Originally read: March 20, 2013
More information about the Poet: Lisel Mueller
Here's what past me wrote at the end of the poem, "maybe bibliophile, maybe relationship, I don't know about meta-narrative though." And past me came to this conclusion through the title "Fiction." And although there could be multiple ways to address "Fiction," like a definition poem, or a description of someone's life, here I felt the poem went towards tmeta-fiction, or the art of writing fiction.
But the poem starts off with a direction "Going south," and along with a direction, there is a collective voice of "we." Yes, this is the time I question who the "we" is, but here I'm shifting my decision towards the title -- "Fiction" and the concept of fiction because of the simile, "unroll like a proper nove:"
And here the assumption for me as a reader is that there will be a list of characters, techniques, scenes that would at least equate to a certain direction (even if my initial guess at the time and now is wrong). But here's the list, "forsythia, dogwood, rose; bare trees, green lace, full shade." Past me wrote, "I feel this list doesn't make the poem meta-narrative -- perhaps I took "proper novel" too deeply.
This is true, however, I cannot let the list go. I want to have the items on the list create connection to novels I should know. Maybe like Gone With The Wind or what not -- but I think this is the trick behind the poem. Regardless, if there is meaning behind each image, there's a progression made that is maybe undecipherable to the reader, but understood by the speaker with a line like, "By the time we arrived in Georgia / the complications were deep." The list and the situation show a sense of complication defined by a personal code in a sense.
The situation is, forcefully, flipped in the next stanza where, on the way back, "we read back to front" and then the images above are described in a different ways backward.
" [...] Maroon went wild,
went scarlet, burned once more
and then withdrew into pink,
tentative, still a bud."
With this list there's more of a scene, more of an action of movement that I can see as a reader, but cannot make the connections. And at this point, I don't need the connections or understand the allusions, rather the contrasting sequences is pretty fascinating. The couple at the end though, "I thought if only we could go on / and meet again, shy as strangers" is a bit sentimental, I find it a better end that if it ended with "still in bud" which would make the poem a nature fluff piece.
Rather the interesting line here is "shy as strangers" which could reinterpret the poem as a poem about a relationship (human relationship) or keep the whole idea of meta-fiction, where the sequence is known when done reading, but the interpretation of the sequence is done trying to connect the actions together. I'm probably looking at this poem too deeply.