Friday, August 14, 2015

Poem of the Day: “Neat and Tidy Cemeteries” by Carol Hamilton, Poet of the Month

Songs of Eretz Poetry Review is pleased to present “Neat and Tidy Cemeteries” by Carol Hamilton, Poet of the Month.  Ms. Hamilton will also be serving as the guest judge for the Songs of Eretz Poetry Award Contest, which will run from September 1 to October 15, 2015.  A detailed biography of Ms. Hamilton may be found here:  http://eretzsongs.blogspot.com/2015/08/songs-of-eretz-poetry-review-poet-of.html.  The contest guidelines may be previewed here:  http://eretzsongs.blogspot.com/p/songs-of-eretz.html.

Gustave Flaubert
Neat and Tidy Cemeteries
Carol Hamilton

The people in there seem to have died wearing white gloves.
--Flaubert

These warm fall days are etched
with a north wind gilding,
so I am pulling up the wild abundance
of tomato vine, mint, pineapple sage,
violets and tiger lilies.
The sweet autumn clematis
has waterfalled its white floral runners
all over the flowering almond and spirea.
Flaubert hated ruly things,
so he would have loved my garden.
I do maintain a minimal authority here,
enforce lockdown when the prisoners
start to riot. And this is it.
But even without my occasional
show of force, soon it will all
prune itself, turn to dust.
Tidy is not a word I know.
But its ancestor was the sea,
and I can either turn the tide
or float with it. Flaubert and Darwin
favored the latter. My fingers
are green-stained and smell of mint,
my efforts ebb and flow, and I rarely,
if ever, argue with anybody.

Poet’s Notes:  I share Flaubert’s disdain for things that have been overly civilized. Many things take their own paths even as I try to direct them, so perhaps this love of imperfection is merely self-justification. This poem takes delight in the names of plants. My dictionary does not carry the word ruly, but our word unruly surely must have originated with that root. At any rate, I stole the word from Lee Young Li’s wonderful love poem about his parents, “Early in the Morning.”

Editor’s Note:  I enjoy the poet’s use of neologism here (waterfalled, ruly) as well as her clever play on the meaning of “tidy.”  I also find interesting comparison of Flaubert to Darwin--the former a romantic who struggled with realism in his fiction http://www.newrepublic.com/article/120543/james-wood-flaubert-and-chekhovs-influence-style-and-literature, the latter perhaps the definition of a realist in his scientific rigor. Neat and Tidy Cemeteries” was originally published in Ship of Fools.

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