Saturday, February 25, 2012

Russell Edson: One Of My Poetic Influences

     Even if you are an avid reader of poetry you probably haven't heard of one of my absolute favorite poets, Russell Edson. Not because he isn't highly respected or anthologized, but because he's a self-described hermit who's poetry is at times bizarre, surreal, and solipsistic to the point of bewilderment. But in that bewilderment there is a beauty and strangeness no one else I know of has ever attained in this way. This is a world where not too much is unique anymore, so those things that can be classified as truly one of a kind are treasured by me. Better writers and literary critics have also been dumbfounded in their attempts to describe his work or classify it, but there's no real need to do that. Instead I've just chosen three Russell Edson poems that will demonstrate what he does with words far better than I ever could. 

A Stone Is Nobody's

A man ambushed a stone. Caught it. Made it a prisoner. 
Put it in a dark room and stood guard over it for the 
rest of his life.

His mother asked why.

He said, because it's held captive, because it is 

Look, the stone is asleep, she said, it does not know 
whether it's in a garden or not. Eternity and the stone 
are mother and daughter; it is you who are getting old. 
The stone is only sleeping.

But I caught it, mother, it is mine by conquest, he said.

A stone is nobody's, not even its own. It is you who are 
conquered; you are minding the prisoner, which is yourself, 
because you are afraid to go out, she said.

Yes yes, I am afraid, because you have never loved me, 
he said.

Which is true, because you have always been to me as 
the stone is to you, she said. 

The Large Thing

A large thing comes in.
      Go out, Large Thing, says someone.
      The Large Thing goes out, and comes in again.
      Go out, Large Thing, and stay out, says someone.
      The Large Thing goes out, and stays out.
      Then that same someone who has been ordering the Large Thing out begins to be lonely, and says, come in, Large Thing.
      But when the Large Thing is in, that same someone decides it would be better if the Large Thing would go out.
      Go out, Large Thing, says this same someone.
      The Large Thing goes out.
      Oh, why did I say that? says the someone, who begins to be lonely again.
      But meanwhile the Large Thing has come back in anyway.
      Good, I was just about to call you back, says the same someone to the Large Thing.

   "The Large Thing" is one of my favorite poems ever written, and I've read many of them. I love this poem because it could be one of the deepest poems ever written, or he might have just written it at the kitchen table watching a shaggy dog come in and out. I don't know. And neither do you and you never will. 

The Reason Why The Closet Man Is Never Sad

This is the house of the closet-man. There are no rooms,
just hallways and closets.
Things happen in rooms. He does not like things to
happen . . . Closets, you take things out of closets,
you put things into closets, and nothing happens . . .

Why do you have such a strange house?

I am the closet-man, I am either going or coming, and I
am never sad.

But why do you have such a strange house?

I am never sad . . . 

     That's it. Russell Edson. One of the most important poets of the last century. These three poems are all included in his book of selected poems The Tunnel 

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