Friday, February 07, 2014

Doing Unto Myself

In surfing through some poetry blogs, I clicked across 'Sarabande' by Shannon Doyne, freelance writer and contributor to The Learning Network since 2008, on the "Poetry Pairing" blog, which appears to be part of a supplement to The New York Times. The weekly blog attempts to pair poems with articles that somehow augment or intersect each other. What's more, readers are asked to respond with additional suggestions or comments about how the poem could be connected to other content from the news source (a picture of what looks like a hand-written parchment, a pen, something blurry resembling a pocket watch and a pair of spectacles resting on a wooden table is included at the top of the post). It is their effort to bring more poetry to the daily lives of its readers, which is, perhaps, a noble effort. A recent post dated January 16, 2014 paired Lucie Thésée's poem "Sarabande" with an excerpt from "Beneath Martinique's Beauty, Guided by a Poet" by Sylvie Bigar.

I was immediately intrigued by a brief preface to Thésée's poem that mentioned how her writing began appearing in a publication by Aimé Césaire, a writer with whom I am lightly familiar having read and treasured Return to my Native Land many years ago. While I have no other impetus to respond to the article beyond the novelty of the coupling and my own interest in poetry, and previously unfamiliar with either author, I read the post with curiosity. Also, in trying to do as I had assigned my students to do, I was at least compelled to make meaning out of the multifaceted mix-up.

Still, after reading the offerings, my interest wasn't wrapped up in the marriage of ideas brought together by the triumvirate of picture, poem and prose. Even though a critic could argue that there was some merit in Thésée's poem, it did not suit my personal taste. Perhaps something was lost in Robert Archambeau's translation from the French, which poetry seems to suffer from more than other forms. Even though a historian may be roused by the memories of Martinique and the mass African removal brought about by the slave trade, Bigar's excerpt felt a little sentimental, especially when "overcome by melancholy," the author wrote at the end of the passage that she wept. Nonetheless, the idea of linking poetry to other texts—of cross-pollinating a conversation and entering a dialogue with the past—is still desireable, and I vow to return in the future to see what else might be tendered to suit my whimsy. The conversation is worth continuing...

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