Original poem reprinted online here: "Void and Compensation (Field Guide)" by Michael Morse
Originally read: June 21, 2013
More information about the Poet: Michael Morse
Two things that are going on in this poem -- the 2nd person perspective and (mostly) end stopped stanzas. Why is this important to note before reading the poem? For me, I think the addressing of the you controls the type of images and metaphors represented which is furthermore constricted by the 2nd person point of view. Because it's not what the reader sees, it's what the speaker wants to show. Kind of like a choose your own adventure book...but is it really and adventure?
The first stanza plays with the idea of a "field guide" with, "Page one's a white space for thinking; even here among the evergreens / beyond the living room and the white noise." Here, the stanza serves as a palette cleanser. The repetition of white should prepare the reader for images to pop up.
And the first image, "The guide held firmly in the hand means to see" is of "you" holding onto the guide -- as though to give control to the reader to see, but the the next image, "Through mist and wind made visible by branches, / do you name a thing and lose other options, counterlives?" sort of pops up from a blank space (white -> hand -> mist and wind). The speaker is entrusting the reader with viewing the images and then asks the question, "do you name a thing and lose other options, counterlives." The question like "if you name something, is it defined" The poem plays with deconstruction at this point.
"Are you in turn a season named and filled with music? / Say then the weather changes and takes the singing elsewhere?" the idea of naming and questioning continues through to the next stanza and past me wrote, "set of rhetorical questions based on sight at first then shifts to other senses -- hearing, touch?" So the sonic aspect of the questions doesn't add to the initial image, rather, to me, questions the validity of the initial image -- furthermore, in trying to decipher what is going on the questions doesn't necessarily disrupt the image, but expands and blurs the scope. A whole lot of "where am I."
"Of fidelity and proximity, the latter is a watchword." Here I feel the first part of the or duo is important. Proximity, is more or less, questioned here (speaker to the reader, reader to the scene, speaker to the scene). Fidelity addresses the reader to continue on and see what happens next (with the guide and the poem).
The poem then focuses on how to approach viewing (white -> hand -> visible) with clear, "A window." However, in this stanza the last line, "in your place or by your side. Two forms. Two matters." reveals and foreshadows an upcoming difference.
Different Form and Matter: "From expectations of pure pop in flowering trees / down to knee-high scrub, with hope and faith / I tried to com to terms with what was common." The most description of the visual, and also the introduction of the "I" speaker who, "heard and sang back a little brown bird," and "tried to name what I saw and how I felt." And with these lines there's a sense that the speaker, in the beginning, is asking the "you" to describe and name in order for the speaker to understand how to describe and name -- because the end product is, "bird was gone. Or the song, / or the singing, and what's left."
What is left? The image, the deconstruction, is more vivid when the reader imagines, but for the speaker, it's mostly (based on the poem) effervescent. When discussed it's gone, "A blind so we first see without being seen -- / not mentioned in books, found only in looking." Note it is in the act of looking that the difference occurs. The speaker, although a bit more vivid, has the images taken away. The reader, although more vague, still can create images based on little to no description. I think...yeah.