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Friday, April 28, 2017

Poetry and Dust


As April moves to an end, reminding us to continue reading poetry all year long, I pick up and begin to read May Miller's Dust of Uncertain Journey (Detroit: Lotus Press, 1975). The lines that open "The Voice Heard" (pages 60-61) force me to pause:

Oh, the elders, the poor elders

Have lost their way

Within the cobwebbed room.

Who are the elders?  How thick must cobwebs be to obscure vision?

Midway the poem, the voice I recreate in the reading declares

We are the young

Singing in their dying,

The image mirrored ---

What they were, what we are ---

Free verse, hot horns, pop art,

Rosaries of sex heavens and hells.

Being myself an elder, am I condemned by age to see poetry, jazz and blues,  popular representations of what somebody wants to persuade the world is art, and secular prayer beads each morning in a mirror?  So be it.  I can live with that.

I can live with the inevitable until the closing lines of the poem inform me

We go nowhere perhaps

Beyond the monolith of self,

Not that it matters really

As long as we come in free

In  the resurrection.

It is just here that May Miller's poem delivers me to trouble.  I begin to suspect Miller conjured a post-truth about poetry and dust before post-truth had a name and habitation.  So, I have to begin another cycle of reading poetry, slightly more aware that elders can read themselves beyond the cobwebbed room.  If we know what to listen for, we do not have to lose our way to somewhere.

Jerry W. Ward, Jr.                            April 28, 2017

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