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Pentimento

by Rod Pederson

Prologue


Spenser in conversation with Donne.  Marvell sipping tea with Pope. Coleridge swooning on laudanum, and Ezra "The Reprehensible" Pound wearing a necktie.  I was living in Poetry, inhabiting the dreamscape encompassing Chaucer, Keats, Dennis Lee and every poet in between. At home with all those wonderful voices all talking all at once, every word heard as clearly as every other.  This was my heaven.  But doorbells ring.  Men stop by on business.  And the voices melt away.


Now, in this late afternoon, the great books make a graveyard for words I should no longer use in my poems.  Each book a monument to its own passing out of style.  Old words are dead, are nowhere to be found in their accustomed phrases.  Those lines and stanzas are gone, along with the truths they used to tell.  


Oh!  The truths they used to tell.  The insights - moral, emotional, intellectual, spiritual - sustained us, not by preaching or teaching but by engaging us in the beautiful processes of our language and knowledge.  But knowledge, of the reliable and repeatable kind, is denied us; and, of course, meaning, too, falls victim to the stylist juggernaut.


But scroungers in Poetry's graveyard began to unearth the tombs.  These were the olde collections, the olde verses, the lost Arks.  We recognized their forms, if not their language and content.  Villanelles, pantoums, ghazals and, especially, sonnets crept back into our books and journals.  Slowly and  quietly meaning, too, began to re-emerge.  


Still the emphasis on making it new keeps the olde words and phrases locked in their sarcophagi.  Locked away is language I love, telling stories I love, and truths that I love.   The poem presented here is a rebellion against their interment.  It is an apostasy in many voices, encouraging a leap into the mystic.





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