Original poem reprinted online here: "Lost and Found" by Ron Padgett
Originally read: March 29, 2013
More information about the Poet: Ron Padgett
The poem hinges on the epigraph. Well, not the words of the epigraph, rather how the epigraph is used in general. What is the purpose of an epigraph in a poem? Why quote someone else and not let the poem ride for itself? If the epigraph is used as an allusive device, why? What does the epigraph do to a poem?
"Man has lost his gods. / if he loses his dignity, / it's all over"
What an epigraph does, traditionally for me, is set up the tone and allusion to the poem. There's two ways that this poem could go (well multiple, but these are the two that I'm looking for) either support or undercut what's being stated through tone and content. The epigraph brings a sense of free will, that man has "lost his gods" and only has "dignity." The epigraph is also a very advice type of epigraph.
This epigraph was written by the author (as explained in the first line). Note it is, "I said that." An auditory cue versus a visual written cue. Which matter's in the sense that they are different mediums and remembering what's said versus seeing something written has a sense of distortion to it.
And the first line leads into the idea of distortion. The language and phrasing is very colloquial as thought someone is trying to explain what he/she said. More like what he/she said once drunk and now trying to figure out what was said, "By dignity / I mean mutual / self-respect." The speaker is a bit on the defensive (well italics seems like a defensive quality) which also goes towards the definition of values, "(Values are where / the gods went / when they died.)"
So the explanation of the definitions I took as something serious -- in the sense that the speaker was somewhat trying to explain him/herself rather than redefine the words. Then the last stanza is a complete break from the scene, but not the definition tone.
My dog Susie doesn't seem
to have any values, but she does
have Pat and me, gods
she gets to play with and bark at
So this is definition in practice. Do I try to adapt the definition of values to the dog? I did for a while, but I'm not too sure that the poem wants the definition to be adapted. It's not necessarily redefinition; rather how the application of definition can be cast on situations -- showing how "values" and "divinity" works in a humorous way. Perspective, in a way.
I do have to note the "About the Poem" where it's stated that "'By the way, the corny play on god/dog was unintentional.'" Not every word in a poem is intentional, conversely, the words and phrases uses in a poem are purposeful. What does that mean? A writer can't possibly conceive of every technique in the book when creating a poem, but some techniques bleed onto others. Old/New Gods.