Original poem reprinted online here: "Book of Hours" by Kimberly Johnson
Originally read: January 4, 2013
More information about the Poet: Kimberly Johnson
So I've been procrastinating all day for this poem. Why? Even though I read this poem quite a lot of times, I still have a hard time initiating a discussion about it.
It should be easy, right? I have a lot of notes on the page, I have an entry way through word play or use of difficult words. However, I really don't want to go this route, but, since I've been hesitating (and this is supposed to only take 15 minutes not the whole day) I should.
Language is a tricky subject. I don't want to write, "well this poem has difficult words in it -- it add/takes away from the poem." If I do that the entire message, techniques, images, etc. are washed out. I will write this though -- in any poem or writing, there has to be a draw in for the reader to read or even look into the poem. Every poem I chose drew me in (good/bad) and I wanted to take a closer look.
But I have to be honest with myself, the language adds something to the poem that I really wanted to have a better grasp of before writing this. The language adds the sense of a "bibliophiles" attempt to consummate a love of books, nature, and religion. And what the language does is separates them instead.
I think the turn for me happens in this line, "No untangling of that liturgy." And I think that the l\onger lines before the poem hint at an existential point due to lines like "Shouldn't that be enough" that subvert this sort of reverence set up in the poem through the language, through the images.
Further below the line "No untangling of that liturgy" there's another turn with a single word "yet I adored each page, and bent to stare / so low that my lips touched the serif." The image of the poem is wonderful -- kind of a sensual physical love of the page (Here, I think the poem became more of a bibliophile). But there's a separation (which I interpret as humorous, but maybe it's not) between the physical and the metaphorical. Yes, there's a literal kiss of the page, but a book, a physical copy, cannot return feeling; and a book metaphorical, is just a projection of meaning and symbol brought on by a reader. Of course, a writer does try to steer a reader into one belief or another, but when a work is out there, it's out there for multiple (and for me, audaciously wrong) interpretations.
The end (finally in a while) works for me, "Paperwhite. Paperwhite. Incarnadine." because it can be interpreted in multiple ways; however, I'll focus on two.
1) The speaker's resolve for love of books, nature, and religion is reinforced through the repetition of color. And with the last color being Incarnadine -- words, nature, religion is part of the speakers flesh to be seen (and judged) by everyone.
2) However, Incarnadine is the same color as flesh -- meaning that all this love and resolve can be looked over as a part, drowned out by words and love, and, unnoticed by anyone who doesn't listen closely. The poem is too close, and too intimate to the speaker that -- even exposed, the "love" still hides.