Monday, April 16, 2007

ELIZABETH BISHOP "MAN MOTH" POETRY AS SOCIAL COMMENTARY & SURREALISM

After receiving a few comments questioning whether in my Blog I should mix the visual arts & poetry & music & film with politics or social commentary. The artists whether painter, sculptor, film maker, musician or poet or essayists or fiction writer uses a particular medium to express their reactions to the sensory world & to their own internal world.

I am republishing this poem in part to show how poetry can delve into the realism of ideas , our unconscious minds , our mutual fears, & desires & the world of fantasy & the surreal in a form of psychological realism & social commentary . This can be found in other poems by Bishop such as most notably "In The Waiting Room ".(see links below)

Other art forms or mediums can also convey similar ideas to us as I mentioned again recently in the works of surrealists such as Rene` Magritte or Pablo Picasso most memorably in " GUERNICA" or the poetry of Pablo Neruda or Garcia Lorca, or William Carlos Williams or the works of Bertolt Brecht & Kurt Weil or Jacques Brel & Victor Jara or Bob Dylan or Hemingway, or Orwell or Ginsberg, Kurt Vonnegut or Samuel Beckett & Kerouac & William Burroughs or Voltaire & Cervantes & Dante.
Speaking of critics who could have been more critical in their views of the elite ,royalty & the church than Dante.

Art in this sense has various motivations , purposes or intentions depending on the artist or the school of art they have attached themselves to for the moment.

Art is not always about that which is pleasant or beautiful but rather covers all aspects of the human condition both internal & external . It is a response to what we personally feel or think , what we dream or fantasize & is a reaction to what the world bombards our senses with either pleasant or unpleasant.

The more conservative view of art which was prominent before the 19th century was that art was at the service of the " Status Quo " that is: at the service of the rich & powerful & the Church in Europe or at the service of those who happen to be in power in a particular country or region ;later it was the growing Middle Class that wanted to have artists serve their " bourgeois values". What some want from art is that it merely give support to their own opinion & status & that as Pangloss says in Candide " that this is the best of all possible worlds " ( from the philosopher
Gottfried Leibniz).

Here is a poem by the American poet Elizabeth Bishop (1911-1979) about the sense of alienation, fear, fantasy & desire experienced by the individual in modern society.

The Man-moth

Here, above,
cracks in the buildings are filled with battered moonlight.
The whole shadow of Man is only as big as his hat.
It lies at his feet like a circle for a doll to stand on,
and he makes an inverted pin, the point magnetized to the moon.
He does not see the moon; he observes only her vast properties,
feeling the queer light on his hands, neither warm nor cold,
of a temperature impossible to records in thermometers.

But when the Man-Moth
pays his rare, although occasional, visits to the surface,
the moon looks rather different to him. He emerges
from an opening under the edge of one of the sidewalks
and nervously begins to scale the faces of the buildings.
He thinks the moon is a small hole at the top of the sky,
proving the sky quite useless for protection.
He trembles, but must investigate as high as he can climb.

Up the fa├žades,
his shadow dragging like a photographer's cloth behind him
he climbs fearfully, thinking that this time he will manage
to push his small head through that round clean opening
and be forced through, as from a tube, in black scrolls on the light.
(Man, standing below him, has no such illusions.)
But what the Man-Moth fears most he must do, although
he fails, of course, and falls back scared but quite unhurt.

Then he returns
to the pale subways of cement he calls his home. He flits,
he flutters, and cannot get aboard the silent trains
fast enough to suit him. The doors close swiftly.
The Man-Moth always seats himself facing the wrong way
and the train starts at once at its full, terrible speed,
without a shift in gears or a gradation of any sort.
He cannot tell the rate at which he travels backwards.

Each night he must
be carried through artificial tunnels and dream recurrent dreams.
Just as the ties recur beneath his train, these underlie
his rushing brain. He does not dare look out the window,
for the third rail, the unbroken draught of poison,
runs there beside him. He regards it as a disease
he has inherited the susceptibility to. He has to keep
his hands in his pockets, as others must wear mufflers.

If you catch him,
hold up a flashlight to his eye. It's all dark pupil,
an entire night itself, whose haired horizon tightens
as he stares back, and closes up the eye. Then from the lids
one tear, his only possession, like the bee's sting, slips.
Slyly he palms it, and if you're not paying attention
he'll swallow it. However, if you watch, he'll hand it over,
cool as from underground springs and pure enough to drink.


Also See website PoemHunter.com for more of her poems & mine.(link at side-bar)
For my favourite videos at YOUTUBE go to
gothgod .
love you too,
GORD.

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