Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Mark Halliday in xconnect

I was browsing through Barnes and Noble a couple days ago and picked up the latest copy of xconnect: writers of the information age. It's published by the University of Pennsylvania Press, and features some wonderful work by both poets and short story writers. The current volume (VI) also includes poems by the late, great Robert Creeley.

This poem on page 65 by Mark Halliday stuck with me for it's strong sense of sound and rhythm and humor:


EXISTENTIALISM

It's true that I was a turkey yesterday
and a bit of an asshole the day before that
but that is all flotsam gone over the dam
thanks to our being in this
vastatious unknowable flux. Which makes for
hump upon hump of sadness except when I'm thinking
of my turkeyhood yesterday not to mention
anus behavior two days back.
Today is--
I wake
to rain whickles and the bonking
or workmen placing cobbles in the lane,
don't they care da da da da the rain?
Lane, rain--can I not release this brain
from rhyme and make this day a secret
villa in the forest of some alternative to
Spain? Nobody can say
how I might be today--oggi
oh gee--let today be "Death to all those
who ever yammered on about the Death of the Author"
day. Let me be the most amazing non-poultry!
There is no proof that I cannot.
...No positive proof. Euripides,
"Outlaw Blues," come with me now babe
we got nothingness to lose.

Mark Halliday


When I read the line "Let me be the most amazing non-poultry!" I knew I loved this poem. Its seemingly random, stream-of-consciousness style is simply the sheen on a complicated, unified, beautifully crafted poem. Sometimes the use of this kind of humor can come off as too snarky or crass, because it is used for its own sake--to shock or grab the reader. But Halliday clearly has mastered how to use it. The desire to be the best "non-poultry" he can be is a passionate declaration by the speaker--he just wants to learn how to be human! But what a lesser poem this would be if he shouted, "Let me be the most amazing human!"

What do you think?


Freaky turkey photo found here.

7 comments:

MB said...

I have difficulty with glib humor in poems. In this case, the apparently glib words seem to be part of the point... from a persona that can be a turkey at times (who can't?) and still have a desire to be the "most amazing non-poultry." It's still a stretch for me, but then yogic poetry is occasionally a good thing, eh?

That's a typo in line 5? "unkowable"

Amy said...

Hi moose,

I fixed the typo, thanks. Typing is not my forte. :-)

I have an aversion to glibness myself, I think because some people use it as a substitute for thoughtfulness and complexity. In this case, the speaker's sincerity and true desire to be a good person--to figure out what it means to be human--drives the energy of the poem.

MB said...

Yes, and in this case the poem wouldn't be the same without the glibness -- intentional use of it provides a background against which the very genuine desire to be an amazing non-turkey sparkles by contrast.

I was honored by your visit, thanks!

SilverMoon said...

Hi Amy,
What a wonderful and cerebral way to laugh! You have a gift for finding unusual gems. P.S. That photo is priceless. The humorous flair seamlessly woven among his thoughts and words is, indeed, remarkable.Your review is right on the mark. More for my wish list. Thanks!

SilverMoon said...

I forgot to add how much I like and admire how his philosophical title contributes his piece.

SilverMoon GEL said...

to his piece is how it should read above. (I make many typos on non professional work, some from human error and lack of time and many due to disability.)

Gilbert Koh said...

I give this poem full marks for craft. A lot of skill & technique being exhibited here, wish I had half of it. :)