Eratosphere Forums - Metrical Poetry, Free Verse, Fiction, Art, Critique, Discussions Able Muse - a review of poetry, prose and art

Forum Left Top

Notices

Reply
Thread Tools Display Modes
  #1  
Unread 02-07-2003, 02:53 PM
David Anthony David Anthony is offline
Distinguished Guest Host
 
Join Date: Feb 2000
Location: Stoke Poges, Bucks, UK
Posts: 5,074
Post

Body Bags


I

Let's hear it for Dwayne Coburn, who was small
And mean without a single saving grace
Except for stealing—home from second base
Or out of teammates' lockers, it was all
The same to Dwayne. The Pep Club candy sale,
However, proved his downfall. He was held
Briefly on various charges, then expelled
And given a choice: enlist or go to jail.
He finished basic and came home from Bragg
For Christmas on his reassignment leave
With one prize in his pack he thought unique,
Which went off prematurely New Year's Eve.
The student body got the folded flag
And flew it in his memory for a week.


II

Good pulling guards were scarce in high school ball.
The ones who had the weight were usually slow
As lumber trucks. A scaled-down wild man, though,
Like Dennis "Wampus" Peterson, could haul
His ass around right end for me to slip
Behind his blocks. Played college ball a year—
Red-shirted when they yanked his scholarship
Because he majored, so he claimed, in Beer.
I saw him one last time. He'd added weight
Around the neck, used words like "grunt" and "slope,"
And said he'd swap his Harley and his dope
And both balls for a 4-F knee like mine.
This happened in the spring of '68.
He hanged himself in 1969.


III

Jay Swinney did a great Roy Orbison
Impersonation once at Lyn-Rock Park,
Lip-synching to "It's Over" in his dark
Glasses beside the jukebox. He was one
Who'd want no better for an epitaph
Than he was good with girls and charmed them by
Opening his billfold to a photograph:
Big brother. The Marine. Who didn't die.
He comes to mind, years from that summer night,
In class for no good reason while I talk
About Thoreau's remark that one injustice
Makes prisoners of us all. The piece of chalk
Splinters and flakes in fragments as I write
To settle in the tray, where all the dust is.
Reply With Quote
  #2  
Unread 02-08-2003, 04:28 AM
Michael Juster Michael Juster is offline
Distinguished Guest
 
Join Date: Apr 2000
Location: Belmont MA
Posts: 4,802
Post

As with the great XJ Kennedy, even people who should know better cast Sam Gwynn solely as a "light" poet. Both men are just great poets, and shouldn't be limited by genre. Even in much of their "light" verse, there are serious--even dark--statements lurking beneath the pleasing exterior.
By the way, I assume that this story is apocryphal--but I've heard the claim several times that Shakespeare's company thought that Hamlet was a comedy when they first read it.
Reply With Quote
  #3  
Unread 02-08-2003, 12:04 PM
Catherine Tufariello Catherine Tufariello is offline
Distinguished Guest
 
Join Date: Mar 2002
Location: Valparaiso, IN
Posts: 280
Post

What Mike said. These are among the best war poems, and the best contemporary sonnets, I've ever read. There's an equally fine sequence of war sonnets, titled "1916," in Sam's selected poems, No Word of Farewell.
Reply With Quote
  #4  
Unread 02-10-2003, 02:59 PM
Paul Lake Paul Lake is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Jun 2001
Location: Russellville, AR
Posts: 1,004
Post

I'm a great admirer of Sam's Body Bag sonnets, too, and have praised them in print--all the while arguing that he's a serious poet, not "merely" a brilliant satirist.
Reply With Quote
  #5  
Unread 02-11-2003, 04:06 AM
A. E. Stallings A. E. Stallings is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Jul 2000
Location: Athens, Greece
Posts: 3,205
Post

These are wonderful--they strike me as very much in the tradition of Sassoon.
Reply With Quote
  #6  
Unread 02-11-2003, 06:25 PM
David Anthony David Anthony is offline
Distinguished Guest Host
 
Join Date: Feb 2000
Location: Stoke Poges, Bucks, UK
Posts: 5,074
Post

There's been an unpleasant correspondence on The Gazebo (I lifted the poems from there) about Prof Gwynn's politics.
I posted them because I thought them extraordinarily human, full of empathy and dignity also.
I'm not familiar with his politics. Nobody knows mine, not even my wife; not even me, come to think of it.
I wonder how much politics have to do with poetry?
Regards,
David

[This message has been edited by David Anthony (edited February 11, 2003).]
Reply With Quote
  #7  
Unread 02-11-2003, 06:41 PM
R. S. Gwynn's Avatar
R. S. Gwynn R. S. Gwynn is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Feb 2001
Location: Beaumont, TX
Posts: 4,704
Post

I am pleased that people are discussing the "Body Bags" sequence, and Alicia is right--Sassoon does inform them indirectly, just as he more directly informs some of the "1916" sequence that Catherine mentioned. He was not a great poet, to be sure, but he was very good in a limited way and did serve both humanity and poetry well, in his poems and memoirs and in his mentorship of Wilfred Owen, who eventually surpassed him as a poet.

