Two Hundred

Poetry can utter thoughts one dare not say aloud, nor commit to prose, because poetry is a language of suggestion, interpretation, influence. “It means what it means to you” or “It means what you want it to mean.” That vague avoidance of assigning meaning to words is generally applied to lyrics of songs, but it applies to poetry as well. Poetry can address what may be a cowardly need to say something without accepting responsibility for it. That is, poets, and songwriters, can distance themselves from the genesis of words and lyrics until sufficiently able to observe and interpret external responses to them. One might hope that’s a rarity and that most poets and songwriters are not cowards. I don’t know; I have no way to measure it.

I’m not suggesting what I have written is true, only that it’s plausible. And I can deny believing what I’ve written, because I have plausible deniability.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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2 Responses to Two Hundred

  1. Thank you, my friend. As usual, your comments are thought-provoking and cause me to reconsider what I said, what I meant, and whether any words are as clear as we suppose them to be.

  2. jserolf says:

    Wonderful thought, my friend. Thanks for this one. I am so addicted to your blog!

    Maybe to encompass as much suggestive meaning as possible is the goal of the writer / poet / songwriter, and thereby go through every passage again and again and again because every time you go you infer new meaning.

    Robert Graves said it best of the ancient bards: “To hide the secret.” Supposedly the ancient bards even maintained a “closed fist” as their symbol for secret suggestion.

    While riddles and even crossword puzzles are inherent to the trade of meaning-making, i.e.,their word play is simple form and purpose. Parables and poems, on the other hand — especially from the Modern era — are highly suggestive.

    I love Carl Sandburg, but his poetic meanings are only a leg lower than that of Allen Ginsberg’s — fairly straightforward.

    The fog comes
    on little cat feet.

    It sits looking
    over harbor and city
    on silent haunches
    and then moves on.

    I am mostly touched by the imagery of fog as silent as a treading cat….that sits for a while and silently moves on.

    I tend to find more in a piece from Lawrence Ferlinghetti:

    Constantly risking absurdity
    and death
    whenever he performs
    above the heads
    of his audience
    the poet like an acrobat
    climbs on rime
    to a high wire of his own making
    and balancing on eye-beams
    above a sea of faces
    paces his way
    to the other side of day
    performing entre chats
    and sleight-of-foot tricks
    and other high theatrics
    and all without mistaking
    any thing
    for what it may not be

    For he’s the super realist
    who must perforce perceive
    taut truth
    before the taking of each stance or step
    in his supposed advance
    toward that still higher perch
    where Beauty stands and waits
    with gravity
    to start her death-defying leap

    And he
    a little charley chaplin man
    who may or may not catch
    her fair eternal form
    spreadeagled in the empty air
    of existence

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