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The Monday Poem > All This and More by Mary Karr (22nd February, 2016)

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message 1: by Dhanaraj (new)

Dhanaraj Rajan | 2962 comments ALL THIS AND MORE

The Devil's tour of hell did not include
a factory line where molten lead
spilled into mouths held wide,

no electric drill spiraling screws
into hands and feet, nor giant pliers
to lower you into simmering vats.

Instead, a circle of light
opened on your stuffed armchair,
whose chintz orchids did not boil and change,

and the Devil adjusted
your new spiked antennae
almost delicately, with claws curled

and lacquered black, before he spread
his leather wings to leap
into the acid-green sky.

So your head became a tv hull,
a gargoyle mirror. Your doppelganger
sloppy at the mouth

and swollen at the joints
enacted your days in sinuous
slow motion, your lines delivered

with a mocking sneer. Sometimes
the frame froze, reversed, began
again: the red eyes of a friend

you cursed, your girl child cowered
behind the drapes, parents alive again
and puzzled by this new form. That's why

you clawed your way back to this life.


message 2: by Greg (new)

Greg | 7684 comments Mod
To be honest, I'd never heard of Karr before, though I looked on Wikipedia, and she's received many rewards in addition to writing 3 books of poetry and a national bestseller memoir (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary_...). She also wrote a treatise on poetic style "Against Decoration."

It seems this is about a near death experience, and not the happy tunnel of white light kind! One of my offline friends actually claims to have had one of those. Very creepy! The poem is quite vivid and direct. I found it quite affecting!


message 3: by Leslie (new)

Leslie | 15985 comments I find this disturbing - sort of a evil Lazarus, "you clawed your way back to this life." Or maybe a horror story, a man turned into a TV...


message 4: by Diane S ☔ (new)

Diane S ☔ Very vivid images but I find it somewhat scary. Gives one something to think about for sure.


message 5: by Dhanaraj (new)

Dhanaraj Rajan | 2962 comments @ Greg: I came to know of Mary Karr when I was reading Franz Wright's poetry. When I searched for F. Wright in the google I came across the recent convert-poets. From then on, I wanted to read Karr. I have read some of her poems that are found in the Poetry Foundation site and I liked them. Her memoirs are also very famous. They also seem very interesting. Will have to read her soon. I follow her on Twitter. She is interesting.

About this poem: This being the near death experience sheds much light on the poem. In fact, I was not aware of it till you mentioned. I thought of this poem as the last moment examination of one's own life. It is always better to live a good life in order to avoid bad memories at the end of one's own life. But connecting this poem with the near death experience enlarges the reading. The last line gets a completely new meaning. Thanks.

@Leslie: 'sort of evil Lazarus' - in a sense we are all evil Lazarus. We all claw back to life avoiding all that was unpleasant. Being a near death experience (chiming in with Greg) this expression (evil Lazarus) sits very pretty and apt.

@ Diane: "Gives one something to think about for sure." Can not contradict you. Completely agree.


message 6: by Diane S ☔ (new)

Diane S ☔ Did seem to say we can all have the devil inside of is, or at least that is my take on it.


message 7: by Leslie (new)

Leslie | 15985 comments Diane - in an off-topic comment:
I find the juxtaposition of your blossoming cherry tree icon with the snowman in your name interesting!


message 8: by Diane S ☔ (new)

Diane S ☔ Need to replace my snowman. Forgot Leslie.


message 9: by Jenny (new)

Jenny (jeoblivion) | 4869 comments So I've read this for the third time now, cause I am equally fascinated and puzzled by this. And then I stumbled upon an interview in which she talks about how she recovered from alcohol and drug abuse, and how religion - even if in the beginning she merely acted out the formal motions of it (someone told her to pray for 30 days straight) helped her back to life. She says a sentence there that somehow made sense to me regarding this poem (and addiction), something along the lines of 'my head thought it could kill me, and go on living without me'.
Now I might be entirely wrong, but reading this poem again after this interview really altered my view on it, and made a lot of sense in the context of someone describing there own personal hell of addiction and the Doppelgänger it had turned them into.


message 10: by Greg (new)

Greg | 7684 comments Mod
Jenny wrote: "So I've read this for the third time now, cause I am equally fascinated and puzzled by this. And then I stumbled upon an interview in which she talks about how she recovered from alcohol and drug a..."

That's interesting Jenny - perhaps it's a metaphorical near death experience then. She's clawing her way back to life from her own personal hell. I like that reading.

When I first read it, I'd assumed: the narrator of the poem had gotten near death (or perhaps for a few moments actually died - on the operating table or whatever). Then during these moments of "death", she'd experienced a glimpse of the afterlife, in her case hell instead of the white tunnel of light happy experience some people claim to have. Then she struggled back to life, remembering those awful images that she'd seen when she was near death. Incidentally, a friend of mine actually claims to have had one of those negative near death experiences - I won't let her tell me about it too much though because it really freaks me out!!!

But I agree with you - the poem reads equally well treating this 'hell' as all metaphoric, an expression of an extremely destructive mental state that she clawed back from.


message 11: by Dhanaraj (new)

Dhanaraj Rajan | 2962 comments @Greg and Jenny: The understanding of the poem can always be enlarged from our view points. The perception brought in by Jenny is as interesting as the perception brought in by Greg.

Karr's specialty also rests on her courageous take on modern world (material world) in its own language. The use of the image of TV and the feature presentations in it to drive home a point is a clear example present in this poem.


message 12: by Greg (last edited Feb 24, 2016 09:50PM) (new)

Greg | 7684 comments Mod
Dhanaraj wrote: "Karr's specialty also rests on her courageous take on modern world (material world) in its own language. The use of the image of TV and the feature presentations in it to drive home a point is a clear example present in this poem. .."

I agree Dhanaraj! In her essay "Against Decoration," it sounds like she's agruing for a less artificial poetry more diectly from modern life as it is, less "fuzzy" as she calls it. I can certainly see that in the poem.


message 13: by Dhanaraj (new)

Dhanaraj Rajan | 2962 comments That is right Greg.

Here is a different poem by her that reveals all the more her style. Check this out if interested. The poem is titled as THE OBSCENITY PRAYER. The link: http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poetr...


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