Will Clinton's supporters come along for the ride?

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June 7 2008 2:46 AM

Riding Coach on a Unity Ticket

Will Clinton's supporters come along for the ride?

(Continued from Page 3)

7) That Indiana Jones movie? SartoriThroughAllegory  says: "The Jungle Book had more plausibility." (Something to do with better performances from the monkeys, we think.)

8) The next big issue: "Nobody cares or even notices the problem. This is what's wrong with America. How can we invent the Next Big Thing that will rescue our economy and assure our dominance for another generation, if we can't even solve …" What? What is it that ghjm considers so important? The answer is Stretch-O-Vision: He is unhappy about having to watch wide-screen HDTVs with inadequate signals in restaurants and sports bars, and blames John McCain. You read it first here. MR 8.30 p.m. GMT

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Tuesday, May  20,  2008

If you are finding it hard to make sense of John Hodgen's " Just A Tranquil Darker," which the poet reads aloud for us here, we might venture into Poems Fray to see what our fellow readers are saying.

First, I advise you to buckle your seat belt. The level of brutality we associate in the Fray only with exchanges in Ballot Box (or more recently, in Medical Examiner over a certain pharmaceutical-funded radio program) can readily emanate from the literati crowd when it feels that a "graceless note" has been sounded in its department.

I am quoting Artemisia, who speaks up in defense of the poem's subject, an elderly woman having her sunglasses adjusted at the optometrist: "I wish these marketplace writers would leave old ladies alone and realize that it is they and not their subjects who need a new lens for glasses or a corneal transplant from a real poet."

In this must-read post, MaryAnn skillfully unpacks Hodgen's various literary allusions for us. Her overall assessment: "John Hodgen goes way overboard in his use of poetic techniques."

Bottomfish professes to be exhausted by the poem's overly dense layers of meaning, but nonetheless finds the energy to elucidate its central theme:

Joseph Conrad said "My task, above all, is to make you see." Since the optometrist provides what you need to see correctly (or see the way you want, as with Hodgen's old woman), he might be ironically said to have a Conrad-like role. But obviously this is a joke. "Seeing" is a common synecdoche for "understanding", but seeing is by no means all of understanding and in fact is often not even part of it. (Old joke: "I see" said the blind man.)

Hodgens' poem is about seeing in this double sense. I have a feeling that the last six lines, which are the core, were written first. Their tone is different from the elaborate irony (and I would say archness) of the rest. The old woman wants to see everything in a certain way and goes to the optometrist to obtain the visual mode she wants,and he, like a poet in the double sense just discussed, provides it. (Actually the poet ought to provide more than just confirmation of what people want to see anyway.)

Foobs even rewrites the poem in more simplistic language, presumably to bring its godly themes down to the level of mortals. Indeed, if anything encapsulates the stinging spirit of Hodgen's critics, we need not look any further than Foobs' final stanza—too harsh to be requoted here—in which "berated" is rhymed with "sated."