Friday, January 9, 2009

Poetry v Prose 2: another poem by T.R.Hummer

Years, another poem by the intriguing T.R.Hummer, continues that poet's fascination with the promises and evasions of prose , the language of certainity in an existence that adheres to no protocols that have been spelled out, literally. We could say that the best aspect of having a written language is the poetry that results in discovering that things and events are never as they've been described and defined.

YEARS
Years ago, the story begins. Once.
In such-and-such a place, some season or other,
A stranger, two lovers, disaster.
She wants to close the book, but constellations
Of narrative structures interlock: gunfire
In the street, explosions at the embassy,
Betrayal, failure, decades of grinding hopelessness.
How long ago he died, his face pages vanished.
And she, dedicated reader, carries out sentence after sentence,
Her knowledge of the end complete, her execution certain.




The story begins and it never ends, as this tale and countless others like it are recast and retold; different actors, similar circumstances. Hummer gets ahead of the tedium that self-awareness of narrative form can create but chipping away at the didactic and getting to the good parts, the bits of unexpected circumstance that make a familiar narrative compelling, only they are not so unexpected. This poem might be a highlight reel, or someone fast-forwarding a favorite DVD for those scenes that resonates the most; the condensing of the particulars itself has an exhilarating effect. I think the last lines -- And she, dedicated reader, carries out sentence after sentence, / Her knowledge of the end complete, her execution certain -- because it suggests a pun, a reflection of the words we use to recount and recite a plot we know very well, and also something akin to a sentence one is fated to live through, to a willingly subscribed to circumvention of one's time where one's actions are plotted out in advance.

It would seem to argue that we are only at ease using our own will power when we are secure in the belief that that we're constrained by a grand narrative where outcomes are premeasured and assured, despite our efforts to violate form. You are left to consider whether will power is an illusion in this instance, or if the violation of form is the disregard of the grand narrative and that we do have will power? As with the kind of ambivalence Hummer connects with for, the matter is slippery and does not rest either in or outside the distinctions; the boundaries are permeable.
Will power, nee Free Will, exists indeed, and we live with the knowledge that we have the ability to go beyond implicit and tacit boundaries and create unpleasant consequences, but we chose not to. Most of us don't, in any case, and will use a sounder judgment. The majority of us wouldn't take a gun to traffic court to settle a dispute involving a ticket. This notion is something fluidly referred to as 'sanity', and there is a comfort knowing that one's fellow citizens stay within the boundaries. But there is ambivalence about those margins we stay within; there is an attraction to an existence where the Rule doesn’t apply. This seems a strong reason as to why we valorize and apologize for those artists, poets and writers we regard as artists, the usurpers of the norm. If they would otherwise be an unmannered assortment of louts.
Hummer's interest in written language as subject matter comes from the perception that human personality (in our culture at least) thrives on the notion that we're creative and groundbreaking creatures who can redefine themselves, as individuals, anytime it suits us, but that there is a virtually unspoken need to know that there are limits to how far we can stray from the script we're handed. It's knowing that we could break through the fourth wall and create all sorts of chaos for ourselves and our fellows , but that the host of us choose not too; we ascribe this to Free Choice, but for me Hummer has a darker theme, that of Fear Itself. The dread of an existence stripped of meaning, of limits, keeps us in check.