Nov 17, 2010

Charles Simic, "The Melon." Hay Bales.













The Melon by Charles Simic : Poetry Magazine [poem/magazine] : Find Poems and Poets. Discover Poetry.

"The Melon" by recent Poet Laureate, Charles Simic, is an autumn poem too--maybe less obviously so than Frost the other day, but no less definitely. Without lines 5-6, it might be just another domestic nicety, another trendy adoration of fruit and hearth. HoHum.

But those lines 5-6 completely re-cast and amplify the rest of the poem into a remembrance and a study in psychology. Once again, the devil's in the details, especially the shrewd selection and placement of them.

I don't mean to ignore the shift to first person point of view in the second stanza. That's important too, and I think it's a fascinating strategy by Simic: withhold information about the speaker's connection to this family for the first half of the poem. Then make them "we" and "I." Maybe it's manipulative, but I think it works.

There's still a question about how much understatement a poem can get away with. Do you think "The Melon" is just too emotionless and flat or do its strengths compensate for any lack of overt emotion and intensity?

The Melon by Charles Simic : Poetry Magazine [poem/magazine] : Find Poems and Poets. Discover Poetry.

And here, appropos of very little, is a very short video that ought to lighten the mood:

YouTube - guy-hay-bails-himself.wmv


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11 comments:

Ken Mac said...

since my moms death, poetry has taken on greater meaning. Lovely top shot..

Jean Spitzer said...

Didn't think it was emotionless.

BANJO52 said...

Ken, hope it stays that way. Maybe it's been for me what photography has been for you. If I say more, I'll go on forever.

Thanks for the compliment--by the way, that lane is part of the auto tour at Gettysburg, which I highly, highly recommend to anyone who likes scenery or history or both. The place is solemn but not exactly depressing, I've found. And it's easy to avoid or minimize the tourist trap biz.

RuneE said...

I'm not much of a poet, but I had no problem in "reading between the lines", so to speak. I liked the style, and no - it was not too much of an understatement. But then, I have always liked understatements. There is too much overstatement in this world anyhow.

PS Thank you for the comment!

BANJO52 said...

Rune, thanks for the visit. To you and Jean, I agree, esp. w/ Rune's comment about overstatement "out there"--maybe in TV and pop culture more than poetry, where understatement has for a long time been a guard against mindless emotionalism. But I've also seen it fall flat, at least to my eye and ear.

True or false: success in any art is always a tightrope walk?

Brenda's Arizona said...

Reading too much between these lines - is that an easy task?

Can a poet control the thoughts that occur between lines? Maybe essay/book authors can, but can poets? Can songwriters? Perhaps the reading between the lines is part of the tightrope that an artist walks?

So, are the mother - soon to die - and the disrupted hornet analogies of one another? Or is the hornet akin to the children, creating ruckus and laughter and madness?

Brenda's Arizona said...

I meant to send you this link - interested in your comments to the 5 part series!
http://www.theatlantic.com/culture/archive/2010/10/the-righteous-skeptics-guide-to-reading-poetry/64824/

Pasadena Adjacent said...

the idea of leaving and falling leaves. very subtle. I was going to capitalize the letters in "very" but that wouldn't be subtle

in your comment thread "poetry, where understatement has for a long time been a guard against mindless emotionalism." is that when something is said thats so raw you kind of feel like cringing or when somethings forced and feels manipulative or?

yes, questions

bettertry said...

It seems no reader has viewed the video link at the bottom of Nov 17th post. I find it hilarious . . .

BANJO52 said...

Bettertry, thanks. I too was wondering about that.

Brenda, I'd guess it's a never-ending question. I suspect a writer of any kind has to TRY to guide, but realizes it's out of his control in any kind of complete way.

PA, probably could be either, though your first offering is closer to what I had in mind. Sentimentality. Emotion run amuck without control by Mr. Brain. Sloppy mushiness. Ranting rage, without argument. "Narcissistic hurt," as a shrink friend once offered.

Manipulation is an interesting choice, which I hadn't thought of, but certainly we've all known that to happen in real life, so why not in art too? In fact, narcissistic hurt might fall into that category.

slowmo said...

A lovely poem. The emotional restraint as well as the "surprise" at t he end of the 1st stanza only heightens the poem's effect.

I sometime find Simic's work flat and predictably devoid of feeling, but this one is rich.

Lovers' Lane