[lit-ideas] Re: Happy Birthday to W. S. Merwin

  • From: cblists@xxxxxxxx
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Mon, 7 Oct 2013 09:22:13 +0200

On 1-Oct-13, at 11:57 PM, Mike Geary wrote:

I've read and re-read this poem hundreds of times, but still I cannot guess why Merwin calls it "Departure's Girlfriend" -- why girlfriend?? Any suggestions?

On Tue, Oct 1, 2013 at 4:32 PM, Mike Geary <gearyservice@xxxxxxxxx> wrote:

One of my favorite poets.  Love this one: Departure's Girlfriend

Thanks for this, Mike - it has become not only one of my favourite poems, but also iconic.

At first I thought, 'Ah yes, one of those clever poet johnies' [no points for guessing what author's works were included in the stack of books I brought back from a recent visit to that 'green and pleasant land'].

He's merely playing with word order - 'Departure's Girlfriend' for 'Girlfriend's Departure' - and the poem is no doubt about, or at any rate was triggered by, some 'affair of the heart'.

But why does that 'merely' creep in there? Am I not being more than a little facile?

If I'm willing to play with transposition to seek explanation, why stop at the title, and for that matter, word order?

And so the play begins ...

Substitute 'day' for 'night', 'countryside' for 'city', 'some one' for 'no one', female' for 'male' (the latter two transpositions are explicitly, in different ways, practised by the poet himself) ...

Is everything allowed? (No!)

But why do I hear the protagonist's 'wishing myself the good voyage' echoed by another voice telling someone to go to hell (or, at least, announcing almost matter of factly that the protagonist has already entered it).

     Chris Bruce,
getting carried away
     on the tide of
language on holiday
      - or is that
language's holy day?
- in Kiel, Germany
To change your Lit-Ideas settings (subscribe/unsub, vacation on/off,
digest on/off), visit www.andreas.com/faq-lit-ideas.html

Other related posts: