Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Baron Wormser Revisited

Earlier this year (June 6) I blogged here about a poem by Baron Wormser that Garrison Keillor read on his Writer's Almanac show. Well, Garrison has done it again. Only this time he's selected a poem I like.


Weakness—the pale succumbing to loneliness,
Refusing to admit anyone else, indulging
The blue perquisites of adolescence
Long past their sensible deliquescence.

He knew it but went on drinking and regretting,
Not calling his friends and regretting,
Making scenes over nothing and regretting.
It helped to make him despise himself,

Which was, he sensed, what he wanted. He was
Then, in his oblique way, at ease to wander
The city's brazen or quiet streets, conjuring
Random lives and how the slim arc
Of emotion was pulverized. Back home, he put
On some Monk, lay down, half-cried.

"Melancholy" by Baron Wormser, from Scattered Chapters: New and Selected Poems. © Sarabande Books, 2008. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)
Here we have a clear look at victim mentality and what it can do to a person. It's hard for me not to see in this character something of the Byronic hero character. Wikipedia lists the characteristics of the Byronic hero as
  • highly intelligent and perceptive
  • cunning and adaptive
  • often sophisticated and highly educated
  • self-critical and introspective
  • mysterious, magnetic and appealing
  • struggles with integrity
  • seductive and sexually attractive (sleeps with many women, claims them as his own, etc.)
  • dominant: in sexual relationships and interaction with people
  • conflicting emotions bipolar tendencies, or moodiness
  • a distaste for social institutions and social norms
  • being an exile, an outcast, or an outlaw
  • has "dark" attributes not normally associated with heroes
  • a lack of respect for rank and privilege
  • a troubled past
  • being cynical, demanding, and/or arrogant
  • often self-destructive
  • loner, often rejected from society

Perhaps we are beginning to expect something of poetry that we have not expected before. We are beginning to expect poetry to psychologically understand us and our position in this world of complexities. As we live our human lives, we look to relationships, education, painting, sculpture, music, literature etc. to explore the possibilities of what it means to be human.

I like "Melancholy" because there are people who don't respect themselves, and the poem shows what can result from that. The nameless character of "Melancholy" is something like Samuel Taylor Coleridge's Ancient Mariner which we all remember from our high school days.

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