Jane Cooper, “Seventeen Questions About KING KONG” … poem & comment

•May 27, 2015 • Leave a Comment

Jane cooper 
Jane Cooper
Seventeen Questions About KING KONG

          “The most amazing thing I know about Jane Cooper
          is that she’s the niece of King Kong.”
                    —James Wright

Is it a myth? And if so, what does it tell us about ourselves?

Is Kong a giant ape, or is he an African, beating his chest like a responsive gong?

Fay Wray lies in the hand of Kong as in the hand of God the Destroyer. She gives the famous scream. Is the final conflict (as Merian C. Cooper maintained) really between man and the forces of nature, or is it a struggle for the soul and body of the white woman?

Who was more afraid of the dark, Uncle Merian or his older sister? She was always ready to venture downstairs whenever he heard a burglar.

When he was six his Confederate uncle gave him EXPLORATIONS AND ADVENTURES IN EQUATORIAL AFRICA by Paul du Chaillu, 1861. Does that island of prehistoric life forms still rise somewhere off the coast of the Dark Continent, or is it lost in preconscious memory?

Is fear of the dark the same as fear of sexuality? Mary Coldwell his mother would have destroyed herself had she not been bound by a thread to the wrist of her wakeful nurse. What nights theirs must have been!

Why was I too first called after Mary (or Merian) Coldwell, till my mother, on the morning of the christening, decided it was a hard-luck name?

How does our rising terror at so much violence, as Kong drops the sailors one by one into the void or rips them with his fangs, resolve itself into shame at Kong’s betrayal?

Is Kong’s violence finally justified, because he was in chains?

Is King Kong our Christ?

Watch him overturn the el-train, rampage through the streets! But why is New York, the technological marvel, so distrusted, when technologically the film was unsurpassed for its time?

Must the anthropologist always dream animal dreams? Must we?

Kong clings to the thread of the Empire State Building. He wavers. Why did Uncle Merian and his partner Schoedsack choose to play the airmen who over and over exult to shoot Kong down?

He said: Why did I ever leave Africa?—and then as if someone had just passed a washcloth over his face: But I’ve had a very good marriage.


My own comment about the poem: A work of wonder and oddity. I’m amazed at Cooper’s use of form, at the great awakenings that come from thoughts cast aside.

Not nonsense. No. Words as anti-matter, as dark matter – that suddenly, and without explanation, appear whole.

This poem finds its voice as film – the rush of visuals, as though words were streaming through an editor’s reel … clickclickclickclickclick … a razor cutting here, cutting there, letting go … stories in pools on the floor … until a sure hand gathers the bits, puts them on a table, tapes them together – such an unlikely moment – and I cannot, for the life of me, imagine any other way.

Film as mirror; poetry as mirror.

Naomi Replansky, “Epitaph 1945” … poem & comment

•May 26, 2015 • Leave a Comment

Naomi Replansky
Epitaph 1945
My spoon was lifted when the bomb came down
That left no face, no hand, no spoon to hold.
A hundred thousand died in my home town.
This came to pass before my soup was cold.


This poem is so much stronger than any comment I could make. A fragment of such a dark moment in history. Somehow guilt, regret, and angst never leave us. We think war is about ideology, about ownership, about politics, power. But, it’s really about food, about innocence, shock, about the disappearance of the day to day – about a world we can never find again.

Herman Melville, “Fragments of a Lost Gnostic Poem of the Twelfth Century” & Commentary

•May 24, 2015 • Leave a Comment

Poem and a few of my comments.

Herman_Melville_1860Herman Melville

“Fragments of a Lost Gnostic Poem of the Twelfth Century”

Found a family, build a state,
The pledged event is still the same:
Matter in end will never abate
His ancient brutal claim.

Indolence is heaven’s ally here,
And energy the child of hell:
The Good Man pouring from his pitcher clear
But brims the poisoned well.


I’m impressed by the clarity and compact nature of this poem – which is surprising for Melville, who is not known for clarity or compactness. He is, however, an American writer to place alongside Shakespeare – not that we need to have a writer equal to Shakespeare. The notion smacks of arrogance on my part … which makes Melville’s poem all the more real.