David is correct in saying that the discussion on Gazebo has turned rather bizarre, and I did respond there to correct some false statements that Nigel Holt, late of this board, made about my political beliefs, about which he knows nothing, or less than that. Tim and Alan have known me for a long time, and I am sure that--whatever they might say about me--they would never call me a Republican.
Reply With Quote
  #8  
Unread 02-16-2003, 08:21 AM
Terese Coe Terese Coe is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Jan 2001
Location: New York, NY
Posts: 7,485
Post

I too was taken aback at the virulence of Mr. Holt's latest attack. His membership in the Gazebo has now been cancelled, though not merely as a result of the latest attacks.

I was glad to see these poems of Sam's posted there as well as here, and will repeat my comment from the Gaz:

Sam Gwynn's way with a tribute to an old friend is unique and archetypally American in its approach to friendship: warm, casual, dramatic, teasing, and full of seemingly random memories. The impact is enormous as well.

[Though it is irrelevant to David's subject matter here, Sam's poem "Untitled" encompasses fantasy and
homily, the humble and the universal, apparently with
effortless ease.] He is one of the contemporary masters.

Terese

Reply With Quote
  #9  
Unread 02-17-2003, 03:26 AM
nyctom nyctom is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Aug 2001
Location: New York, NY USA
Posts: 3,699
Post

What does Nigel Holt have to do with this poem? Is there any way that we could discuss the poem as a poem without the mean-spirited gossip? Try.

Mr. Gwynn, if you read this, let me tell you that I am generally not a fan of Vietnam War poetry. Imagine watching a 20 hour movie of nothing but explosions and blood and flying guts and body parts. Numbing--at least that is how I feel about it. Well, that is how a good deal of war poetry, especially Vietnam War poetry, strikes me. Numbing. Not particularly interesting or insightful or moving--with all the surface details of horror that, it is sad to say, don't seem to add up to much as poetry, because their accumulation is numbing. And they have all the depth of a campaign promise.

I like these war poems. I was moved by them. And I wondered about what it was that I found moving about them. I am not especially a fan of war poetry. I thought about the Vietnam War memorial, which I was fortunate to see the first month it was unveiled, when everyone and their brother was bitching it was a piece of ugly shit. "It's like a gash in the ground," went one criticism. And I thought, Well--isn't that the point? All those names. It was very moving--because of the SPECIFICITY of the NAMES.

This brought me back to the poems, and gave me a way into them--at least I think so. I think it is the very specific and homely and observed details that make this work so well for me. They don't attempt a political "statement"--they transcend propaganda:

The Pep Club candy sale,
However, proved his downfall. He was held
Briefly on various charges, then expelled
And given a choice: enlist or go to jail.


That kind of detail to me is worth hundreds of War, war is bloody and stupid or War, war is a necessary evil simplistic statement. And the ending of the third, when the poem suddenly leaps up into a broad "statement," it doesn't feel like a cheap piece of propaganda, because the small and, yes, SPECIFIC details have accumulated POWER:

He comes to mind, years from that summer night,
In class for no good reason while I talk
About Thoreau's remark that one injustice
Makes prisoners of us all. The piece of chalk
Splinters and flakes in fragments as I write
To settle in the tray, where all the dust is.



They're good poems. In a hundred years, when all the sniping and bitching about their posting at Gaz is silent, they will still be good poems. I would bet money on it.
Reply With Quote
  #10  
Unread 02-17-2003, 03:41 AM
Jim Hayes Jim Hayes is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Dec 1999
Location: Kilkenny, Kilkenny, Ireland
Posts: 4,949
Post

These are excellent poems, and I am pleased to see them discussed here and rightfully accorded their due praise.
I am also pleased to associate myself with Tom O'Grady's concluding remarks.

Jim Hayes
Reply With Quote
Reply

Bookmarks

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Forum Jump



Forum Right Top
Forum Left Bottom Forum Right Bottom
 
Right Left
Member Login
Forgot password?
Forum LeftForum Right


Forum Statistics:
Forum Members: 8,261
Total Threads: 21,289
Total Posts: 268,945
There are 173 users
currently browsing forums.
Forum LeftForum Right


Forum Sponsor:
Donate & Support Able Muse / Eratosphere
Forum LeftForum Right
Right Right
Right Bottom Left Right Bottom Right

Hosted by ApplauZ Online