Jeanne Larsen reads Reading: An Elegy
This is the poetry magazine podcast. I Don Chair editor of Poetry magazine. I'm Christina PUGH consulting editor and I'm Lindsay Garbage managing editor this week. We spoke with Jeanne Larsen in Roanoke Virginia about her palm reading. An Elegy Larson wrote the poem. After visiting the ching-kuo teak national wildlife refuge huge. Since this poem is set at dawn it does record actually a real experience where I was out on the wildlife refuge waiting for Sunup so I could see these of Tundra swans there and the light came up behind a forest a string of trees that eventually I could. Let's see. Were Lob lolly pines because I could see the long needles in them and then I saw that they were all dead because of salt water from storm arm and so it was a series of repeated decoding 's which undercut one another and reminded me of how beautifully seductive you've language and all of its metaphors are and how ultimately treacherous it can be to us if we cling to tightly to. This is the one truth about the world world reading an elegy draws on Larsen's longstanding interest in oncology and epistemology because I'm polluted by language because I'm a reader reader because I'm a word user because I'm Homo Sapiens. I said Oh those are swans and I I made from that visual perception. And then later when they took off the kind of clattering sound that their opinions the strongest feathers on their wings made against each other. I made from that kind of solid thing. But Larson says there's a long tradition of eastern and Western philosophers who suggest we shouldn't think of things so originally what I think of as my human body or the bird's body is a kind of collusion. A kind of collection of complicated implicated molecules and molecules aren't little ping pong balls. Molecules are subatomic particles. Whatever those are sort of spinning around they might not even be particles they might be waves so I'm back in high school? Physics with light is either a particle or wave or both oath and and all of that kind of fed into my understanding of what I was seeing. Larson finds it thrilling to think that what we read is not the thing itself. I'm less S.. Convinced that the things out there do indeed have some ultimate essential reality at most. It's temporary at most. Though swans swans are going to fly away at most. The ocean will wash over the pine trees and the saltwater will kill them then we're off to to sea level rising so we have to keep all of that in mind as we do our readings. Here's Jeanne Larson's poem reading an Elegy. If I claim this poem presents the Tundra Swans we saw at first light. You might wrongly think of Yates at Cooley or nine. And fifty other suppositions in fact the blue slate of this lake reflected formerly Lee some block chain constellations. Alas now from a macy's a star necklace makes an atlas windless endless spyglass. Free Pass. So you say but come on. I Swan who ever took the mark Ark for the squawk the squawk for the Ding on. Zee The weird. Ding is the things themselves swanning about out are also Mir wavy car-bomb Axel collusion's on establish -able is is not as Marx. Who here over here? I shop your is the swans in their ghost. Forest were long. Needles also inscribed lob. Lolly Pines are vehement enough past the Cannell early Savannah shine presumes on grass heads fog. Don't make a deal of it. Sun Dogs Will Yep soon pinions may clatter your your head may stop throbbing hold fast stop doing great the way this poem it just gathers so much diction from various sources so many words you know who wing Hush don't make a deal of it right. There's onomatopoeia there is colloquial language. There's scientific language like Koksal and of course if I we get yes and that allusion to his Wild Swans and I love the way. This poem inductive. LII is just thinking through this notion that you can't see without seeing through language you know. This poem is kind of doing what it wants us to think about which is putting things into motion realizing that things are in motion that there is no static the quality of of anything in the world. And there's just so much energy in the way this poem does that. It's always nice to and I'm always thrilled when a poem reclaim something for poetry so like most people probably don't want to write a lot about Swans V8's and certified the fired do that without looking over your shoulder. And I like the sort of death. Division of the gates here is saying basically like you're wrong he wrong you think think of which is true. I mean literally true because one of the great things about the poem is like Talking About Tundra Swans and lob lolly pines things that I think it's fair to say great number of US probably don't really know much about her picture anywhere let alone palm so so by having that diction that you're describing. It's almost like the poem teeth. You know it's really you you know. It's sort of struggling with the changes in this landscape in our relationship to it. And you know the temptation to look for abstractions and images when the reality is is corrosive and and vehement. I love that word here vehement because they're sort of it's like the trajectory is our human way of living on this planet has vehemence to it but then that that is we see now increasingly at least we're increasingly aware of the fact that what nature's doing his country now with its own vehemence is not a pretty sight. I mean literally. It's not a pretty sight but you know the palm is really struggling with it and it reclaims another thing too. which is allergy? Because you think of allergies is being sort of gentle reimagining of something. That's or someone departed in. This is not. It's not a gentle palm at all. It's analogy for so many things and frankly even the title reading. That's that's very eerie too. Because we're sitting around reading all this stuff while these things are happening and it's almost I like reading is beside the point in a certain sense. Yeah it's definitely not a gentle poem but it is playful in a way the reference to the Ding an Sich and then the weird thing is I mean that's funny and then you know there's that change from the noise marks who over here over here at the end it says stop canoeing but this time it's W. H. instead of H. O.. And so that's sort of a commentary on we need to stop anthropomorphized are being so anthropocentric Appropos centric about the world and who had exists for and why you know why it's here but at the same time. How can you write a poem without perception without being a human being writing the poem you know and so I think that that's where that playfulness comes in because there's awareness that like? Well I still you want to do this thing. I still want to write this poem. I know all these things logically in my head but emotionally. I still want to do this or you know. I'm I'm trying to do both things at once and I think that's where even if it's not gentle it's still an enjoyable reading experience in its sadness in its rationality and in its acknowledgment of trying to bring a larger perspective to appoint about swans. Yeah Yeah and I think what's it's also interesting about this poem in its insistence on movement. It's counter balanced by its commitment to a kind of discrete form on the page age. It's interstates three line. Stanzas accepted it's ending. which has a couplet which is kind of a sense of a of a missing wine align or sort of missing line in in movement perhaps? But what's fascinating is that. It resists the impulse to make it's flux. And its commitment to flux in nature my medically imposed on the page. So in other words if you can imagine this poem as dispersing itself across a page that might be one way of approaching it. However this poem chooses not to do that and and to stick with the left margin the Tur- sets and make itself discreet artifact in a kind of counterbalance to do the fluctuation that it's celebrating and lamenting and wondering about Gene Larssen's third book of poems is what Penelope choose? She's also published four novels two books of translations of poems by medieval Chinese as women. You can read reading an Elegy in the November Twenty nineteen issue of Poetry magazine or online at Poetry magazine Dot Org. We'll have another episode for you next week. Or you can get all November episodes all at once in the full length. PODCAST on soundcloud. Let us know what you thought of this program. Ram Please rate and review us on Apple podcasts. Or if you listen and other way email us at podcast at Poetry Foundation Dot Org. We'd love to hear your thoughts else. Are you thinking of buying someone a book for the holidays. 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