Sunday, May 01, 2005

My Weariness of Epic Proportions ...

It is only this year that I have discovered Charles Simic, a professor at the University of New Hampshire, an excellent essayist, and an award-winning poet and writer. It was one of those rare moments during Winter term, when I quoted Simic to a professor and was called on it, only to find that this professor was not only one of Simic's students, but had forged a friendship with him as well. It was a cool "hyperlink"--as if I knew someone who'd befriended greatness. Of course that whole thing got me to thinking of the concept of six degrees of separation, but that's another post.

While looking for poems to memorize for my Creative Non-fiction class on Thursday, I ran across this poem of Simic's which links to my current mythology class, my political viewpoints, and the concept of "the garden" and what is available to us in times of peace:

My Weariness of Epic Proportions

I like it when
Gets killed
And even his buddy Patroclus--
And that hothead Hector--
And the whole Greek and Trojan
Jeunesse doree
Is more or less
Expertly slaughtered
So there's finally
Peace and quiet
(The gods having momentarily
Shut up)
One can hear a bird sing
And a duaghter ask her mother
Whether she can go to the well
And of course she can
By that lovely little path
That winds through
The olive orchard

So, here are the poems I'm considering for memorization (obviously I've looked for shorter poems that somehow resonate): e.e. cummings' In Just, Buffalo Bill's Defunct or Somewhere I Have Never Travelled, Carl Sandburg's Monotone or Grass, or Charles Simic's Fear. Any opinions? Favorites?


At 10:34 AM, Blogger map reader said...

Thanks for introducing me to Simic's work; I hadn't read him before. I am reading the Odyssey right now with my son (they study the Greeks in fifth grade at the Waldorf School) and, though Simic is referencing the Illiad, the poem has a currency for me. I love the way he plays with "epic proportion" to engender both a sense of a boring read, but also a weariness of war and all the ways that our culture has sanctified it--including our homage to the "great epics."

Great work here on your blog; I enjoyed the Lynda Barry link as I had been wondering about the absence of her father after I finished reading One Hundred Demons.

Sounds like a very rich term, but yes, we do need antidotes to hypertext and perhaps your comments are exactly right in why the memoir has become so popular in our time: it is singular and contemplative in a world of connectivity and multi-tasking.

I do think, however, that Patchwork Girl retains, despite its fractured form, that quality of contemplation. Which is surprising.


At 11:26 AM, Blogger johnmclain said...

The poem's theme of dead wariors and hotheads, and the welcoming of the return of everyday life that is safe once again, seems appropriate for today's world where every hothead can produce epic terror upon anyone, anywhere, anytime. We all look forward to the day we can feel safe again.

I found Raw Recruit by Robert Service (through Shannon's Blog) to be similar, but from the reluctant warrior viewpoint... "What is right in war is wrong in peace..."

At 10:26 AM, Anonymous Axford said...

Pamela! Being anti-everything, I figured blogs were too trendy - but this is cool and I need one myself....

Simic's God, at times; he's got one about pulling on his spouse like a shirt - I think it was Simic...I'll find and send later...

The Achilles / Patroclus/ Hector tale I read for the first time this morning, in "War is a Force that Gives Life Meaning," which examines how Achille's murder of Hector (he's unarmed at the end of the battle, says "War," and killed by Achilles and mutilated by soldiers under A's command after first begging for his life) is transformed into a heroic act. "War" calls it an example of how we rever heros and honor combat, but in battle, in war, combat soon becomes murder and mutilation...."War" is not a cheerful book.

Sorry - great blog until I weighed in....

At 12:07 PM, Blogger James said...


I love this poem. It's important that you put in the stanza break halfway through, where the tone shifts--that's how it's printed in books (I forget exactly which line the break is after, since I can't see the text while I'm typing this comment, but you can look it up).

Also, "daughter" is misspelled.

Anyway, nice blog, and good taste!

At 5:33 PM, Blogger Pamela said...

Hello James! I love cyberspace "drive-bys" such as this, but hot-damn if I don't feel eons away from the lovely introspection of studenthood.

Daughter was a typo that I would surely correct in this blog's edit function, but I'm a lazy sod these days. Perhaps if I can locate it I shall ... sorry to future readers if it remains so transposed.

I struggled with spacing/line break issues on blogspot ... it's possible the missing stanza break was an oversight, or it could have been my clumsy first steps at blogspot.

Please read on into contemporary times at the Paper Garden, I'm always eager to hear new voices.

At 7:09 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I especially like the way you casually use a poet's work, scraping it up as if it were chewed gum on the sidewalk. Would that your own labors were also so casually abused. How much money did you send Simic for use of his work?


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