This work strikes me as a poem about the human bent toward self-destruction – God and humanity; the pledged event and brutal claim; to found, to poison. The poem’s title does a wonderful job in displacing the reader in terms of time and setting, making the work universal – in preparation for a merging of old and new worlds. I’m drawn in by the mythical implications of the opening line, which is spoken under the shadow of Manifest Destiny – our culture’s Achilles heel, our “poisoned well”. The two institutions, so-called, in the opening – family and state – are actually at war with one another. Melville deepens this dual conflict in the second stanza: indolence and heaven; energy and hell. These odd allies are reminiscent of William Blake’s writings.

The odd pairing becomes important for Melville’s haunting image that closes the poem: the Good Man pouring from the pitcher into the poisoned well. The reader must question what is poured. For me, it’s the whole of our culture that is being poured out. This pouring either poisons the well or at least adds to its already deadly state. If the well is taken as a religious symbol, then the biblical notion of living water becomes transformed into a source more accustomed to death – the God of the Old Testament – reflecting Melville’s view of “the ancient brutal claim”. What I find most interesting here is the fact that the well is already poisoned. Maybe this reflects Melville’s view of the human condition – be it social, religious, or political. Also, his emphasis of [G]ood [M]an adds some sort of elevated quality to the nameless character who is, ultimately, a figure of darkness.

What remains? Fragments. Uncertainty. Loss.

Marie Howe, “The Copper Beech” …

•May 20, 2015 • Leave a Comment

marie howe howe_video
Marie Howe
“The Copper Beech”
Immense, entirely itself,
it wore that yard like a dress,

with limbs low enough for me to enter it
and climb the crooked ladder to where

I could lean against the trunk and practice being alone.

One day, I heard the sound before I saw it, rain fell
darkening the sidewalk.

Sitting close to the center, not very high in the branches,
I heard it hitting the high leaves, and I was happy,

watching it happen without it happening to me.

Kay Ryan, “Album” …

•May 14, 2015 • Leave a Comment

kay-ryanKay Ryan


Death has a life
of  its own. See
how its album
has grown in
a year and how
the sharp blot of it
has softened
till those could
almost be shadows
behind the
cherry blossoms
in this shot.
In fact you
couldn’t prove
they’re not.

Joy Harjo, “Fear Poem, or I Give You Back”

•May 12, 2015 • Leave a Comment

joy harjo-pic
Joy Harjo
“Fear Poem, or I Give You Back”
I release you, my beautiful and terrible
fear. I release you. You were my beloved
and hated twin, but now, I don’t know you
as myself. I release you with all the
pain I would know at the death of
my children.

You are not my blood anymore.

I give you back to the soldiers
who burned down my home, beheaded my children,
raped and sodomized my brothers and sisters.
I give you back to those who stole the
food from our plates when we were starving.

I release you, fear, because you hold
these scenes in front of me and I was born
with eyes that can never close.

I release you
I release you
I release you
I release you

I am not afraid to be angry.
I am not afraid to rejoice.
I am not afraid to be black.
I am not afraid to be white.
I am not afraid to be hungry.
I am not afraid to be full.
I am not afraid to be hated.
I am not afraid to be loved.

to be loved, to be loved, fear.

Oh, you have choked me, but I gave you the leash.
You have gutted me but I gave you the knife.
You have devoured me, but I laid myself across the fire.

I take myself back, fear.
You are not my shadow any longer.
I won’t hold you in my hands.
You can’t live in my eyes, my ears, my voice
my belly, or in my heart my heart
my heart my heart

But come here, fear
I am alive and you are so afraid of dying.

Yusef Komunyakaa, “Toys in a Field” …

•May 11, 2015 • Leave a Comment

yusef komunyakaaYusef Komunyakaa

“Toys in a Field”

Using the gun mounts
for monkey bars,
children skin the cat,
pulling themselves through,
suspended in doorways
of abandoned helicopters
in graveyards. With arms
spread-eagled they imitate
vultures landing in fields.
Their play is silent
as distant rain,
the volume turned down
on the 6 o’clock news,
except for the boy
with American eyes
who keeps singing
rat-a-tat-tat, hugging
a broken machine gun.


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