility who should be read.
— Michael S. Begnal, Pittsburgh, July 2014
|Hawthorn in bloom (via irisharchaeology.ie)|
|A Scottish Bealtaine festival, a few years back (via http://nva.org.uk/artwork/beltane/)|
|The Muddy Banks cover (art by John Menesini)|
|Photo that accompanies the interview|
Removed he was on his own now
He is the dark where you are free too
Or could be if you join him there?
— Elias, from “Pervasive Solace”