Thursday, June 19, 2008

STL #71: Paul Carroll's "Father"

Paul Carrol is the first poet in the NAP collection about whom I had no previous knowledge. I had never read anything else by him and am quite sure I'd never even heard of him. He must have had some direct connection to Black Mountain or the friendship of one of its members, because "Father" might as well be a Beat poem as a Projectivist one. It's an enumerative, troubled-elegiac, image-strewn memory poem about a father's funeral. I find some sociological interest in it as a treatise on immigrant power in the U.S.. Carroll's biographical note mentions the financial success of his Irish immigrant father, and this poem alludes to how he "transform[ed]/that old cow pasture Hyde Park/into [his] own oyster" and how he earned "his millions by himself" and coming to the position where he could "quarrel with congressmen from Washington about the New Deal bank acts./Or call Mayor Kelly crooked to his face." There's nothing particularly bad about this poem, though the language is a little stale: "the raw October rain/ rasped against our limousine/guiding the creeping cars back into Chicago." In all honesty, that sounds like something I might have written in my early 20s: romantic strum and drang, heavily worked consonance and subtler assonance, neither particularly meaningful. There is one image that does pop out as intriguing in context. After getting a haircut in preparation for the funeral, the penniless Carroll thinks of "that old snapshot of Picasso/& his woman Dora Maar" which belonged to the elder Carroll (implying he knew Picasso?) It is an image of age and the remembered vigor that preceded it: "Picasso bald & 60. But both/in exaltation, emerging/with incredible sexual dignity/ from the waters of the Golfe Juan." It's a very lively image partitioned by space and time from the dour occasion of the poem. Note that the sound in this image is much more subtly wrought: the short [a] of 'bald,' "exaltation," and "waters" thread through, an [r] rolls gently through "emerging," incredible," and "waters." The sound is more secure and dignified than the description of the emotionally frenzied funeral scenes.

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