"Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendia was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice."
Gabriel Garcia Marquez: "One Hundred Years of Solitude"
When I first read this poem I did not fully comprehend what was going on but I knew that I really liked it. Justice was a very experimental poet but also wrote in a wide variety of forms from formal, traditional to blank verse. It is paradoxical in many ways; the first line (which is repeated as the last line) states that the poem is 'not addressed to you', when clearly it is. How should we deal with this? What is the poet saying to the reader?
POEM by DONALD JUSTICE (1925-2004)
is not addressed to you.
come into it briefly,
one will find you here, no one.
have changed before the poem will.
while you sit there, unmovable,
begun to vanish. And it does not matter.
will go on without you.
the spurious glamor of certain voids.
It is not
sad, really, only empty.
perhaps it was so sad, no one knows why.
prefers to remember nothing.
were peeled from it long ago.
of beauty has no place here.
the sky over this poem.
It is too
black for stars.
not look for any illumination.
neither can nor should understand what it means.
it comes without guitar,
in rags nor any purple fashion.
is nothing in it to comfort you.
your eyes, yawn. It will be over soon.
You will forge
the poem, but not before
forgotten you. And it does not matter.
been most beautiful in it’s erasures.
bleached mirrors! Oceans of the drowned!
one silence equal to another.
does not matter what you think.
is not addressed to you.
The last lines of Shakespeare'sShall I Compare Thee to a Summers Dayare:
"So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
So long lives this and this gives life to thee".
Justice makes a similar point, that the poem will not change over time ('You will have changed before the poem will') but the reader will. Poets usually form a relationship between themselves and the poem but in this case the reader is also involved, despite what the poem says.
I think he also says that the poem is not important (his poetry was often self-effacing): 'do not look for any illumination'. If we had said to the poet "Ah gotcha! If the poem is not addressed to me, why am I mentioned?", he might have riposted something akin to the answer in Monty Python: "I might be arguing in my own time!".
It's ironic that the poem is profound while claiming not to be ('There is nothing in it to comfort you'). One cannot help being drawn into it and seeking meaning!
Listening to The Doors singing 'Touch me' (it's on the radio!)
Cimabue: Fresco in the Basilica di San Francesco, Assisi c.1278
The picture depicts the Madonna and Child with four Angels and St Francis
in art, as in life in general, greatness is soon eclipsed by a still superior
greatness. Cimabue (1240 - 1302) was the last great Byzantine painter
but his pupil Giotto is generally regarded as the first great painter of the
Italian Renaissance. Today the name of
Cenni di Pepi, known as Cimabue (pronounced as Cheema-boo-ay)
is barely known while the genius of Giotto is rightly recognised. The
characteristics of Byzantine painting were; an almost total concern with
religious expression, mainly icons; flatness and lack of perspective; often a
severe almost abstract other-worldly style was used and background and
highlights were of gold which had the ability to make a solitary figure appear
to be floating somewhere between the wall and the viewer. The intention was to
depict images of the divine that were raised above the mundane. Despite, or
possibly because of these restrictions, the art managed to convey
St Francis, detail
It can be seen from the detail, left, that Cimabue was beginning to get some individual expression into the faces he painted. Before his time there was no individuality shown in portraits. It's important to realise that new styles in art don't just cut in with the suddenness of a banjo chord; Cimabue was a genuine link between Byzantine and Renaissance art. Little is known about his life although a few details are given in Vasari's Lives of the Painters (1550).
I'm listening to a cast recording of the 'American Tribal Love-Rock Musical' Hair. The current track is 'What a Piece of Work is Man', lyrics by W.Shakespeare. Listen here.