Jan 13, 2012

Anne Marie Macari. More on Bishop's "Filling Station."

This is another occasion when readers’ comments on the last post were just too good for a cursory response from me.

For those who came here seeking a new poem today, here is Anne Marie Macari’s short, but probably not simple “From the Plane.”  From the Plane by Anne Marie Macari : American Life in Poetry  Feel free to comment on it, of course, or to say more about “Filling Station.” I hope to look at more of Macari’s work in the future.
Now, back to your comments on “Filling Station.” (By the way, note the possible word play:  it’s not a gas station or service station, but a place where things get filled).

Barbaro, I thought I'd offered the poem before, then couldn't find it (still can’t), so I went ahead and posted it.  Clearly you did hear the tone that was troubling me. Maybe you heard it even louder. Whether or not others agree with you, your strong, fine comment would be hard to dismiss.

Among all the visitors’ comments last time, there are several fascinating beginnings. Beginning with Birdman, the issue of life vs. the art arose again, so here’s a quick link to Wikipedia’s bio of Elizabeth Bishop. I’ll let each reader decide how entitled her life seems. 

We need to pay attention to Pasadena Adjacent's point about the "hidden female" in the poem. Is that what the poem is about? Is it above all else a feminist poem? 

Also, we musn’t gloss over PA’s point that our reactions to the poem (any poem?) say more about us than they say about the poem. The idea is so huge and complicated that I wonder if we could somehow make it a stipulation in all criticism about literature and art:  who are you, Mr./Ms. Commentator. Where do you come from, in the largest senses of those words, and why have you come here?

Or is that so huge and complicated that it becomes, by default, a defense of The New Criticism’s elimination of all factors other than the art object itself. We must ignore the lives of the commentators just as we ignore the lives of the writers and artists.

I’m interested in Gothpunkuncle's thought that the poem’s potentially offending tone might result from a strategy by Bishop:  make us feel our own classism by feeling the speaker’s. And certainly that last line could be a step back from what was gentle mockery: “Somebody loves us all,” even among the grease. Or it could be the most mocking line of all.

Brenda, although Bishop did some teaching, it's indeed interesting to wonder what she thought about teachers, students, and the process. Do teachers fill gas tanks and spill things, make messes, live and work in some kind of metaphorical grease?

 Stickup Artist, I have the same soft spot. In a town I knew in the 1950s and 1960s, Cap Johnson's Sohio station on the town square was a standard place for a Coke if the day was hot, or if we were too sweaty for a drugstore Coke after an afternoon of pickup basketball in Arnie Snider’s driveway. I recall absolutely no sense of class distinction among us, toward ourselves or our elders’ ways of making a living. If Cap told us not to do that, we stopped. It was understood that he spoke for our parents, as well as every other merchant on the square, plus the sheriff, whose jail was two doors away, just this side of The Roxy. And don’t even ask about Woody Renrock’s shoe repair shop; the smell of that leather was better than any pipe tobacco--yes, even Kentucky Club.

Maybe Hillary Clinton created or exploited the aphorism, “It takes a village,” but the idea is very old. It's not all sweetness and light, but it's worth a long, hard look.

On the other hand, there were adults there in my Mayberry Junior who . . . thought they were somebody, as the saying goes. We knew who those folks were, and what we thought of them. At least in childhood, snobbery was bad for business, and maybe we developed good noses for it. We’d go somewhere else for our Cokes or even splurge on a milkshake there, just to make a point.

I wonder if we’d have chosen to buy anything from this Elizabeth Bishop lady.

Elizabeth Bishop - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

From the Plane by Anne Marie Macari : American Life in Poetry



Ken Mac said...

wonderful reccolection

Banjo52 said...

Thanks, Ken. It's tricky but fun trying to write about such stuff.

Pasadena Adjacent said...

I read through the poem again. Saw beyond the description - what might be judged as judgement. Which made my "feminist" reading all the more valid.

Yes PA, move to the front of the class

mommy loves them all....even if she's missing

Although the old Liz (this Liz) still holds a grudge against those Mormon greece monkeys at the Standard station in Green River Utah, who gouged the young 19 year old Liz once (through fear and intimidation to purchase four new UNNECESSARY tires.) Then tried to pull the same stunt the next year.

Brenda's Arizona said...

RE: Macari's poem. I'm glad she told us what it was about in her title. I had no idea, until her line about the 'funnel of air'. I like that...

Hannah Stephenson said...

I'll have to think about this Bishop poem. I use Questions of Travel in the class I teach...it's an interesting and weird one (there is also a gas station in it).

But goodness, I didn't know the plane poem...thank you for sharing this! I love this one.

Lovers' Lane