Original poem reprinted online here: "Said to Have Been Heard to Say Hush" by Nathaniel Mackey
Originally read: October 2, 2013
More information about the Poet: Nathaniel Mackey
The very first thing I write about this poem is "go back to poets.org" to understand "mu"
“The ‘Mu’ series of which this poem is a part rings changes on its title’s various meanings and associations: muthos (mouth, myth), music, muse, the emotional interjection mu, the lost continent of Mu said to have existed in the Pacific, etc. Lately, as in this poem, a strong accent falls on its Japanese meanings, ‘not,' ‘non-,' ‘nothing,' ‘no,' and its place in the Zen tradition.” —Nathaniel Mackey
And, honestly, if I didn't read that, I probably wouldn't "understand" the poem as one of play and slipstream connections.
So this poem is quite hard to analyze on a stanza by stanza basis because the poem plays with lyric and narrative, image and language, nothing and more nothing -- not to compare or add on -- as an analysis of the term itself. I'm afraid I don't know where to start.
Well, there's always the beginning, and the first thing I noticed is the first line how "its" used, "Remembered moment lamenting / its exit, the anaphylectic aria / fell away" and I feel the usage of the word buffers the core of the line, and overexemplifies the before and after effects: lament -- anaphylectic aria (which is the precursor of the word play in the poem
The next part I noticed is still in the first stanza, "What beauty promised or / we projected faded, we moved / on," Past me wrote, "reasons to leave -- aesthetics or aesthetically. And I think I'm meaning the search for something more.
The idea of abandonment of something past for something ideal continues with the structure of the poem -- there's the play in alliteration, "Wind wrinkled" a play on variation, "cried cry." And then the poem relates to jazz, "men- / acing shook it, Joe Henderson's tenor. / Not's woken-up-to-now we backed away / from, Little Johnnie C, 'Hobo Joe'" and note the names mentioned here is more of a placement mark of direction where to go to for "beauty.
I mark a stanza and point to the word "lytic" as in referring to the disease. And note that the poem continues to play like this at this point the connection of language and sound. This the meaning without configuring meaning, "between said and saw."
But from this moment I noted how health oriented the speaker gets and how there's a sense of movement -- based on health issues or a sense of disorientation, "Not was another name for /death I was afraid and afraid my feet / would fall, Idiot Footless."
Then there's the realization of what song, what beauty is lead to:
us the ghost octet kept at it, thread on
the box and on the backs of our necks,
hair stood on the backs of our necks.
A sense of death but not death. There's the interplay of death, of a swan song here, "The sense / we were being shadowed had hold of us." That at this moment the "tiptoe ghost we could see now, shushed / as we were" The play becomes somewhat serious now -- gone is the music of the lines, language, and scene and now replaced with
What does the poem relate to. The stanzas after the slogan -- or this could be looked at as a commercial envoy or a pop summerization:
even it was worried what I was... So it
was green loomed outside my window,
draw light in Low Forest I was wise to,
saw thru, aroused by light's reluctance
not be caught out, now way could I be wise
Past me wrote "not wise (learning from experience) but experienced (living within the scene)." Yeah, the speaker is wise enough to not get caught, but the poem is not about the wise versus experience past me. Look at hose the speaker separates wise (experience) and knew (instinct). Yeah, it's a summary in the sense that this closes out the scenes, and most of the experience, but the instinct lingers just as the adjusted words at the end of stanzas, or the connections made through language as though to hang on, barely.