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Old 08-31-2018, 02:32 PM
Aaron Poochigian Aaron Poochigian is offline
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Default The One True Religion II

The Fetish

I.
Half-grin, half-grimace, with a fungal
growth like hair on half his skull,
the mystery is in the jungle—
the throned totem, the power, the pull.

(I've never visited the Amazon.)

Always to tom-toms and in reddish
light, light perhaps from a volcano,
I step toward—what? An ‘empty fetish’
preachers might call him. What do they know?

(He is the meaning, the sine qua non.)

Vines hang behind him, and the altar
is woven out of vine and palm,
and I take up a savage psalter
to chant a sultry psalm

(and spider monkeys sing the antiphon):

II.
The anaconda lost in the lianas
dozes for you (inside of me),
as do the lazy green iguanas
hugging the branches of the wimba tree.

While toucans squatting on your teakwood head
squawk O delight, O great life-giver,
dolphin carcass feeds the dread
sharks that are copulating in the river.

The bird’s egg fits into the monkey’s hand,
the jacamar and jaguar balance—
because of you. You are the grand
old turtle’s plastron; you, the vulture’s talons.

Yes, stumpy juju, even the piranhas
attest to your divinity,
as do the lazy green iguanas
hugging the branches of the wimba tree.

III.
Lots of fancy nomenclature
gets used for the divine,
but all I know's the god of nature
(the animals' and mine).

Last edited by Aaron Poochigian; 09-01-2018 at 11:35 AM.
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Old 08-31-2018, 02:33 PM
Aaron Poochigian Aaron Poochigian is offline
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I'm trying to decide whether this poem makes the cut for my next book. The previous opening section was:

I can’t stop finding you in reddish
light, light from a volcano maybe.
You’re always frowning, you big baby.
People would pooh-pooh you as “fetish,”
“native art” or “heathen fraud”—
but I don’t care. I love you, fungal
growth and all. You rule my jungle,
don’t you, darling little god?


Does the new third section work?

Last edited by Aaron Poochigian; 09-01-2018 at 12:04 AM.
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Old 09-01-2018, 08:08 AM
Bill Carpenter Bill Carpenter is offline
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Hi Aaron,
There is something of the spirit of Ishmael's acceptance of Queequeg's fetiche, the unprejudiced American explorer going native, but without the natives, and with a self-conscious echo of cliches about primitive life. I find it hard to enter into. There must be some way of doing Ishmael NOW. What is it? A little more consciousness of the fact that this god was a very different god to those who worshipped him, and that you are happy to make use of him for reasons of your own?

"Hugging the branches of the wimba tree" has a Kipling flavor. I love Kipling, but how would you do Kipling today? He is more honest than the prejudices against him. I'm also reminded of the hymn to Pan in Wind in the Willows. I guess I doubt the sincerity in some sense. The last stanza asserts belief and asserts authenticity. It's not convincing because of the play/satire element in what comes before. But there must be some way to pull it off.

Last edited by Bill Carpenter; 09-01-2018 at 08:29 AM.
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Old 09-01-2018, 10:01 AM
Aaron Poochigian Aaron Poochigian is offline
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Thank you, Bill. With the revisions, I have come to love this poem. I think it works very well.

Are there any specific criticisms you have of the piece?
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Old 09-01-2018, 10:26 AM
Bill Carpenter Bill Carpenter is offline
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Go with it then. My specific criticism is that in stanza 3 you refer to this god as the "god of nature," when in 1 and 2 it is a tongue-in-semi-cheek self-conscious subjective fantasy based on second-hand imagery. (A Short Duration Personal Savior, as we say in the Church.) However an inconsistency can just as well be a tension. You can redefine nature to include all of the above.
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Old 09-01-2018, 11:13 AM
Aaron Poochigian Aaron Poochigian is offline
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Thank you, Bill. I see the imagery first-hand--that is, very vivid and not at all merely the expected. I guess we simply won't agree on this piece.

Best,

Aaron
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Old 09-01-2018, 12:30 PM
Bill Carpenter Bill Carpenter is offline
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Good, Aaron. By second-hand, I didn't mean shoddy, but not from your own experience, since you say you've never been to the Amazon. The tom-toms and volcanic dust, "perhaps," emphasize this is something you are composing, not observing or recalling. I don't dislike it. I've just tried to sort out the strands.
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Old 09-01-2018, 12:35 PM
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Edward Zuk Edward Zuk is offline
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Hi Aaron,

I remember reading this one before. I like it better now with the additions to section I and the short section III. I think it needed more of an authorial voice.

As I read it, I wondered if the first two parenthetical comments in section I could be switched to increase the irony:

Half-grin, half-grimace, with a fungal
growth like hair on half his skull,
the mystery is in the jungle—
the throned totem, the power, the pull.

(He is the meaning, the sine qua non.)

Always to tom-toms and in reddish
light, light perhaps from a volcano,
I step toward—what? An ‘empty fetish’
preachers might call him. What do they know?

(I've never visited the Amazon.)

I'm not sure if this is an improvement, but I hope it might get you thinking about the interplay between stanzas and N's comments.

I also wondered if sections II and III should have their order switched to avoid ending on a shorter, less vivid note.

It's hard to say if a poem belongs to a manuscript without seeing the manuscript, but in its present state, I think it's strong enough to fit in with the others you've posted here.
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Old 09-01-2018, 02:21 PM
Aaron Poochigian Aaron Poochigian is offline
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Thank you both for commenting.

Yes, I understand “second-hand” now, Bill. I mean this poem to be a sort of Baudelairian dream journey that I make regularly. I feel the need to establish, upfront (in line 5), that I have never actually been to the jungle in question. This is an internal journey.

Thus, Edward, though I have played around with the parenthetical lines in section 1, I think I have to keep the current arrangement: 1.) for the reason stated above (to establish early that this is a dream journey and 2.) because the second parenthetical line (“He is the meaning. . .”) goes best as a rebuttal to the what the “preachers would call” the fetish and 3.) because the singing spider monkeys set up the psalm that is the second section. Also, because the first section runs, attacca, into the second, I think I need to keep the third section where it is.

Which is all to say that I have been thinking seriously about the issues you have raised and I still am.

Hmn.
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Old 09-04-2018, 01:47 PM
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Allen Tice Allen Tice is offline
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Keep it. xxxxxxxxxx
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