Thursday, June 27, 2013

Analysis of "French Kissing" by Gregory Sherl

Original poem reprinted online here: "French Kissing" by Gregory Sherl
Originally read: March 12, 2013
More information about the Poet:  Gregory Sherl


I needed to read the "about the poem" the first time to understand that this is an allusion to Joan of Arc.  I did write down notes of what I thought about the poem the first time that focused on the idea of the "emasculated peace time."  But in my notes I didn't go further about that idea.

And today, rereading the poem after a couple of months -- I still don't see the allusion to Joan of Arc,  how the poem operates with the allusion.  Actually I do in a sense, but my focus the entire time is the speaker, and there's little hiccups which makes me feel I have to know more about the history of Joan of Arc in a not interesting way.

The poem starts off with a rhetorical question that does emasculate a man during peace time, "What is there left to do during a truce, but look at boys / swinging swords at the trunks of trees?" The line suggests a an emasculation through the alliteration of "s" and "t" which adds a bit of a humor with the context of peace time and the focus being on "boys" swinging swords.  This is a stretch indeed, but I'm already having this mindset apply to the speaker as well who is observing this action and I feel judging what's going on.

Then the ambiguous "you" appears, and I already spoiled the "you,"  but at the time I remember that figuring out the "you" was interesting because of the "you's" capability of being able to "reach into the sky & put down a phonograph, / & we listen to the helium in the stars."  So the relationship between the "I" and the "you" interest me in a surreal sense.  Here, I remember wanting more of the surreal with a bite to it -- that same type of sweeping undercutting with the creative expanse.  But then there's lines like, "But the clouds / are mad" which try to push the cliche into surreal, and a general visual description, "What more than dissatisfied nature, / the lakes rise to the sky, only to fall back down. / Everything not the same, but still everything."  With these lines,  I know they refer to the concept of "dissatisfied nature" however, the focus is off here.

There's four and a halflines in the beginning devoted to the tone and the set up context in the beginning (even if I know it's Joan of Arc) in the beginning; meanwhile, the next couple of lines are a bit visually conceptually -- taking away more of the relationship and definition and adding...grandiose perhaps?  I feel that the I'm reading a different poem.

The next line specifies the name, "Jehanne," and at first I thought -- nice personal poem about a woman name "Jehanne"  I didn't think to look it up at the time because I wanted to go back to the relationship aspect of the poem and the description of her at this point, "warmed by skin & thunder" fit with the description above, but with the description hyperbolizes Jehanne to a comic extent and with the sentiment of the speaker, "Please stay / People love & it's good" I started to question the genuineness of the poem -- or rather the progression of the genuine.  I felt that the poem started off genuine and this part should be taken just as genuinely, but the descriptions are overly done, the alliteration is humorous, the relationship is surface at best with a lack of description.  So the ingenuous tone would fit with the emasculation in the beginning -- but the poem is all over the place for me.

The scattered nature of the poem is punctuated with I think martyrs of "Rouen," "Seine", and "Jesus."  A good analysis would've looked up these names and see how they relate to the poem, but here are the lines they are used in:

"Rouen in a dream / I'll never have.  Or, to purify the Seine, to growl like a lion, / to cough angrily into the wind  Jesus, may we all die / the same?"

The previous line the speaker was spouting some philosophy "I've always said [..]"  and here I don't want to look up the names (even though I should because the allusion would add, probably) but the names are just stands for a philosophy.  The ideas go back to the "I" speaker -- The I will never have like "Rouen" or the I wants to "growl like a lion" "cough angrily onto the wind."  The weight of the lines are more of a support to the character of "I" but not the whole poem (If I'd look them up -- I would see...),  At this point, I'm just turned off by the overly didactic, overly hyperbolized, and scattered poem that has some good lines.

The last line is a line that adds to all the things brought up though: the "I", the relationship, Joan, and the sky, "I said His name too, I said it / In the morning not yet sung."  There's a lot of good play on situation first the "His" presumably referring to God (which Joan of Arc listened to) is called out by the "I" who has been spouting some philosophy and has been on a course to ally his thoughts with people like Jesus (making the line more cutting on the philosophical level), then there's the sense of the surreal nature of "morning not yet sung" which indicates a sense of passage of time foretold (Joan's ability). 

The transitions in such a short poem were really jarring and some of the lines were overblown, but the end ties the concept down really well, not so much the lines.

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