Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Jeremy Glazier in The Antioch Review

This poem by Jeremy Glazier is on page 740 of the current issue of The Antioch Review.

Directions for a Duel

Fill the chamber of your pistol
with pinecones, rose petals,

small coins you've already shot holes in.
When you enter the saloon,

the player piano will stop
and for a split second you will know

the hand each player holds.
Keep your eye on the one you came for,

and kill him
when the redhead
winks at you from behind the still.

This will be your sign
that everything is possible.
Sling the body over your shoulder
and bury it in the stomach

of the sandstorm that waits for you
outside the city limits.

Jeremy Glazier

This beautiful poem encapsulates a metaphor for the discipline and art of writing poetry. If I were to translate it (non-poetically), I would write something like this:

Fill your mind with texture, fragrance, and ideas you've been bandying about. When you write, time will seem to halt; and for a split second you will see every angle of your subject. Stay focused; when the muse strikes, get the words down on paper. Then you will know you are a poet. Carry your poem to the outside world and add it to the storm of submissions flying around in the mail.

That's the Amy take on it. What's your take? Why do you think Glazier changes the form of the poem after the words "and kill him?"


Anonymous said...

My mind is on intention and interpretation. What the writer "means" as opposed to how it is read. With this in mind:
The coins already have holes = ideas you've started
Card players = audience. You have a split second to find the words that will suit their hands...
Kill him = conquor the message and deliver it
The storm = interpretations. You have no control over how the poem will be read by others. Your intention (the "him" that you kill) is buried among other views.

J.B. Rowell said...

The space after "and kill him" freezes time - everything in the poem stops - the poet nails the poem. Nice choice.

Amy said...


I like the idea of the storm being the effect of other readers' interpretations. It certainly feels that way when we workshop our poems. Also, the card players as audience--in a saloon, they witness the shooting.


I agree, there is something about that space that stops time. I'm also wondering why the form becomes more chaotic after that. Perhaps it is related to the "storm" idea--what happens after the poem is finished, as others apply their own readings and make judgments on the poem.

Thank you both for your fine comments!

Graham said...

This is very beautiful.

Daniel Barkowitz said...

Very nice analysis of this poem, and a nice choice of a poem as well...

Thanks for posting it.

I am a first-time visitor to your site, but hope to be back...

Montgomery Maxton said...

Jeremy Glazier is a friend of mine. He is uncomparable to any poet living or dead. His poetry will live for a long time.

-Montgomery Maxton

Gilbert Koh said...

I don't really see how this poem is about writing poetry. To me, it is more a metaphor for the decisive point in any kind of big challenge, when we call on some extraordinary resource deep within ourselves and find the universe somehow bending to our will.

You could also think of the duel as being a duel with your own fear. You defeat the feat, and it's vanquished for good - you can bury its corpse permanently.

silvermoon said...

I think the poem begins as methodical, decisive thinking, marching forward to an obligation, distasteful as it is and then there's that space because of the intensity, the impact of his actions.

Like others mentioned, it's as if time stands still.

Also, certain choice are permanent,i.e. killing, there is no turning back. It's so profound an act, does the poet really want to go through with that original intention of "killing?" There is much more to this poem than the literal interpretation, so much more. Others have mentioned some thoughts.

I also can easily see the above comment interpretation about wrestling with fear. I feel indecisiveness profoundly in this poem, no matter how strongly decisive it first appears. Look at the words wavering on the page, after "kill" and needing signals...

Anil said...

Glad that I made my way here...I like what you are doing here...the poems are of course superlative...but your interpretations are equally interesting...

MB said...

Amy, I'm curious how you came to think of it as being a metaphor for the discipline and art of writing poetry? I have to agree with Gilbert that I don't see this as necessarily about writing. But then I do see it as a description of a decision-making process, which is certainly involved in writing.

The points where he varies the format of the poem are points of intensity, where the normal flow just might not be justified (no pun intended): a killing, a moment in which everything is possible, a sandstorm that must be faced.

What I find curious, and am still mulling over, are the oddly tiny delicate collected items that make up the ammunition. To me, they might signify the various seemingly-unrelated bits of information or experience that lead up to a decision (perhaps what constitutes one's "intuition"). But, along with "bury it in the stomach of the sandstorm that waits," they seem to begin and end the poem in a strange dream-like way that pulls at or distorts the central scenario. And that's the tension I keep contemplating.

The other thing I find curious is that this poem is entitled "Directions for a Duel" but what it describes is not a duel in the traditional formal sense. So then that begs the question of who is "the one you came for."

Gilbert Koh said...

I should add that when I first read this poem, I immediately thought of Neo being given some obscure, impossible-to-understand message by the oracle (in the movie Matrix), and then being sent to a surely-victory-is-not-possible fight with the bad guys ... and then winning.

garnet david said...

I love when a metaphor is so thrillingly developed. I learn and learn...

the symphonic poetry carnival is up at glitter lane. i hope you stop by for a fugue or some harmony.


Amy said...

Thank you all for your fine comments. It is interesting to see the poem as representative as a general decision-making process; I think that interpretation works.

For me, I find poetry more relevant the more specific I make it. The "pinecone and rose petals" stuffing the chamber of the gun sound like standard poetry imagery, intentionally used by Glazier to allude to the poetic experience.

To all you first-timers to Living Poetry--thanks for dropping by, and I'll be visiting you soon.


Lee Herrick said...


I like your blog and the questions you pose. The break after "kill him" could be several things of course, but for fun I see the body "slung" over the shoulder perhaps as the woman, not the shot man, since the gunplay ends after stanza one.

Anyway, happy new year to you.

AnnMarie Eldon said...

Just got your link from a friend and this is a really intelligent forum. I'm linking you to my blog and I'll drop by. Nothing more intelligent than I've got a son to feed for now.

Anonymous said...

Well, Jeremy Glazier is my professor and advisor at Ohio Dominican University, so if you'd like, I could ask him for you. :)