Poets on Poetry

My friend The Grackle, of The Grub Street Grackle fame and previous adventures, has recently begun a video series entitled, Poets on Poetry. The exercise of this is to see how poets respond to, appreciate, or analyze each other’s poetry. Which is supposed to help the rest of us respond to poetry.

The Grackle has hitherto worked with words and ideas captured solidly through paper and ink, or pixels approximating paper and ink.

The foray into film to explore the sounds, sights, and nuances of spoken poetry is a bold stroke.

And as such, I, your brooding muse of tragedy, am honored that he chose one of my poems to initiate this series. Our friend Ian (his nom de plume is in the works, I shall let you know when it coalesces,) gives a wonderful and insightful introduction to the piece, one which made me gasp in sudden and new-found wonder over my own work. It is a powerful quality in art that it can hold more depth and meaning that the author purposely intended. Truly, poetry is rightly said to be dictated by a daimonian, as Milosz says.

It is my favorite of my poems, and I have many thoughts and opinions about it. But we want to know your thoughts. Please watch, listen, and read, and then comment either here or over at the GrackleRag!

Res Mundi

I dreamed of you last night.
Knobby, creased ground pressed
Up under our feet,
And you were facing west
With your back to me, firm,
As dark as almost shadow,
Fixed and calm;
The moment almost hallowed.
But then you leaned back on my shoulder.
(Shoulders closer than a kiss.)
Weight bouldered
Me awake, and now I press

 A fist against my breast: I ache – how I had forgot –
For the weight of another being upon my heart.


To quote the original post,

The written, printed word is our bread and butter at the Grackle. But we don’t mind admitting—we will insist on it, in fact—that what makes poetry necessary is something that turns up first of all in a common breathing and beating of hearts. So what we’d really like is to get together with you somewhere, read some poems, and talk.

We hope the video series in which the above is the first entry gives you a hankering for the same.

If you’ve read a poem in Grub Street Grackle that you’d like to see featured in a future installment of “Poets on Poetry,” please leave a comment below to let us know!

Some questions about the poem, for your consideration:

  1. “Closer than a kiss” seems to draw attention to the fact that the two in the poem are not kissing. What do we infer from this about the speaker and the one being addressed?
  2. Res mundi. Things “of the world,” as opposed to what? Things of other worlds? Eternal things? Dream things? Memories?  There’s a turn in the poem at “But then.” Does that turn tell us anything about the nature of the opposition?
  3. The poem is framed as the recollection of a dream after waking, and the dream itself seems to be of something remembered. At what point does this dream memory end? Take the line, “Weight bouldered.” Is this something that happened in the dream? Then where was the weight? Is it “of the world,” or not?
  4. We are used to distinguishing a literal meaning of “heart” from a metaphorical. Does this distinction make sense applied to the last line of this poem?







One thought on “Poets on Poetry

  1. I am a poor practitioner of poetical triage, favoring the concrete over the ephemeral in verse partly because it’s easier for my brain to make use of. That said, let me roll up my analytical sleeves and see if I can’t produce some helpful thoughts on “Res Mundi.”
    With any narrative poem, I first try to understand the setting. Here we have a dream, of course, but a dream that seems to be informed by a specific place. The ground is creased, which calls to my mind folds of dirt in a ploughed or disrupted field. I cannot know if this is what you had in mind, Therese, but that is my frame of reference. Perhaps a beach, but those tend to be smoother of surface than a field of furrows. The object of affection is facing west, and I assume so is the speaker, as she seems to be looking towards the object’s back. And since the person’s back is dark, I imagine the two of them facing a setting sun. Which makes sense, as dusk is a time that lends itself to moments that feel “fixed and calm,” and “almost hallowed.” Dreamlike, as well, with those long shadows. Looking east to the rising sun has the connotations of optimistic hope, of things beginning, whereas looking west has, to me, a more melancholy connotation; the longing of things just out of reach, or which have passed.
    Now, for the relationship between the two persons. Affectionate and trusting enough for one to lean casually against the other, in a gesture which seems to indicate a spiritual intimacy “closer than a kiss” could reveal, if I interpret that right. That the dream ends right at this point, as the object of affection leans against the speaker, indicates to me that this is the final expression of what the dream represents: this is the desire manifested as clearly as the dream can manage, and the dream ends because it has no more to say to the dreamer. And it is clear from the final lines that the dream represents something the speaker desires; both the moment and the kind of relationship that the moment signifies.
    The speaker had forgotten what it was like to have a person so close to that they are a “weight…upon my heart” (a wonderful, useful phrase), so it seems she is lonely, and perhaps has been separated from the other person for quite some time. The separation appears to have been emotional primarily, although potentially physical as well. The final line beautifully draws attention to the effectiveness of the poem’s central image: a beloved person being a metaphorical “weight upon the heart” as well as a literal one when they lean against you.
    As to the title, it could have several meanings, I suppose. This is the one that makes sense to me: “Things of the world” could refer to the poem dealing with a universal human experience: the longing for the presence of a loved one and the impact they leave on one’s person, both physically and in less tangible ways. I would love to hear anyone else’s analysis of the title, though.
    In short, a very good poem. I was unsure of it at first, but as is often the case the exercise of really digging at an artwork’s meaning and craft causes one to appreciate and enjoy it more. I ended up enjoying this one very much. I myself am a worse poet than I am a poem-analyzer, if that can be believed, and so admire those who really work to excel at it. Thank you for sharing!

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