Saturday, September 15, 2012

on a poem by Jill Essbaum


by Jill Alexander Essbaum:



is my season
of defeat.

Though all
is green

and death
is done,  

I feel alone.
As if the stone

rolled off
from the head

of the tomb
is lodged

in the doorframe
of my room,

and everyone
I’ve ever loved

lives happily
just past

my able reach.
And each time

Jesus rises
I’m reminded

of this marble

they are not
coming back.

Let me see if I can elucidate for myself why I am impressed by this poem, and write another 'appreciation' to add to my book (see second paragraph here: ) . . . maybe I should just transfer the ones I've posted here over the years onto a separate blog—

I don't or can't make any large claims for the poems I'm writing these notations on, just that they struck me and stayed with me,

and these mini essays are attempts to understand how they involved me, or how I understand my admiration of each verse—I'm not trying to elevate the status of their authors, none of whom need my approbation—

and certainly Essbaum doesn't need it.  Overall her verse seems outstandingly brilliant to me, but for the purpose of these appreciations such praise is superfluous.  She reminds me of Guillevic, and could well be I think a major adjunct to the great tradition of Ungaretti et al, but my opinions are hoo-ha at best.  Nobody wants my words blurbed on the back of their book.

Essbaum, Esster, Easter.

/ is my season / of defeat.  EAster / SEAson / deFEAts me because rhyme is cyclical and I am Jill.

Rhymes come back (recur) but, the poem concludes, "they are not / coming back."  They are not Easter.

But the poem is Easter, or the first line of the poem is Easter and Easter is simultaneously the poem's title,

and this latter "fact" makes it the only unaccompanied un-coupleted line of the poem—

as I, the speaker, feel myself uncoupled from "everyone / I've ever loved /"—

"I feel alone."  Easter is alone too, because, although it is celebrated yearly, it is not holidayed for the "fact" of itself in and of itself,

but for the myth it "lodges" or houses or seals up in an immoveable meaning,

another resurrection fantasy whose nature (apparatus) is to declare itself unrepeatable (only, solitary, unique: alone).

Each year the myth is repeated ("Each time Jesus rises"), recurrent as rhymes in a poem, a poem which also seeks to be unrepeatable,

mythical in its uniqueness.  The "fact" it must contain repeating elements in order to become unrepeatable is simply its Sisyphean foot in the door, the feet that heft its syllables of Shklovskian stoniness into that crack—

troch-cracks open the tomb: EAster / IS my / SEAson / OF de / FEAT. 

(Or is it: EAster / is MY / SEAson / of deFEAT: trochee/iamb/trochee/anapest)

Then the iam-breaks split: Though ALL / is GREEN / and DEATH / is DONE / I FEEL / aLONE.  / As IF / the STONE

—and when the seal-stone is "rolled off", the meter rolls off its track:

"rolled off" (line 9) is a what-foot, trochee, iamb, spondee, what,

but lines 10 and 11 sort of bounce anapestically (like that rolled off stone bounces before it comes to rest)

before an iambic line 12, followed by 13 which is pyrrhic/spondee (?): "in the doorframe",

or is it:

IN the / DOORframe / OF my / ROOM.  

"Of" (line 14) seems definitely stressed (to my ear anyway) which then

happily ("happily") rhymes with all the v's that follow in lines 15/16/17:


Lines 15-19 mostly iambic, with maybe a linger-stress on "lives" in 17 echoing its preceding word "loved" and perhaps line 18 ("just past") has a spondaic emphasis—

N's and M's: the poem begins with N's and then beginning line 10 becomes mostly M's:

Lines 1-10: seasoN/greeN/doNe/aloNe/stoNe

(though don't forget all the L's slipping through the poem: aLL/feeL/aLone/roLLed/Lodged/Loved/Lives/happiLy/abLe/marbLe)—

Well, anyone can see the rhymes and soundpatterns woven into the poem, I don't need to point them out everyone,

(like: EAch/JEsus/REminded ... or JeSUS/riSES/thIS . . . TIme/RIses/I'm/reMInded

but the M's are so important I simply muhhhst count them:

line 10 through 14 you have: 


(but in lines 15-19, the M's vanish!)

and then "coming back" in lines 20-26, the M's resurrect themselves:


Line 24 only monosyllablic line, engraved in gravity, incised even more by its colon: "fact:"—

then line 25 ends with a strong "N-word" which gains greater emphasis perhaps by its "remiNded" echo of those N's in the early lines: "they are not"—

—But (drumroll) suddenly, out of nowhere, in the last 3 lines (=3 days=trinity) of Easter, for the first and only time

some "K" sounds occur:


and it seems apropos they would rear here to KonKlude the poem.

The door of the tomb poem klangs shut once more. 

It seals me in from everyone I've ever loved: they "live" while I stay stanzaically stuck here in my perfected/hermetic rhyme room.

Or doesn't Yeats say somewhere that when a poem is successfully finished the poet will hear a "click"?

Click, clack, the poem keeps coming back.  (Fact.)


(This is a poem I admired when I read it a year or so ago in Po(Chi)Mag, and I've 'come back' to it many times since.  In general the poetry Poetry Magazine publishes is not much better than what shows up in your Rat Vomit Review, but occasionally a miracle like "Easter" appears.  And actually I thought the other two poems by Essbaum in that issue (January 2011) were just as good as this one, and would equally merit an 'appreciation', hopefully from somebody better qualified to do it.)

My provisional thoughts for now; maybe later I'll revisit revise or augment the notes above.  If I've made errors in reading it or rigging it, report me to the MLA or the AWP, or the nearest MFA. 


No comments:

Post a Comment