Friday, February 05, 2010

Reader's Diary #575- Lesley Choyce: Beautiful Sadness

"Or would his olive branch be torn apart by woodpeckers of mistrust?"

That's a question asked in the classic Simpsons episode, Behind the Laughter. I thought it was funny at the time and it sticks with me as an example of... of... I'm not sure what. But I still find it funny. In the Wikipedia article on the episode, the author refers to the line as part of a "hilarious series of nonsensical metaphors." But it's not nonsensical, is it? The olive branch (a clichéd symbol for peace) is destroyed and woodpeckers peck at trees, so technically it makes sense. Is it that an attempt at creating a cliché is funny in itself?

I ask because Lesley Choyce's Beautiful Sadness is full of woodpecker lines. I dogeared every page that had such a line and there wound up to be many corners of distraction. I just wish I had a name for this kind of cheese:

1. dreams are swept with moody brooms

2. driving station wagons of dissatisfaction

3. drain acid from the battery of my will

4. inside the garden of my heart

5. because black and white are cousins of the same autopsy

6. a tie clip pinching threads of order

The unfortunate thing is that I don't think Choyce wrote these with humorous intent. Certainly the rest of the poems containing one of these woodpecker lines (hey, I think I've found my term), usually weren't funny overall. Obviously such lines took away from my enjoyment.

However, and fortunately, all was not lost. I was hopelessly caught up in Choyce's sense of rhythm and when he was descriptive, he was beautifully descriptive. When he wasn't inadvertently cheesy, I quite enjoyed the poetic elements and word play.

I tried to find my favourite, "Newfoundland Kitchen" online to share, but was unable. However, I can't help but share the last four lines:

as you let the accordion roar
here in a room enameled to lightning gloss
and insulated from the dissonance
of the present

One of the poems from Beautiful Sadness that I could find in its entirety online was "My Father, Shaking Pepper." I thought it was fitting given yesterday's discussion of family dinners.

My Father, Shaking Pepper

It was his only vice, I think
for wars were waged at dinnertime.
My mother, silent, all of salt,
would watch his waving wrists with frowns,
his grip around the grey-white glass,
his mind intent on holding ground.

Read the rest here.


Sandra said...

Loved both the quotes at the bottom. I'm either off today or odd altogether; those cheese bits all made sense to me. Wish I knew how to review poetry. I love the stuff.

John Mutford said...

Sandra: Oh, they make sense to me too. But I still think they're overwrought and silly.

By the way, I read your comment on the last short story post as well. I'm not I know how to review short stories or poetry either, but that's never stopped me before. The way I view these things, there's no right or wrong review as long as it's just a personal opinion.

Kate said...

Your list of "woodpecker lines" sound as though they were taken directly from a cheesy country song!

Anonymous said...

"Woodpecker lines" love it! And that line "dreams are swept with moody brooms" is fabulous. I enjoyed reading the full poem online, thanks for sharing this poet with us today.

bookworm said...

who collected words as if they belonged somewhere


Julie said...

I've always looked for a term to describe this phenomena - "Cheese" isn't bad. "Purple prose" is a term I've used. "Overwrought" is correct but a little bland for the name of something so painful. I think "Woodpecker lines" is the term I'll use from now on (attributed to you, of course, w/ Mr. Choyce providing the example.) Ouch ouch ouch.

Mary Lee said...

Cheesy, all, but "draining acid from the battery of my will" made me smile.