Saturday, August 18, 2012

Let's All Write A Canto!

Or "Let's All Write Cantos."  This is one of the problem forms in this project.  It presents a difficulty in my intention to write one of each of the forms.

The problem is that a canto is similar to a chapter.  You will find it in longer, possibly epic works of poetry, as a way of breaking up the ideas into bite sized pieces.  The most obvious example would be Dante, which works rather neatly if you are describing rings of a realm.  Simply make a canto for each ring.  Ezra Pound also wrote cantos in his magnum opus The Cantos, one of those books in life that I think I will be on stab #3 of trying to read it next time I attempt to do so.  That is about all that our text has to tell us about Cantos and how to write them.

Here is an example of a canto.  It is the final canto from Dante's Inferno in which they observe the lowest level of Hell where resides Lucifer, Judas Iscariot, Brutus, Cassius, and my English teacher from my Freshman year in High School.  As I said, in Dante's case, the canto structure worked neatly in describing realms with levels.  But, as you can also see, they are chapters of a story and are not meant to be taken from the context. 

And so I was faced with the problem of what to do here.  I can't just skip a form, but I also don't have the time or artistic resources to crank out an entire epic poem split into cantos simply for the sake of this form (I have no idea what I'm going to do when I actually do reach the "epic" section of this book.  Stay tuned for that.  We can be surprised together).

So I decided to write a canto of a missing piece.  I floated a few ideas past Laurie.  One was to write a canto about how Sancho Panza's donkey was stolen.  Another was to write a canto from the life of Mozart, specifically why he never completed his Great Mass in C minor which he promised to God to write in return for Constanze's fever breaking.  He had ample time left in his life to complete it, but he never did (and he wasn't exactly a slouch when it came to his work).  I nearly wrote that one, but finally, when I came to write the thing, I decided to write a Canto from the life of Paul Mathers, an epic autobiographical poem which will, most likely, never be written outside of what you shall see here.  The story is a true one.  The verse is the net-less tennis of free verse.  

Et Incarnatus Est
by Paul Mathers

On each week's last labor's day
I arose hours before Phoebus
to wind produce from all four corners
deep into the craggy heart of yon neighboring mount
like a goblin.

Places like The Wooden Trout, The Grubstake Saloon, Toki's Soda Fountain,
a little red schoolhouse down a one lane road, 
keenly aware that my bobtail truck would have to back down if I ever met a car coming down as I went up.
I never did.
Although once I backed down in the middle of winter to avoid a snowdrift.

My soul bloated over a billion signs of wild.
Bears in the road, deer in the road,
golden day's first dip into a valley of pine,
driving drunk on love of creation.
Converted, I proselytized,
encouraging wife and parents to drive up on my day off with me,
capture the sights on film,
quaff deep the delights of the mountain towns,
bestride the terra like Titans,
each breath of thin air deposited towards a future of health.

Result: they carsick from the winding ride,
seeing it through the eyes of the city, small in town, inconvenient in nature,
the small diner gave miserable service,
our coats were not warm enough,
the whole covered by a glass darkly.

But rather than raw disappointment, a rare moment of clarity in the converse,
Awakening to the divinity infusing the places down the mountain,
in the darkest hour, in the shabbiest corner, in the cheapest excuse,

I resolved to keep the mountain in my heart.


Perhaps not best to share every thought God whispers in your ear.

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