Friday, October 16, 2009

Edward Field laughs it off

Poets cry the blues as often as anyone does, the difference being, I suppose, that a poet attempts to turn their sorrows into a world view, a tale of a fall from grace. You can sense that not just art is being being attempted, inspired by sadness and regret, but an entire philosophy. And , if not a philosophy, then the formation f a cosmology that puts an uglifying cosmetic on the face of a poet's existence.Their tales are, individually and collectively, is the retelling of being expelled from Eden; tragic , catastrophic, crushing the quaking events are, they are are accounts of the precise moments when Things Started to Go Wrong. It gets to be a crushing matter with some writers who cannot seem to move on , who seem either stuck or milking the muse, as it were. There is a need to lighten up, and stop taking one’s less joyful moments too seriously. I would look to Edward Field for a cure, in his poem “Unwanted”.


What I like about the poem is the lack of a consuming pretentiousness and its address of bad-self image in a direct, off hand way.This has an irony that doesn't overwhelm the tone nor capsize the demeanor. Some other poets we could have name would have turned this thing into a dissertation or a distended confession of uninteresting sins. Field's style here is not to defend him, to offer a defense of himself, or construct a tortured example of Metaphor Creep in an attempt to make the abuse and attending defeatism a valorous state to be in. Field, in my view, knowingly avoids the confessional poet’s sin of inverted hubris and refuses to wear his psychic scars like medals from a bad war. His manner here is fast, direct, unexpected. His view is reflexive, not reflective, and has learned his lesson well from Cyrano that one can best regain their autonomy, their sense of empowerment, by being able to insult himself than those who would oppress him manage, or fathom. This man has an interesting way of talking about his inability to attract attention or friends, from the first line onward--

The poster with my picture on it
Is hanging on the bulletin board in the Post Office.
I stand by it hoping to be recognized
Posing first full face and then profile
But everybody passes by and I have to admit
The photograph was taken some years ago.
I was unwanted then and I'm unwanted now
Ah guess ah'll go up echo mountain and crah.
I wish someone would find my fingerprints somewhere
Maybe on a corpse and say, You're it.


This is an enticing introduction to the narrator, an elaborate but succinctly presented deconstruction of the cliché of someone being so unpopular they couldn't get arrested. The whole idea that a man would stand next to his own wanted poster in the wan hope of being recognized by strangers that would be attracted to him for purpose of cash reward introduces a host of complexities of mirroring and the seeking of validation in negative dimensions that one might well get lost in, but Field handles it lightly, with a fast , dismissive verve, a tone of a man who cannot take his sorrow too seriously. A few of us would object to the use of poetry as a therapy, something I agree with in principle, but what I like with the Field poem is how he turns his woes--or at least the character's woes--into a plot , or a sort. I can't say this poem is attached to an agenda--Field wrote from many moods, in a variety of tonalities--but I would say the spirit is a satiric of the kind of person who cannot see beyond what annoys them. I rather like the idea that the poem could well be a form of disguised bragging; the even keeled don't nearly get enough credit, let alone take any credit for their ability to bounce back.


This is wit, with perfect comic timing; too many writers (and comedians) who try to riff on a theme mistake volume for quality, but Field here is intensely aware of the value of the sound, pacing and sequence of words. He has a fine sense of how to develop his idea, expand it, change it, and then bring it back down long before the tedium barrier is breached. It made me laugh, I liked the writing, and it was a fresh take on an insoluble problem. Field did well. He seems to have announced his anxieties, owned them, and commanded to return to the basement. The poem suggests we do the same and simply get on with living in the world , not in our heads.

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