Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Review of "Said to Have Been Heard to Say Hush" by Nathaniel Mackey


"Said to Have Been Heard to Say Hush" by Nathaniel Mackey (b. 1947) was offered by Poets.org's Poem-A-Day on October 2, 2013.  A link to the poem may be found here:

 http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/23707


Dr. Mackey is the winning of numerous literary awards, is a former Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets (2001 - 2007), and is currently the Reynolds Price Professor of English at Duke University.  A more thorough bio may be found here:

http://www.poets.org/poet.php/prmPID/468

The poem has two parts:  a main part, and a "slogan."  The poem opens with the concept of a beautiful memory fading away, abandoned to the province of "not," to a place inside the poet's mind metaphorically called a "box."  The sixth stanza finds the "box" being stimulated by the memory of songs, "menacingly" bringing the ghost of the memory back to his conscious thought, "lighting" up his mind.

At the end of the ninth stanza, "a tiptoe ghost octet" enters the dreamscape.  This group of ghosts recalls the choruses used in the performance of plays in ancient Greece.  The remainder of the first part of the poem waxes meta-poetic, with frequent reference to footsteps and feet (poetic syllables) and the fear of losing forever the poetry of the memory.  The first part of the poem concludes with a mysterious, ghostly rite involving fish powder.  I, like the poet, am "none the wiser for" it.

In the "slogan," the poet laments that he will never be able to capture all of the beauty of the memory in a poem or otherwise.  He will never be "wise enough" to accomplish this task.

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