Original poem reprinted online here: "Two Bourbons Past the Funeral" by Andrew Hudgins
Originally read: January 24, 2013
More information about the Poet: Andrew Hudgins
In the beginning of the poem, I noted the "we." The speaker and another person are "enjoying" a bourbon after a funeral. I didn't note this from the first read -- the word "old" is repeated and mentioned four times in the poem, "old books of the old poet, past old now, and another old poet fumbled / to his favorite poem."
Now, whatever the case, past me found the first line funny, "I find this funny in a relatable [six] way -- the focus is not on who died, but what to do after -- drink perhaps." The humor is further compounded with the repetition of old and the speaker and the old man fumbling to find the right poem.
The turn in the poem happens in the first simile, "his voice reverent / and sure, until he caught on a word / like a coat on a barb." I'm not too sure on the suage of the simile here -- maybe it's to reference something familiar -- or maybe it's a subtle and domestic way to produce a feeling of being stuck. The more and more I think about the simile, the more it fits the change.
The old poet who continues to read the poem starts to "moan" on the long vowels -- there's a discrepancy between what is being read,what the speaker is observing, the poem, and the moment because nostalgia kicks in for the old poet, "the friend he knew almost entirely / from these words and his own voice / reading them."
And it's not happy nostalgia in a sense -- it's only knowing an individual through words and the "epiphany" here (I wonder if all elegiac poems have to have epiphanies) is perhaps regret / perhaps understanding. Regret for not knowing the dead poet personally or understanding that a poet can only be understood by his/her works.
In any case the flow of the poem is disrupted by dialogue whcihc is very ambigious. "I told you not to do that" Is this the voice of the speaker or the old poet? because the dialogue ends, "Yes, you did," I do feel it's better if the speaker leaves the poem and the old poet talks to himself about not trying to go too deep in the poem, but ignoring his instinct.
Does the poem turn a bit tragic at the end. Perhaps. The old poet projects his voice, tone, style to the dead poet in hopes of "correcting the fictions and false/ felicities of his youth" The ambiguous pronoun of "his" could refer to the old poet or dead poet.
I write perhaps because the poem doesn't end as elegiac as it could be. Trying to understand something versus lamenting over something. The old poet is thinking, until the end, like a poet mourning. A poet mourning always grieves through writing.