Saturday, April 19, 2003

Annals of reception: I found my poem "Flight Risk," which appeared in SHAMPOO a while back, cited on the website ("a resource for health-minded individuals") on a list of "endurance poems," which seems to be a search-engine-generated catalog of inspirational verse. Other items include poems like "Love's Endurance," by "Mary B.":

In quiet awe I saw love's endurance 
Life's harsh bitter wind whipped plans 
Could not erase the sweet  fragrances 
Of love as eternal as the arrival of spring

and "Endurance," by M.J. Monroe:

In life I find endurance
to be a daily task.
Why does life dish out such trials?
The little children ask.

Or, perhaps, more to the point, this "Wrestling Poem":

Adversity can’t keep him down, they roll and bridge and turn,
My son has found persistence, a lesson he must learn.
His companion’s endurance, as he strives until the end,
And if he has the guts, determination is his friend.

Of course, the compiling procedure produces some weird results. So there's a citation of Marvell's "To His Coy Mistress" (wouldn't this be a poem *discouraging* endurance?), a database of term papers, info on the World Endurance Championship, and even a poem by Ulli Freer in Jacket called "Fragmento":

puffs a fluffed fibre glass insulation insecurity
illusion windows
to a set light consumption
from floor to ceiling assumes
floated deviation bathes
a pre-set neck zipper an endurance plus

It initially seemed sort of sweet to me that someone had put my poem on such a list--though that quickly dissipated when I realized no human hand had compiled it. But I was also confused--it seemed hard to me to imagine anyone taking comfort or inspiration from the kind of "endurance" in that poem:

The ticker-tape
Crawls at denial’s speed, its several
Layers and colors turning our heads
In all directions.  What’s newer about
This time around is endurance, the way it
Keeps moving despite all efforts to direct
It this way or that, as if the serenade
Were going on in a distant room.

Of course, this poem was written in October 2001, and "endurance" came to me in that context from "Operation Enduring Freedom," our war on Afghanistan--it always struck me that the object of "enduring" was ambiguous, as if it weren't freedom itself that was enduring, but our notion of freedom that had to be endured by someone else.

Then I looked back at M.J. Monroe's "Endurance," and noted that it's dated "9-13-2001"--a product of nearly the same moment of shock and horror as "Flight Risk," although in that moment prior to the opening moves of our own horrific response, revulsion at which also animates my poem.

So I began to think that "Flight Risk" really did belong on that list--that what I had thought of at the time as a critical and sardonic tone was read by the cold computer eye as an attempt to find and provide solace--just like M.J. Monroe and Mary B.

No comments: