Some Readers Asked Great Writers For An Explication

[To the reader:  one day after posting this, I have edited it to remove the remarks in it that are too personally subjective, and to retain those that are only objective.  Had the comment, quoted below, been made through postpoems' Private Message apparatus, I would not have replied openly.  But since the commentor saw fit to rebuke me in another poet's comment section, I believe this gives me grounds on which to construct a reply.  Because I want to respect the other poet's comment section, and its limited space, I post the reply among my own poems.  As regards the commentor who rebuked me, I will admit that I consider his comments to lack the dignity of even the least familiarity with the precedents of the Canon of Western Poetry.  To me this disqualifies his comment from even a pretence to credentialed, or earned, authority.]  


I was recently rebuked, by a third party uninvited to the conversation, for asking a poet, whose poem I had just read and really admired, to explicate that poem.  The comment, on Dalton'a poem "The Skeleton," said (and I quote accurately):  Why would anyone ask a poet to explain his poem.  Borderline rude.  I do want to repeat and confirm that the comment was NOT written Dalton, who has replied to me with the courtesies that distinguishes a real artist.


I am not sure what "borderline" rude is, as Rude is a nation without borders, and I am sure that the comment poster knows.  But, since I am only interested in seeking to show that my initial inquiry, to the Poet Dalton, proceeds from good and established precedent, I will not comment on the comment poster's motivation, write volumes), and only attempt to demonstrate why it is without merit, on its face or in its implied argument.


I shall cite, as my precedent, two statements from the most famous books of the first two writers I ever studied:  Mary Shelley, and John Milton.


I offer this excerpt from Mary Shelley's Introduction to the 1831 edition of her novel, Frankenstein:


". . . I shall thus give a general answer to the question, so frequently asked me . . ." [Emphasis mine.] 


I think this implies that Mary Shelley must have been asked, more than once by more than one, to explain some part of Frankenstein, and I notice that, in no place in the introduction, does she declare that the inquirers are "borderline rude."  Not only does she (cheerfully, one assumes. as that an aspect of her personality that her readers frequently witnessed) answer the inquiry, she allowed the inquiry and its answer to be her motive for writing an introduction to the second edition, in 1831, of her great novel.


Next, I offer this statement taken from a printed preface from Simmons 'the printer" (of John Milton's epic poem, Paradise Lost) "to the reader," whom the printer further addresses as "courteous reader" (and not, please note, as "borderline rude reader"), and then goes on to state:


". . . there was not argument at first intended to the book, but for the satisfaction of many who have desired it, I have procured it . . ." [Emphasis mine] 


The printer's statement most clearly suggests that some plural group he describes as "many" has desired an explanation, which the poet then composed and added at the beginning of each of the twelve books of the epic.


Just to be fully certain of my ground, I would ask the comment poster who rebuked me if he can provide some fact or evidence to show that either Mary Shelley, or Simmons, the printer of Milton's poem, had fictively created, or deliberately exaggerated, the existence or the number of the inquiries that were thus answered.  In the absence of such evidence, I will assume that Mary Shelley and Printer Simmons were being truthful, candid, honest, and forthright in their assertions, and that inquiries for explication of these works were made in or prior to 1674 and 1831.


On the credentials and authority of Mary Shelley and John Milton, which tower over the comment poster's the way the Pyramids tower over an anthill, I would humbly suggest that requesting an explication of an admired poem from the Poet who wrote it is both precedented and courteous; and not, in any way, unheard of, transgressive, or . . . borderline rude.


Respecfully, humbly, and cheerfully submitted---




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Pungus's picture


This is all too unexpected, especially considering the small verse the subject of such arguments. I did smirk and giggle with your jottings honest. And further honestly i did consider it a privelge to reveal potential depth of meaning inasmuch the poem at hand is concerning. So i favor a the fraction even of your inquiry, for i did not suspect it to be condemning or borderline rude in the least. Yet Stephen also quoted that everyone has an opinion; therefore i do not disrespect his perspective as to the nature of your the inquiry. "To each his own" i firmly believe. Thank you for your time, that i am entertained and given intellectual yoke.

Januarian's picture

I also owe you thanks that

I also owe you thanks that your comment led to a my reply that led to a poem I just posted, entitled "Elegy For A Frontiersman . . ." (and I even included his "shootin iron," and his dislike of "booklearnin'").


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Januarian's picture

Thank you for visiting this

Thank you for visiting this small essay in prose.  This whole thing is a tempest in a teapot, and had Stephen sent his rebuke, however unfounded, by private message, I would never have posted this.  But since he saw fit to comment openly on my request, and to polish the comment with his inimitable style ("borderline rude"), I thought an open response would be appropriate.

  I agree that everyone is entitled to an opinion, and a good many people entitle themselves to be uninformed about those issues on which they have an opinion.  (This country's inbred obsession with the hearty frontiersman, who knows only his "shootin iron" and a couple of verses from the King James Bible, and disparages any other kind of "book-learnin,'" has lost all credibility.)  A little prep is always good prior to posting opinions.  Shucks, even the boneheads that stabbed Caesar on the Senate Steps at least bothered to inquire, ahead, when he would be arriving.

   Thanks again for visiting.  I consider it a compliment from an accomplished Poet.


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