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‘A Magician Contemplates The End’ and ‘I’

December 24, 2009

Following on from this week’s fragments here, I think I have come up with a criterion for helping identify really good automatic poetry, which is simply this: there must exist genuine (authored) poems which make substantially less sense.

Both of the following offerings from the Generator pass the test, in my opinion, and rather well. Once again, they have been titled for convenience; the titles obviously reflect only my interpretation of what might be going on.

A Magician Contemplates The End

I can call spirits from the vasty deep:
So many things seem filled with the intent –
Ne’er saw I, never felt a calm so deep
Lodged with me useless, though my soul more bent;
Never did sun more beautifully steep
When I consider how my light is spent;
I cannot say what loves have come and gone,
Except the Will which says to them ‘Hold on!’

It’s strange and it’s oblique, but there seems to be a story hiding in there somewhere: a meditation on love and experience by someone whose memory is failing fast though their will remains strong. There’s a rather beautiful melancholia to ‘Never did sun more beautifully steep / When I consider how my light is spent’, as if the dawn looks lovelier in contrast to the speaker’s own fading powers.

I

Still ringed with ordeals she was mastered by,
We stumble and we do not understand.
Take me to you, imprison me, for I

Is full of ghosts tonight, that tap and sigh,
Stand in the desert; near them, on the sand,
Still ringed with ordeals she was mastered by,

Open unto the fields and to the sky,
You only saw your future bigly planned.
Take me to you, imprison me, for I

When Aunt is dead, her terrified hands shall lie;
I met a traveller from an antique land
Still ringed with ordeals she was mastered by.

The grass below – above the vaulted sky
Sits heavily upon Aunt Jennifer’s hand.
Take me to you, imprison me, for I

Will turn to me at midnight with a cry,
And no man claimed the conquest of your land;
Still ringed with ordeals she was mastered by
Take me to you, imprison me, for I.

I love this. Its tangled pronouns seem to be the voice of someone who isn’t quite sure who they are, let alone who they are addressing. How wonderful are ‘I / is full of ghosts tonight’ and ‘I / will turn to me at midnight with a cry’? On top of that come the surreal juxtapositions of image, the best one being ‘the vaulted sky / Sits heavily upon Aunt Jennifer’s hand’.

It all goes towards building a picture of a fractured but still almost-coherent mind. The persistent homophonic shadow of ‘imprison me for aye‘ (that is, forever) lurking behind ‘imprison me for I’ is just the cherry on the cake.

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