I’m no scholar.
I have a B.S., yes, and an M. Ed. I have taken courses in literature and read books about poetry as well as many books of poetry. I do not allege I am any expert of poetry, therefore the following statement may merely be a show of my ignorance.
I can’t help but notice that over the last couple of years, the poems I have read in The New Yorker sound more and more like those nonsense spam emails – the ones that must exist for something like luring people to “unsubscribe” from a list and unwittingly confirm an active email account. To me the poems lately seem distant and cold, robocalls of poetic expression, and hella disjointed. I feel like I could grab phrases from fortune cookies, Bazooka Joe wrappers and Monopoly game Chance cards and string them together to create something similar.
Here’s one I made up that I think could fit right in:
“Do we not strive for a ladder, the blue
cat will not say:
Is there a Chanel store in this hogs’ earth?
Breaking the sixth board is
difficult for everyone, anyone.
If the glass shatters on His Cake
He may not nearly hear the cock crow in the morning.”
It almost seems like there is a contest happening for who can be the most obscure. Except no one has informed the “dear readers.”
But then, I wonder.
Because, other people at the local mall could see the hidden image in those Magic Eye pictures and I never could. I blinked and winked and squinted, moved in and out, and finally would state that it was a hoax, like the Emperor’s clothes – none of you really see that sailboat; you just say you do so you don’t feel left out.
And because other people slowly move from one side of a Pollock dribble to another – they step closer, move back, hand on chin. I watch them watching the splotches and cannot father what it is that I cannot fathom.
There are too many people who have explained to me a deep meaning in a seemingly random post-modern story, or nonsensical-sounding punk song, for me to disregard all seeming obscurity. So I think there is more to many creations I’ve initially dismissed. In fact, I am related to someone I consider an amazing “close-seer.” When I have scoffed at seemingly superficial creations (“sure it’s fun, but what does it mean?”), my brother often explains it to me in very persuasive detail. The guys knows how to support his assertions. He’s a master analogist and the English teacher’s dream.
When I was in college I was in the Sondheim musical “Assassins.” I liked to sing and dance but looking back I think I was a rather shallow sort of performer. I had never trained well enough to find deep and personal connections to content and characters (or if someone had tried to train me to do so, it didn’t take). I don’t think I really wanted to connect, anyway – I wanted to escape and pretend – that was the whole point, for me. I didn’t want to find the Me within the part. I wanted to stop being me while I was in a show. So, that is how I came to play a major role in this musical without having done much soul-searching or plumbing the hows and whys of these various assassins, would-be assassins and political figures.
I saw a hummable pageant. My brother, a highschooler at the time, came to the show, and saw something else. I made an offhand remark about liking the tunes bit not really feeling like the show had much to say. After having seen it the one time, he gave a compelling analysis of what he believed Sondheim had put forth in this work, that floored me. Of course these many years later I cannot remember now what his thesis was, likely dystopias and anti-heroes were a part of it. But I do remember I looked at the show very differently after that, for the remaining few performances. And wished I had cared enough to not assume that a master creator like Sondheim would phone it in and put on a hummable pageant just because I hadn’t spent the time to figure out what he was saying. Or wanting people to think over.
I do remember that I shared my brother’s thoughts with the play’s director that night. She was similarly amazed by his sophisticated and thoughtful views of the show’s meaning. She was not one to be speechless yet this had left her mute for a bit, that it had come from a highschooler.
It’d obvious he’s a master analyst, and yet I’m the one whose job title actually has the word “analyst” in it. He’s a code breaker, a decipherer. He’s an actor now. A real actor, not a pageant giver or jazz hand waver. And perhaps that’s what true soulful acting is, after all – not my world of pretend but rather the product of a master sign-reader interpreting a text for the rest of us, who are blinking and winking and hoping for the hidden sailboat to appear in the Magic Eye picture before it’s time for Mom to pick us up at the food court.
If I indulged my paranoid side – which I generally don’t – I could start to wonder if there may be some subculture of such hyper sign-readers – maybe ads and New Yorker poems are merely coded messages being traded back and forth. But, probably not.