Sunday, January 23, 2011

Showing, Telling, Meaning

Day 349 of the "What are you reading, and why?" project, and I have been reading poetry, revisiting old musicals, and redecorating the tree for Valentine's Day and volleyball. I wish I could hang Donna Vorreyer's beautiful flower on my Valentine tree.

And how 'bout that belly button?

I read Womb/Seed/Fruit too quickly, and too spottily, like the flower, when it first arrived, because I had recently encountered Donna's poems-in-process in the blogosphere and wanted to know her story. So now I've read it again, more slowly.

If you are a poet yourself, she is providing poetry prompts in her new blog, Put Words Together. Make Meaning. 

And that's something that happens consistently in this chapbook! She puts words together to make meaning, not just for show! That is, she is able to balance telling with showing, and the book has a narrative arc predicted by its title and organization into 3 sections: Womb, Seed, Fruit.

We hear the story of a womb that will not function as hoped, in poems with such titles as "Diagnosis," "Empty Handed," Misconception," and "Barren Avenue." Even the titles tell you what you need to know, and the poems give you the images and feeling and hard thoughts to go with this difficult tale.

And then the beginnings of change and possibility in the Seed section, which ends in this insight, gleaned from travel to the ocean, the fondling of a shell:

...Perhaps this is
all it takes to understand the nature of things,

how they are reborn in different light,
how something stirs in the deep fissures
of the heart, seeps through, overflows.

And then there is Fruit!  Poems of the son, of the mother, of empathy with other mothers. Womb, seed, fruit, and that marvelous flower on the cover.

The tropical flower might remind you of South Pacific, but last night I watched The Music Man, and enjoyed its special magic. The "think system" allows the blue-sky salesman's flim-flam plan...ah, with the help of real love, to bear fruit!  And fancy red uniforms!

Meredith Willson, who wrote the book--which I just happen to have, in a Fireside Theatre Book Club edition, with pictures of Robert Preston and Barbara Cook as Professor Harold Hill and Marian the Librarian--does a brilliant job of showing and telling in that opening song with salesmen on the train. Their voices speed up as the train gets going, building in urgency and speed as they tell how this fake professor is ruining the reputation of other traveling salesmen, and then slow down again, and hiss like steam, as the train comes to a halt. And off jumps Harold Hill!

And, speaking of travel, check out Donna Vorreyer's poem "Navigation" in the new issue of The Literary Bohemian, an online journal dedicated to travel!


Kathleen said...

This, of course, is a picture from the film. Robert Preston is still Harold Hill, but Shirley Jones is Marian Paroo.

Anonymous said...

i'm always looking for new bits to help me
with my poems ;-)

Collagemama said...

When the man dances, certainly boys, what else? The piper pays him.
Yes sir, yes sir, yes sir.


Maureen said...

Thank you for the links, which I visited. I'm going to share them.

That cover photo is stunning. I'll look forward to reading the poems.

seana graham said...

For some reason, singing 76 Trombones in my grandmother's kitchen is one of my earliest memories. It was years before I saw the movie, though.

My college roommate could recite all of We've got trouble in River City, and did. More than once.

Loved your description of the opening of the musical. I've been reading Stephen Sondheim's Finishing the Hat on the process of writing lyrics for musicals, and the craft involved in all of it is quite extraordinary.

I'll pass on the poem starter link to someone I think will be interested...Thanks.

Anonymous said...

I posted earlier, but looks like it didn't "take." Thanks so much for your kind words - I can't take any credit for the flower or the belly button - those are the artwork of Tim Venchus and a lovely young model. And I love being in a post with Harold Hill -one of the first musicals I loved was Music Man, and I spent hours trying to memorize "Trouble" as a kid.

You are always so supportive! XOXO

Sandy Longhorn said...

Love The Music Man...a real Iowa treasure.

Thanks for the tip on Womb, Seed, Fruit. I'm adding it to the list.

Kathleen said...

I hope to read Finishing the Hat, too!