Richard Vallance.


For November 2001, I have chosen the sonnet

Lost in the Storm of Falling Words

by my Friend, Deborah P. Kolodji, who presently resides in my old winter stomping grounds, California.



ABOUT DEBORAH P. KOLODJI

Deborah P. Kolodji is a divorced mother of three who uses her career in information technology to fund her poetry habit. Her work has appeared in scores of small press magazines and webzines, including Star*Line, Dreams and Nightmares, The Magazine of Speculative Poetry, Stirring, Red River Review, and Twilight Times. Two of her poems appeared in the recent anthology, "Envelopes of Time", published by Electric Wine.

Other recent publications include three poems in Keith Allen Daniels landmark science fiction poetry anthology, 2001: A Science Fiction Poetry Anthology, which is available from Anamnesis Press, as well as a true life story in "Charity, True Stories of Giving and Receiving", available from Red Rock Press.



THE REVIEW...


Lost in the Storm of Falling Words


White snowfalls of misunderstandings blind

the writer to his misspelled thoughts, his voice

singing out of tune, to a score divined

from forgotten prayers, making his own choice

to chart his own, ignoring convention

like a painter who cannot see, throwing

acrylic at canvas, inspiration

a dancer without feet sometimes going

solo, the singer whose throat closes up

in silence, dreading her first audition,

the gardener who plants seeds in a cup -

he has no shovel. The poet's doctrine

to write images he feels with his words,

rhythm and rhyme guiding him - like shepherds.


by Deborah P. Kolodji, 2001


This sonnet is not, at least ostensibly, about fall, but I have to admit that, at first reading, the very first verse quite deceived me into presuming that it was, much to my misappropriated chagrin. Well, I suppose I ought not feel too abashed about that, since, after all, Deborah felt quite at a loss about what she wanted to say, as she began penning the "words" of this sonnet, the very words of which she has had to struggle to "craft". Here we find a poet striving to write about the very process, the creative act of writing a poem, in this case, a sonnet.

Now, I say, "to craft", in quotations, because, to tell the truth, I rather doubt this sonnet is, at least at its most profound level, crafted, but rather, like all fine poetry, "guided". I feel as though our poetess were on a ship at sea, in the night (for she does feel lost), following some distant lighthouse beacon to some unknown shore. This theme is actually reasonably commonplace in the annals of poetry; however, it is at best not easy to pull it off. I believe that Deborah has indeed managed to do just that, just as John Keats did, in his equally surprising sonnet,



Sonnet: On the Sonnet


If by dull rhymes our English must be chain'd,

And, like Andromeda, the Sonnet sweet

Fetter'd, in spite of pained loveliness,

Let us find, if we must be constrain'd,

Sandals more interwoven and complete

To fit the naked foot of Poesy:

Let us inspect the Lyre, and weigh the stress

Of every chord, and see what may be gain'd

By ear industrious, and attention meet;

Misers of sound and syllable, no less

Than Midas of his coinage, let us be

Jealous of dead leaves in the bay wreath crown;

So, if we may not let the Muse be free,

She will be bound with garlands of her own.

John Keats (1795-1821)


Fascinating, isn't it, that Keats eventually resorts to invoking the imagery of autumn, in verses 12-14, where, first of all, he insists that the poet is - "jealous of dead leaves in the bay wreath crown;", apparently wishing they weren't there at all, and yet, as though it were a counterpoint, the final rhyming couplet strikes its home run with his ironic quip about to the Muse being -

"... bound with garlands of her own."

And this brings me to Alfred Lord Tennyson's equally disturbing lyrical demi-urge of a poem, The Lotus Eaters, where he seems to have sought to create something of a similar atmosphere, some 150 years ago. (Why Deborah's sonnet reminds me of his poem, I cannot say, but it does.) Here is an excerpt from Tennyson's poem, which unflinchingly reminds me, not only of certain images, but of the ineluctable tonality of the musical sounds, woven so closely into her languorous rhythms, Deborah has invoked in her own sonnet:

"Courage!"

he said, and pointed toward the land,

"This mounting wave will roll us shoreward soon."

In the afternoon they came unto a land

In which it seemed always afternoon.

All round the coast the languid air did swoon,

Breathing like one that hath a weary dream.

Full-faced above the valley stood the moon;

... From the inner land: far off, three mountain-tops,

Three silent pinnacles of aged snow,

Stood sunset-flush'd...

...A land where all things always seem'd the same!

And round about the keel with faces pale,

Dark faces pale against that rosy flame,

The mild-eyed melancholy Lotos-eaters came.

...And deep-asleep he seem'd, yet all awake,

And music in his ears his beating heart did make.


Far be it from me to suggest that there is much verisimilitude in the subject matter, the thematic core, of these two poems, but I claim there is in their overall tone. For instance, let me quote some parallel lines from each poem, to illustrate my point:


Deborah P. Kolodji:

White snowfalls of misunderstandings blind


Alfred Tennyson:

...And deep-asleep he seem'd, yet all awake,


Deborah P. Kolodji:

singing out of tune, to a score divined

from forgotten prayers, making his own choice

to chart his own, ignoring convention


Alfred Tennyson:

In the afternoon they came unto a land

In which it seemed always afternoon.

All round the coast the languid air did swoon,

Breathing like one that hath a weary dream.


Deborah P. Kolodji:

(and again) ... to a score divined/ from forgotten prayers


Alfred Tennyson:

...A land where all things always seem'd the same!

