Mar 18, 2010

Faith Shearin's poem, "Retriever": Dogs, Poetry, Music, and Complexity

Fido Fetches Dollar Bills from the Orange Tip Bucket and Delivers Them to the Master.

Or, So Much for Dignity.

Or, "The Idea of Order at Key West"

Left: "The Master"

It's very hard to write a dog poem without going sappy, but I think Faith Shearin's "Retriever" succeeds. The speaker's relationship with her father adds some essential complication to the Old Shep theme. In fact, for another kind of complexity, I might hear some jealousy in the speaker as she considers the pooch a replacement for her, her siblings, and her mother. I'm not sure that her happiness is the only note I hear in the last line, and that's a nice ambiguity. On the other hand, the Retriever of the title is "retrieving" from the past the father she longed for, as well as a happier man.

(In stanza 7, line 2, "fan" should be "van." Note that that's two poems of the last three that have been marred by a typo--and this on rather prestigious sites. Next time I sound like an anal grammarian, remember this. It's a short step from typos to significant errors in meaning. The devil's in the details. Well, until the video-internet generation came along with its cognition bingo and "speed is god" mindset [anti-mind?]. Speed kills. If you love it, spell it. Do not set it free; it cannot fly, and it cannot read a map).

Retriever by Faith Shearin | The Writer's Almanac with Garrison Keillor

Can we say that an important difference between most music and most poetry is that music gets to be more sentimental? It gets to say "ain't" and "baby, baby" because the element of the music complicates the lyrics, no matter how simple or sentimental each may be alone. Composers like Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen and others challenge my point, but the fact remains that I can cite them as exceptions to the rule.

Speaking of music, simplicity, and sentimentality, especially if you're one of the millions who liked the movie I Walk the Line, look what I stumbled onto at good ol' YouTube (of course, I forget what I was looking for, and I never got to it). June Carter and Johnny Cash made a great team, but it seems right to remember that June was alive and kickin', long before Johnny came along. To its credit, the movie was fairly clear about that.

YouTube - june carter-grand ole opry

I'm not sure our current approach to country or other popular music is any more sophisticated than you see here, and it strikes me as less endearing, though that might say more about me than it does music or popular culture.

(I have absolutely no doubt that I have at least one typo or grammatical error here and in every post. I am not a prestigious site with paid, putatively educated editors).

YouTube - june carter-grand ole opry

Retriever by Faith Shearin | The Writer's Almanac with Garrison Keillor

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Brenda's Arizona said...

I'm a sucker. I love this poem. And I don't fault the father for his actions. I'm a daughter with this exact father - and although my dad's dog annoyed the crap out of my mom, I loved it. I laughed and rejoiced in dad's simple happiness. In my dad's old age, it was simple things that made him happy - and my mother is anything but simple.

Dad passed on, and his dog is now my mom's dog. This poem applies to her now...

Regarding the last line - I think the daughter is resigned to dad's happiness. Which is a good idea - the simpler the better.

Funny with the two typos in two poems. Thanks for pre-correcting this one!

And thanks for the 'break', allowing me not to scratch my head and squint at the screen, wondering what's going on here. In this poem, it is obvious what is going on... keeping it simple.

Ken Mac said...

man, your blog is packed with info! Mine's just a couple pictures. Nice

Anonymous said...

I don't think anyone would call Ken Mac's "just a couple of photos," but he's right, this is one meaty blog.

I'm going to look for a David Sedaris story, see if it's online. About how his parents became the parents to a great dane that they could never be to the children.

Banjo52 said...

Brenda, yeah, I thought it was time for something more straightforward, though I think this poem has depth.

By the way, just tried to address your question about "Carrion Comfort." I fear I got pretty pedantic. Did I say ANYthing??

Ken, thanks. I hope it's info and ideas and not just words. And yours is anything but "just" a couple of photos. Anything new I'd care about regarding your emery board girl? Talk about winners! Was it your Feb. 24 post? Maybe I should just take off and write a many-syllabled, uninformed treatise about it . . .

Banjo52 said...

And Brenda, that's really touching, nice stuff about your parents. I bet there are thousands of couples like that when it comes to dogs or, more generally, simplicity.

You still haven't said where that hoops photo is from at your place. The Akron team or your dad in college?
Which college, if I'm not being pushy? You know I'm interested in such things.

Brenda's Arizona said...

I know I blab too much...

Ken Mac, your photos say stories and are packed with info. And that is why I sneak a look everyday... to learn, to see, to be in awe.

Banjoman, the hoops photo was dad in college. Mount Union playing Youngstown. MU won, final score 33-28. Obviously no 24 second clock back then. Your dad went to Mount Union, too, right?

Banjo52 said...

I'm relieved. I could've sworn I was seeing purple in that black and white. Wasn't Youngstown a 5 times bigger school then? You don't mention football much--are you aware that Ohio State's coach came from the Youngstown State Penguins? And that Mt. Union is now a small college national power in football? (Did I already ask you this?).

Yep, my dad went to Mt. Union, for a couple years.

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