Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Analysis of "Smartmouth and the Mysteries" by James Malone Smith

Poem found here:  "Smartmouth and the Mysteries" by James Malone Smith


This poem has a mixture of couplets and singular lines.  But what intrigues me with this poem is how the religious references play into the poem and the perspective, first person, applies such religious icons to the speaker.

"Year upon year I know less and less / about time.  It gits like nobody's business,"  Note how the first line depends on the enjambment.  How the line expresses an overall lack of knowledge to a specific source, time.   But the following made me think of what "gits" mean.   Maybe it's more of a colloquial term depending on the speaker, or perhaps, just forced perspective from the overall theoretical intro line.  The focus, in the end, is back to the speaker.

"though I suspicion it is not.  Verily, / I am content with dust snug in corners. / I wander around scroungy as John the Baptist"  First, the suspicion line feels out of place grammatically, but it goes along with how the sentence is structured with "git."  Something that doesn't fit right then goes with the images of the speaker content with dust and the "scroungy as John the Baptist" line.

Note how the John the Baptist line seems to be more visual, but the speaker cannot run away from the allusion of John the Baptist (well the speaker isn't even trying to).  What I mean is that the religious implications of the icon colors how the next lines will be seen.  John the Baptist, someone who foretold the messiah.

"And no longer implored to worship anything, / free of idol chitcat, I snoop about the premises."  Here's the interesting thing.  The colloquial seems to fit because it was foreshadowed by the language in the beginning of the poem, but this seems like a post religious self.  Instead of proclaiming, the speaker is exploring, "At Easter Vigil the priest has angels at the tomb / and a mirth quake."  Okay, mirth quake is a pun that has religious implications.  But the thing to note is how the speaker switches to the priest but quickly "mocks" the presence and continues to do so.

"Shaken, he addressed / the State of the Jungian, and God's rabbity / elbow in my ribs made me jump and yelp."  The way the speaker comes back to the poem is how the priest (shaken) has a silent address (nothing is being said but action) which then goes to God's rabbity which then goes back to the speaker -- moves the speaker to jump and yelp.  It's the speaker that actually moves and observes.  The final three lines takes a complete shift of focus.

"So when I read in a caption, 'Maryland woman / now Buddhist lama,' I hear my often-- / misquoted mother driving her enormous car."

This poem feels like that the speaker is built up to this.  The foreteller of nothing and the feeler of God's on rabbity is reading a caption which is outside knowledge.  And the caption is of another religious icon, although a bit parodied, "Buddhist lama" but the speaker kind of undercuts the icon with it being "misquoted" like the mother driving her enormous car.

I don't know how to interpret the mother driving her enormous car as something on the outside different than the inside -- physically speaking.  Maybe the mom is enormous though to match her car, but it seems like the poem plays with opposites.

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