by A.J. Huffman
He occupied himself with the lighting. Now
I wonder if he wasn’t considering the letters –
all the letters. If so, he desisted. It was evident
he felt lowered not at all.
Esteem was having none of it. Already
his fear: surrender [upon return].
0 thoughts on “Quiet Then”
I can’t make anything of this.
After several readings, here’s my impression: ‘lighting’ from the first line can be a symbol for positivity or goodness and functions with dual literal meaning bringing to mind elevation (as contrasted with ‘he felt lowered not at all.’ from line 4. When the friend (‘I’ relating the story) mentions ‘letters’ in line 2 and 3 I think of love letters and taken into consideration with the rest of the poem I’d say they’re from a relationship which ended poorly. But lines 3 and 4 give evidence that the subject, male lover, is taking things in stride and attempting to move on with life…not dwelling on love’s ill fate and remaining sad. Line 5 could be a reaffirmation of the man’s ability to stay upbeat or in taking Line 6 into consideration, it may be a reversal of his efforts and mean that he is about to take the downward plunge of heartbreak. It’s hard for me to believe that the man has succeeded in staying above the depressing situation that has befallen him when I read line 6 and see the words ‘fear’ and ‘surrender’. So ultimately, the man’s attempts at peace prove futile as he succumbs to his fear (of loneliness) and endeavors to make amends and reconcile–‘surrender [upon return]’. I could be wrong about the poem, but does it really matter? The poem, as riddle, brought out all of the above in me so even if it might not have been spot-on, it still fulfills the poet’s intent to inspire and get the reader thinking. Sometimes a poem that uses vagueness has the object of handing over the poem’s point to the reader rather than trying to communicate a finite and specific thought or emotion from the writer’s mind. Well done!
Quasi, I admire your sticking with this poem and pulling out what you can. But I don’t see how the poem can be inspiring this in you. Your inspiration is innate. We both struggle with difficult H&H poems, out of dedication to our craft and empathy with fellow poets. But here I don’t think the poet has given us enough to warrant that struggle. “He occupied himself with the lighting” could just as well refer to changing a light bulb. “Letters” could refer to those of the alphabet, “all of them.” Sure, I could proceed interpreting it along these lines and come up with something meaningful to me, but I don’t sense any underlying meaning in the poem, not even line to line, that others could relate to. I think vagueness holds back rather than hands over. Evocation does a much better job of communicating, not necessarily of a finite and specific thought or emotion, but possibly a host of thoughts and emotions; however, within a realm of associations defined by the poem’s words and images. This poem creates no such realm for me. I can’t even see how the title relates to it. Maybe the poet can help with its interpretation. Maybe H&H. Meanwhile, we’ll keep commenting.
Well, do we write for ourselves or more for others? Yes I think there’s pro and cons of different styles–‘abstract poetry’ and ‘evocation poetry’ (as we might call them). Writing something with the strict goal of enabling others to relate to might be constrictive of the individual expression or release of emotion the poet may enjoy or experience. Yes, it would be ideal to have the best of both worlds but there’s pitfalls with writing to please others before yourself turning poetry into a memo or journalism. While I am intrigued by the craft of poetry, I see it as a vehicle to a destination and an excuse to talk about life. There is no poetry, only the poet. While I continually enjoy exploring new modes of expression, I disavow the existence of any objective or collective absolute aesthetic. There is only the heightening of the subjective perspective. Discussions on craft can be useful, but I spent many years arguing the merits of such and such style vs. another and realized essentially that i’m really just tearing down one type of poem to build what I like up. But it doesn’t help the poet any. Some poets may go a very long time waiting for their work to be read. It’s a golden day when that happens, and I try not to rain on their parade is all. ‘Creative Writing Class’ types of comments can be practical and can be good feedback for many poets, but taken too far, for other poets like myself, it’s missing the point and purpose of artful expression altogether–Support Group for Life.
Well argued, Quasi, but when you say “There is no poetry, only the poet,” I say there are both. Beyond “the heightening of the subjective perspective,” the poet must serve the truth, for him- or herself. And to do so, one must write in ways that can be understood by others, or one isn’t even writing for oneself. The craft of poetry helps one do this–through imagery, metaphor, evocation, reference, paradox, surreality, even non-sequitor–to communicate and heighten perspective (awareness) in others. I confront this debate every week meeting with prison poets. Some maintain that the writer’s words are his and should not be changed. During a discussion by the group of a poem that one of them has written, the poet is asked not to take part. After the discussion, we ask the poet how we’re doing. The poet may say we’re doing fine or that he (they’re all men) meant something entirely different. Then I ask the group how he might have worded or organized things to communicate what he intended. That’s usually when this argument comes up: my stand being that we should strive to be clear and unambiguous; others’, that such considerations shouldn’t matter. From day one I told the guys I wanted our group sessions to go beyond therapy to refine our skills as poets. Those who take that to heart often come back with a rewrite that communicates better to the others and defines better what they are writing about to themselves. I believe poetry helps one become more objective about oneself–increases one’s self-understanding–by demanding and enabling one to make connections between one’s own experience and others’.
I can respect that approach and see the benefits of following that style of writing as a tool for allowing us to relate, sympathize, and consider those around us. People can become detached and disconnected from society if they become lost in their own little worlds.
I don’t know about other poets, but speaking for myself, after 50+ hours a week on nightshift, juggling chores at home, family responsibilities, bills, and the whole modern life thing, communicating clearly specifically to and for an audience of readers is not high on my list. I need ‘me-time’ and release from giving to the world as much as i already do. I don’t feel much like stepping in tune with the herd and don’t wanna be put on trial by any literary inquisition. lol. i know such an attitude might be egotistical and even escapist but i think it too has its own rewards. Mostly i’m seeking to express and perhaps be appreciated as an individual.
But many on the site do look for feedback on their work so they may ‘hone their craft’, so to speak. I can respect that too. This is why I’ve argued in the past for a submissions option for the writer to click telling the reader whether they are just wanting to share or are looking for a creative writing class critique from an objective standpoint. I think it would be a useful feature.