Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Reading Boland's "The War Horse" (1975) Part 9

5 more poems to the end of this war horse.

“Chorus of the Shadows” is a poem “after Nelly Sachs,” a Jewish German poet and dramatist who escaped from the Nazi concentration camp on the last airplane flight to Sweden. The Shadows, presumably persecuted or murdered Jews, begin the poem by comparing themselves to puppets strung by a puppet master. They end by delivering an ultimatum to the planet which “scripts” their part, to take away light, give them a new part to play or a stake in the luck, “the frail/ Perfect luck of a dragonfly above/ The rim of a well.”

I did not care enough for “The Greek Experience” to try to make sense of it.

In “Suburban Woman,” the woman is torn between town and country in five heroic sections, and in much violent language. I cannot tell if she is an allegory for the shell-shocked country, or the shell-shocked country an allegory for her. The first strikes me as a forced comparison, the second as overblown. In the fifth and last section, the poet enters the poem, too late in my view, to make the woman a kind of muse. Though defeated, both survive, “housed/ together in my compromise, my craft/ who are of one another the first draft.”

“Ode to Suburbia” compares suburbia in an extended metaphorish way to an ugly sister from Cinderella. The poem is pretty ho-hum until the last stanza in which something significant—and not merely witty—about suburbia is said. In suburbia “the same lion who tore stripes/ Once off zebras,” now sleeps “Small beside the coals” and may “Catch a mouse.” If you like lions, go to the city or the jungle; leave the suburbia to us kitties.

The last poem “The Hanging Judge” tells the story of one James Lynch Fitzstephen, a Galway magistrate in 1493. When his son killed a friend who fell for his sweetheart, the father hanged him for the crime. The poem seems to condemn the father-judge, but it gives either too much detail or too little, to make a convincing case to either the heart or the head. The 6-stanza poem is too short for the morally complex narrative to work.

The race to the finishing line was not a happy one.

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