How to Read a Bit o'Balderdash

America & world, a-roar with a disintegrating mosquito swarm of conflicting pointers, alerts, trumpet-blasts... read this! Look at that! Listen up!

How many billions of poets are there, now? At least 6-7 billion, according to the official 7,000 poetry supervisors. Pay attention!

What am I supposed to do? Keep writing gibberish. It's a long-term, serious project, very much worth your time & careful research - Gobbledy-Gook Enterprises (GGE).

What follows : a few shallow remarks meant as helpful hints to the most recent episode of Lanthanum (see Lanthanum 10.6, below).

The poem was written on St. Patrick's Day, hence is "occasional". Differing from much other Lanthanum in featuring silly Irish brogue in my recital.

(In case you are new here, I've been in the groove of an unusual (for me) literary haybaling process : I write the poem & then immediately recite the poem, & send it out to YouTube et al. It is really hot off the frying pan into the social media.)

St. P : patron saint of Ireland. Bringer of Christianity to Eire. That is the traditional understanding, anyway. As I understand it, a saint's day is a kind of birthday, name day.... they're all related.

The poems in Lanthanum are all related too, so there is some accretion, some sedimentation of echo-meanings & feedback-loops.

Lanthanum, over the last few years & chapters, has been circling around, gyring down closer & closer, the Gateway Arch Monument in St. Louis (there we go, another saint). It's a tuning fork, a mandala, a symbol... an amalgam (steel alloy) of many different things. An arty, imaginary idea of a kind of focal point, joining America (US) to earlier things & future things. That's the idea, anyway.

But let's look at this episode. The "poet-speaker" Henry, or "King Hen", is musing about saints & saint's days. Meanwhile there is an undercurrent of cryptic allusions & meanings gathering. In the 2nd stanza, "hid in his live-oak mist" etc. begins to point secretly to 2 different "once-&-future kings" : Bonnie Prince Charlie, and Charles II of England, whose birthday (May 29) is celebrated in England as "Oak Tree Day" or Restoration Day - recalling the drama, during the English Civil War,
of Charles hiding in an oak tree from pursuing Roundheads. Now May 29th happens to be the poet's (Henry's) birthday too, as well as of that other Camelot-figure, JFK. It also happens to be Rhode Island Statehood Day.

Our speaker moves along into stanza 3, recalling that Emperor Henry, promoted to "doorkeep". This is referring to St. Henry (II), whose "day" in the Catholic church used to be July 15th, which happens to be the day, in 1099, that the crusaders captured Jerusalem and reached the Holy Sepulchre. The "doorkeep" is a reference (one of many) to the Psalms - the line which runs something like "I would rather be a doorkeeper in the House of the Lord than one of these mighty princes".

But then Henry (poet) shifts his glance to another St. Henry : "the martyr - on the Finnish line". This is a different Henry - the patron saint of Finland. His day is January 19th ("juneteenth") - a birthday he shares with Martin Luther King - MLK, the "Milky Way" of stanza 3 - major symbolic figure throughout Lanthanum. So Henry is finding a "silver thread" from various saints through to the meanings of Lanthanum : since the Gateway Arch is in some ways a Finnish accomplishment (cf. its architect, Saarinen).

Thus in this "amiable tabernacle" (another paraphrase of the Psalmist), Hen might "touch a key, perhaps". This phrase a direct steal from Hart Crane's poem The Bridge (another America monument poem) - from the section called "The River" - in praise of tramps, hobos - whom Crane suggests "touch a key" : are in touch with the tacit, feminine, American earth (in contrast to the American world of worldliness & power).

In the 1st line of the 4th stanza we come across the phrase "bonny advent" : punning-Joycean reference to another St. - St. Bonaventura - whose saint's day is also July 15th.

Thus the poet-hobo Hen, in his dreaming tabernacle (seeing through rose-tinted "Rhody-glasses") is beginning to imagine a sort of visionary America centered on the St. Louis arch, "affirming ascent" (Crane's "spiritual gates"). Its substance is a sort of Irish "lightsome glee" inspired by the thought that the entire cosmos, the universe of reality & experience - is manifested out of nothing through some kind of benign-wise-loving creative-mysterioso Whatnot : so that "the stars shout together for joy".

& then (stanzas 5-6) the poet imagines lying himself down at that "milky entrance" - stretching out his whole length, as in the Robt. Frost poem - on the earth; strumming his "harp". & he becomes a kind of giant there : like Paul Bunyan or Babe his blue ox. With a "heart like Hobo" (Hobo is compared to Falstaff in earlier episodes) and a "mine deep as Prince Hal" (another once & future king). From Providence - where the vision begins - to San Francisco, at the Golden Gate (another structure which plays a big role - Orphic-Eurydice tending - in H.'s oeuvre). "Through the needle-eye" of the Gateway Arch. ("Omega-MO" is a complex pun which will likely see further development in future episodes, better left unsaid here.).

So we have an east-west line, where the hobo-poet stretches from RI to California. Then in the last stanza we have a perpendicular south-north line (from LA delta to l'Etoile du Nord ("star of the north" - Minnesota). The body of Hen-poet, lying across America, sketches a cross-shape. There is a sketch of an emblem here in the final stanza which has cropped up many times in Lanthanum in various ways ; a sort of graffiti figure of a stick-man shaded by a curving arch or wing. It could be a sepulchre (a cross marked on a grave); it could be a person standing under an arch or portal.

But here in this stanza, the symbolic emblem flips over ("like Lazarus"). The giant lying in the earth stands up. Finnegans Wake, might be. & becomes an outline of another symbolic emblem : the figure of a stick-man on the cross-beams of a large anchor, with his feet on the curving base of the anchor. This happens to be the official emblem of the Episcopal Bishop of Rhode Island (a crucifixion on an anchor) : since RI's state motto is "Hope" and its state symbol, an anchor. So the poem circles back to Rhode Island, where it began (with those "saints", Roger Williams & William Blackstone).

Hopefully my strenuous unpacking here will encourage a few readers to explore the undertones in other parts of this giant piece of balderdash now underway (Lanthanum, work in progress).

p.s. & bear in mind, the western edge of this 4-leaf clover - San Francisco - is named after yet another saint - Francis, of Assisi : the greatest "hobo" of them all.

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