Dream No. 14

After John Berryman

Don’t dare, you, turn that corner.
Too late: look, its already been done.
Some damn fool has creased the page.
That 'Rette Maddox, he knew this poem.
Me, I think he marked this one
his self lazing one day at the library.

Everette spoke this once, an eruption--
sprung up suddenly from a drunken nap,
for no reason except perfection.
At least that’s what I’ve read.
I for one weren't there for that
and can’t ask him since he’s dead.

Dat Mr. Bones: he’d be OK
(for 'Rette's sake) if I bent it again--
good and hard--and left it that way,
made it part of Maddox's posterity
down here, since they keep his poems
all locked up at the downtown library.

I moved the long blog comment into comments below, which explains what this poem is about. I guess if it needs an explanation, that's a problem. Since I mostly write for myself in this journal, perhaps it isn't. Read the poem, and read the long comment, and tell me if I've succeeded in what I was about.

1 comment:

Mark Folse said...

I decided to move all this matter to the bottom. I believe this is revision 9 since I put this up. (And now, on 10/2/08, I moved it here)

This is a rough, working draft. This is meant to be a public journal as much as a publication of my poems, and includes works I want to share for criticism and comment. (See various revision notes on other poems.)

Also, as this is a poetry blog, I think it's worthwhile adding some backround information on the how or why of a particular poem. I was reading John Berryman's Dreamsongs and when I came across "Dream Song 14" I remembered a story in Upmteen Ways of Looking at a Possom, the collection of homages and critical writings about the famous New Orleans poet Everette Maddox. The story goes that he sprung up from a drunken nap on a bench in the back of the Maple Leaf Bar and for no particular reason declaimed Dream Song 14 and went back to sleep.

When I came across that poem in this book from the New Orleans library, I was tempted to mark the page and come back and memorize the poem (and no, I haven't yet). Then I noticed someone before me had turned the page corner down. I like to think it was Everette's own hand that made that crease if this poem impressed him so. That thought came at least in part from Umpteen Ways' editor Grace Bauer's own poem in that collection "On Finding A Note To Everette Maddox In My Library Book, New Orleans, 1979".

And since I seem to be on this homage thing after the well-received Bukowski's Bluebird, here's the latest draft this tribute both to Berryman and Maddox. I think its close but not there. I at least have in outline a stanza, rhyme scheme, rhythm and syntax modeled on the Dream Songs, although I could imagine tweaking something like this util the end of time. I first read Dream Songs back in my twenties. Returning to them after all this years, I think I'm going to have to get a copy and put it in my stack with Dylan Thomas and Bob Kaufman for when I'm up to a serious challenge.

9:39 p.m. the same day--I think I have made at least five revisions since I posted this up this afternoon. I need to find a site where revisions are tracked while the current post is preserved. While that's not how Capital B Blogging is supposed to work, I'm at something different here.