Deborah P. Kolodji:

...a dancer without feet sometimes going/

solo,...


Alfred Tennyson:

... From the inner land:

(The previous phrase is highly significant to this review.)

(and again) ... And music in his ears his beating heart did make.



What is particularly striking (to me at least) about the tone and the tonality of the imagery in these two poems is this, namely; that although they are over a Century, and a wide ocean apart, these poems somehow manage to evoke, no, rather, to encapsu- late, or capture, the essence of some long-lost ability of the human "psyche" (in the Classical Greek sense of that word), to revisit that world of Forms and of Image, which Plato so eloquently addressed in his allegory of the Cave in his, Republic (514-517). We as human beings, on this, our apparently limited physical, finite plane of existence, do not have any formal access to the World Infinite; and yet - and yet, paradoxically, we do. We can, artistically, peer through the lens of finity, however darkly, and somehow grasp what lies on the other side.

This is where Tennyson's poem is coming from, although from his point of view, it is as though the Lotus Eaters, which are in point the embodiment of his own struggles with imagery, are fumbling around the source of that essence forgotten; while for Deborah P. Kolodji, it seems more as if the artist is aiming, somehow - to write images she feels with her words, rhythm and rhyme guiding her - like shepherds. Note that she is quite explicit about the pivotal role both rhythm and rhyme play, must play, in guiding the Artist, in this case, the sonneteer, specifically, in the process of individuation in Creativity, which is, in and of itself, a kind of mirror-image of Creation itself, viz; the Creation-Hand of the Godhead Him- / Herself.

Deborah is not coming from the lost Caves of the Imagined; she is heading towards them.

Is it possible, then, to imagine her sonnet flips Tennyson's hypnotic, entranced, perhaps even Opium-induced imagery on its head, by opting out of what at first glance might also appear to be a real sense of loss on the poet's part, whose weak hand struggles to create, but feels so very frustrated in such a seemingly hopeless project? Yes, she certainly does share with Keats and Tennyson an imagistic "world", that projection from within the human "psyche", or as Tennyson so colourfully imagines it,

"... From the inner land: ..."

Perhaps she shares their outlook to a certain degree. Yet, it almost seems as though Deborah's sonnet comes close to reclaiming something we, as humanity, have never lost. Or, to put it in other words, which I have freely transliterated from the ancient Koine (everyday spoken) Greek of the New Testament:

1 Corinthians 1:12-13

For at this flicker of a moment we perceive some dim image

through a mirror; yet hereafter face to face.

Now, it should come as no surprise to you, if you are familiar with some of the origins of ancient religious literature (the Christian New Testament being no exception), that this text should have reminded you of Plato's Myth of the Cave, in his Republic. It is no mere accident that it does, for modern Biblical scholarship has it that Platonic philosophical notions did indeed exert some influence over Hebraic-Talmudic, Essene and Christian texts of the day. Of course, that influence extends its subtle tentacles all the day down through to the poetry of the Romantics, viz. in this case, John Keats, to the bizarre nether-world depicted by Tennyson, and of course, to Deborah P. Kolodji's own sonnet, where she lays claim to the not-so far-flung notion that,

...The poet's doctrine (is) to write images he feels with his words, rhythm and rhyme guiding him - like shepherds.

In other words, it is not so much the words, the "logoi" (to use Plato's language), which guide the poet; rather it is the innate rhythm and rhyme, rhyme being equivalent to Reason or "Logos", in the singular. Now, for those of you, who are not cognizant of the profound meanings (of which there are at least 20) attached to this ancient Greek word, permit me to let you in on some of them, viz:

Logos:

1. the word by which the inward thought is expressed (that is its primary definition!)

2. the inward thought or reason (thereof) itself - and, additionally, amongst other things: pretence, proverb, eloquence, the thing spoken of, the subject of the "logos"; thought, reason, reflection, analogy, esteem

From:

A Lexicon Abridged from Liddell and Scott's Greek- English Lexicon. Oxford: University of Oxford Press, 1986 (Edition of 1986) pp. 416-417

In conclusion, I venture to assert that this single word, which also begins John 1:1 in the New Testament,

"In the beginning was the Word"

(horribly feeble translation), is de facto the very word, upon which rests the entire superstructure or, as we would have it these days, "the Matrix" of all Western Literature, from the time of Plato forwards. And that, of course, includes all poetry. Actually, the notion of "logos" was already in its inchoate stages as early as in Homer's splendid Epic, "The Iliad", which remains, to this day (at least from my perspective, having read much of it in the original) the most splendid poetic achievement in all Occidental literature, bar none. But what, you may be justifiably wondering, if anything, does that have to do with Keats, Tennyson or Deborah's sonnet? Actually, a very great deal; for if you have ever read even a bit of the Iliad in a decent translation, you should have quickly realized that Homer's grasp of imagery, allegory and primordially, of rhythm and metre, was nothing short of astounding. He was master of his rhythm, imagery, of his allegory, and even of his "gods", not they of him.


OK, here's a clincher to close this review. I should like to pose you all a little quiz question.

What other highly imaginative 19th. Century English poem would you think I have in mind, as you read this review?

Anyone care to hazard a guess?

If you think you know who the poet is, and what the title of the poem is, you may forward your answer either to

Sara Russell, at:

[email protected]

or to myself, at -

[email protected]

Thanks.

by Richard Vallance, 2001

October, 2001

Richard Vallance, Moderator,
[email protected]
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