no place for little lyric (PoemTalk #2)


When Adrienne Rich wrote the poem "Wait" she and many Americans and others were awaiting the start of what seemed an inevitable war in Iraq, in March 2003. The PoemTalk crew - Jessica Lowenthal, Linh Dinh, Randall Couch and your convener-host Al Filreis - couldn't wait (as it were) to get going on this terrestrial poem. Is it a personal is political poem? The soldier, after all, looks at his or her wedding ring and thinks about why s/he wasn't told...but not told what? Is it a make love, not war poem? Is it a political poem at all? The Iraqi desert is "no place for the little lyric." The gang variously wonders if the poem had something large to contend about lyric's talent for reminding us of reasons why war is inhuman? Randall thinks it isn't much of a war (or antiwar) poem; its strengths diminish as it gets more clearly into its political subject; in the end it closes off "with a click." Linh prefers a less formalistic approach. Jessica and Al riff on the 1930s-style "hobos in a breadline" genre: its reputation for conservative form carrying radical content. Is this a formally conservative poem? If so, there's an irony, for sure. The PoemTalkers can only agree that such a question is open, making the poem all the more interesting (and in that sense it's a meta-poem, a poem about the problems of political poems).


In paradise every
the desert wind is rising
third thought
in hell there are no thoughts
is of earth
sand screams against your government
issued tent hell's noise
in your nostrils crawl
into your ear-shell
wrap yourself in no-thought
wait no place for the little lyric
wedding-ring glint the reason why
on earth
they never told you

PennSound's collection of Rich recordings offers downloadable mp3's of three reading, including her 2005 performance at the Kelly Writers House, where she read a bit from The School among the Ruins: Poems 2000-2004, including "Wait". She also gave a 32-second introduction to our poem.

PoemTalk #2 was recorded in Studio 111 at the Center for Programs in Contemporary Writing, produced by Al Filreis and Mark Lindsay. Steve McLaughlin was our sound editor and we had help from that talented soundhead, Curtis Fox. We're grateful to Adrienne Rich who agreed, when she visited in '05, to recite "Wait," a favorite of the Writers House-affiliated students.


m_s said...

i'm loving the podcast - thank you! what's the music you use at the start and end? it's great!

Julia Bloch said...

I loved this podcast. I had one comment/question: it is important, is it not, that for Rich it is the *little* lyric. It's not that there might be no place for the lyric - but the lyric of a little kind. Maybe it's time for the big political lyric.

Al Filreis said...

To m_s: Our director and editor Steve McLaughlin will let you know the name of the song we're using. - Al

To julivox: I agree that she laments that here (in war; as we wait for inevitable war) there's no place for the *little* lyric - meaning the one about individual love; the incidentally personal. Alas, she says, this is the case. Ideally there's a place for the big lyric as well as the "little." - Al

Stephen McLaughlin said...

The song heard at the beginning and end of each show is "My Own Face is F Word" by Dan Deacon, the de facto leader of Baltimore's current underground renaissance.

Unknown said...

The song/poem gives the feeling of something, but i can't point what.
Anyway, it kind of difficult to define - certainly is not clear; not in lyrics, and not the political direction and meaning, of course.

I think it just sounds like a lot of sarcasm mixed in not finding an effective end to the poem.

Vintage Rings

Allen Smith said...

I havent any word to appreciate this post.....Really i am impressed from this post....the person who create this submit it was an amazing human..thanks for shared this with us.

how to stop snoring

SweetonSylvia said...

Note of allusion: Ear Shells were the devices used in Fahrenheit 451 to block out thought with mindless advertisement... So "crawl into your ear shell"... Forget this world. Do not think about it. Become mindlessness.