Monday, April 22, 2013

Brown & agile child or What would the poet do?

(More than) a few year's ago, the movie that was ALL THE RAGE with the snotty film set was Il Postino.  & I will grant you, it is a lovely film (the trailer is dreck, just trust me about the movie).  The story revolved around a postman who is hired because a lofty exile has settled in the remote area & needs someone to bring his mail as his communication with the rest of the world is, in a word, VAST.  That exile was better known as Pablo Neruda.  He died 40 years ago & earlier this month, they dug him up.  Because there has long been concern that Pinochet may have had a hand in his death (Neruda was quite ill & planning & going back into exile...again.  Then he died, in hospital).

As with so many stories about poets, that one interesting & odd angle on a life is just a small slice of the pie.  It rather amazes me they have the reputation of being soft, fluffy bits of flotsam with no foothold in the real world.  Every active poet I ever met was manically obsessed with something (or things) & it was rarely socially acceptable.  About the nicest thing I ever heard of a poet doing in the last ten years or so was to get arrested for smoking in a nonsmoking restaurant & it just goes downhill from there (it turns out they only give tickets for smoking in non-smoking restaurants & then the police leave you there to finish your meal...& your cigarette.  It is up to the establishment to evict you).  I am not absolutely certain but I think the-poet-I-know was already mostly done with his meal, so he ditched the check & went to the movies.  I know he went to the movies, because that's where I heard the story (during the opening adverts, poets don't talk through movies). 

But don't take MY word for it (& no poet would want you to either.  Get off your lazy slacker ass & do your own damn research).  A few years ago, & really just a few. Less than ten.  Probably.  SOME years ago, I picked C****** up after school & she told me they were on to poetry in her English unit (I hate how schools talk) & she was quite sure she hated all poetry, ever written.  I almost had a coronary right there, behind the wheel.

We went to the library & I started pulling (she had spent the afternoon with his true love's hair being like wire & was completely sonneted out).  So I yanked every 20th century poet I thought might have something short enough to get in there like a blade & cut this outdated notion from her thoughts.  I don't remember the whole list but I know it included Lucille Clifton, Robert Lowell, William Carlos Williams, Theodore Roethke & Wallace Stevens.  It also included the poet that did the job: Lawrence Ferlinghetti. Ginsberg was not on my list, nor was Whitman.  I was worried they might have been included in her crash course & already ruined; I should not have been concerned they spent a WEEK on effing sonnets & never touched anything else.  Also not on my list Maya Angelou & Emily Dickinson; I looked but they were checked out YAY.

So they are digging up Pablo Neruda.  I am not sure how I feel about that (& not being Chilean nor a revolutionary, I am not sure anyone should care what I think).  It is interesting that when they buried him, despite a two month delay & Pinochet's refusal to hold a public funeral & general ban on all public gatherings, THOUSANDS showed up.

This past week I took the time to revisit what is probably his best known poem.  & the one I refer to the most:  A Dog Has Died.  & I cannot help but look at the past week, the Boston Marathon & the ricin letters & know that is no way to win a revolution.  No one wins when the only stakes are random undiscriminating death; Neruda lived a life of life & by every measure, including immortality, he won. 

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