Friday, January 10, 2014

Analysis of "A Small Hot Town" by Collier Nogues

Original poem reprinted online here:  "A Small Hot Town" by Collier Nogues
Originally read: July 5, 2013
More information about the Poet: Collier Nogues


"Poem based on movement and speed."  This is what past me wrote on the side.  And, as you can tell on the page, past me wrote a lot of arrows pointing down.  It's not that each individual stanza is a separate entity, rather the poem is such in a rush some places and feelings merge together in a somewhat messy way to stay cohesive.

The opening stanza is the only couplet in the poem, "The river its balm. / I spend a lot of time" which introduces two important figures in the poem, in order, -- the place, and the speaker.

The poem continues to interplay the importance of play more than speaker since the second stanza, "waiting in the car, / nail file dust sifting / onto the gearshift" versus the action (or disappearance) of place, "Two corner stones gone / and a handle of gin / under the Walk sign."

From here, the poem expands outward and faster from the mention of "gin" where the next stanzas focus on links, "the gin drinker is / uncertain he's here. / He's in the war"  regardless where his mind is and his uncertainty, the gin drinker is at a "here" yet defined.

The definition of the place though is quick, "Wind blows a hat / past the court's law,"  note two things, the description of the item moving, and the place where it exposes, "a balloon / from its gravesite tie" balloon exposing a grave site, and hat showing court laws.

Meanwhile the next two stanzas use more foreshadow and shift of images to expose, "Salty, sure, and a thrill, / at home in the hot sun" is comparative to, "Reaching for eggs / in the dry house / of hens." Note the usage of taste, touch, and visual to tie in the images to tie them together and then just twist the tone with, "into a slaughtered hen / plucking her clean--/ close-mouthed"  The shifting and coalescing of image, and place goes back to the personal.  However, the past lines of loose connections of dynamic places comes to apply to the speaker.

"Then I grew / into my ugly, / said plenty"  Note that the specificity isn't here with the speaker, but of place.  It's how the speaker deficiencies interacts with place which feels like the same town:

    dropping quarters
    at the coin laundry
    the sound of water
    turning over water

The allusion to the Basho poem, "a frog jump in the old pond splash" comes to mind here.  One because specifically of place, but also the last line of the Basho poem literally translates to the sound of water.  Not stating that this poem is zen, but the text is using all the senses, taste, touch, smell, and sight -- and now predominately sound, "the sound of someone / else's things" which leads to the general.

The next stanzas focuses on the town again -- one wing of the hospital, driving around one country road.  This is what the speaker is stating of place -- but note how the place, again, relates back to the speaker:

     [...] June
     crosses crosswalks
     in the noon air,
 
     greasing gears
     so gently
     I can feel it

     in my ears, unrelenting,
     busy as an army
     in its foxholes.

I quoted three stanzas because the two sentences utilizes immerses the senses in order to create a sense of excitement that doesn't come.  The alliteration create the sonic quality similar to the gears greasing, the "June / crosses crosswalks" works with tactile and sight, as well as the feeling the greasing gears.

But the trick with the metaphor with the army is the line, "in its foxholes" -- it's not war, it's anticipation of something to change.
 

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