Steven Fama presents -- as he usually does -- a fabulous celebration of Philip Lamantia's birthday. The essay itself becomes a useful (educational) way to reveal the scope of a poem, how one might read “difficult” poems and how one sees the poet’s distillation of a humongous landscape into the minimalist art of a poem. Lovingly brilliant. Here's an excerpt as regards Philip's poem sparked by the Blue Angels that fly over San Francisco:
three of them have terrorized my apollo finger
of human existence
for the umpteenth time, sans life
I dig dig dig this opening salvo, starting with the phrase “apollo finger.” It’s a term from palmistry that refers to the third or ring finger, said to indicate creativity, artistic flair and love of beauty. By this metaphor, Lamantia neatly shows that it’s no less than the poetic force itself that the jets attack. And the verb “terrorized” is exactly right, or so it seems to me as I recall the sudden core-rattling Shock-Shock (yes, I feel a double-startle) of the Blue Angels blasting through low in the sky, shaking windows, spines, and minds. Lamantia’s disgust at the jets couldn’t be clearer – “most hideous / of human existence” – nor could his core objection to it all – “sans life” – and exasperation at how long it goes on – “for the umpteenth time” (a neat use there of the informal adjective signifying “ ”).
These first four lines show and tell a lot. But Lamantia obviously wanted something even sharper and clearer, and why not? As William Blake wrote, “You never know what is enough unless you know what is more than enough.” And so to emphasize, explicate, and expand his perspectives, Lamantia places the following prose-y section, sub-titled “commentary,” after the poem’s opening stanza....
Steven's amazing essay continues on to introduce us to the poet Ausias March. Never heard of him? Moi too. And this essay is a welcome introduction:
Do go HERE for the whole wonderful treatise by Steven Fama -- a fitting celebration to Philip Lamantia's birthday!