Ancrene Wiseass

A would-be medievalist holds forth on academia, teaching, gender politics, blogging, pop culture, critters, and whatever else comes her way.

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Yes, this really is yet another blog by a disillusioned grad student. I sympathize, but that's just the way it has to be. For hints as to what my bizarre alias means, click here and here and, if needed, here and here. To get a sense of what I'm up to, feel free to check out the sections called "Toward a Wiseass Creed" and "Showings: Some Introductory Wiseassery" in my main blog's left-hand sidebar. Please be aware that spamming, harassing, or otherwise obnoxious comments will be deleted and traced.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Poetry Friday: Paul Muldoon

I was lucky enough to win a copy of Paul Muldoon's Horse Latitudes (with the lovely UK dustjacket, no less) in a drawing, and it came in the mail this week, so he gets my Poetry Friday spot this week.

I discovered Muldoon while looking through an anthology for teaching texts a few years ago. Not being a great reader of poetry means that I have a tendency to stumble across poets many other people have been following for years, somewhat like a mapless 16th-century mariner who's astonished to find a continent in his path. Who knew?

At any rate, I especially like this poem, which is about hearing a strange noise in the house and going far afield in space and time to locate its source. Like a lot of Muldoon's work, this piece pairs whimsy with a kind of pathos that verges on--and sometimes veers right into the middle of--horror.


Not the day-old cheep of a smoke detector on the blink
in what used to be the root cellar,
or the hush-hush of all those drowsy syrups
against their stoppers

in the apothecary chest
at the far end of your grandmother's attic,
nor the "my sweet, my sweet"
of ice branch frigging ice branch,

nor the jinkle-jink
of your great-grandfather, the bank teller
who kept six shots of medicinal (he called it "therap-
utraquist") whiskey like six stacks of coppers

stacked against him by the best
and brightest of the American Numismatic
Society from the other side of 155th Street,
nor the in-the-silence-after-the-horse-avalanche

heard by your great-great-grandfather, the Rebel yeller
who happened to lose a stirrup
and come a cropper

at the very start of the Confederate offensive in the west,
nor even the phatic
whittering of your great-great-grandmother ("such a good seat")
whose name was, of all things, Blanche,

nor again the day-old cheep of a smoke detector on the blink
in what used to be the root cellar
but what turns out to be the two-thousand-year-old chirrup
of a grasshopper.