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In Concord

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In Concord
  56/Southwest Review  2004  Morton Marr Poetry Prize First Prize: arthur brown “The Tomb of Hunting and Fishing”It’s a truism, of sort, that art replaces life. We contemplate,not the lives Shakespeare observed to make Ophelia or Cordelia, butthe figures they form upon the page. Art may finally owe more tocraft than nature, but “The Tomb of Hunting and Fishing” wins alittle back for life observed. The figures long dead to us are revived asthe poet recalls, in the brilliant last line, that nature too played itspart. Classical themes can give a mediocre poem airs (like a dark-haired man who grays his temples) or weigh down with significancea better one.I felt, for that reason, at first resistant to a poem thatotherwise offered so much pleasure in its ransom of the sonnet fromcommon ekphrastic verse. The tone of the slightly slangy “in theshort run” combines withering ruefulness with the sly ironic jest. Second Prize: thomas pfau “In Concord:“In Concord” manages to walk around its theme of walkingaround, this circumambulation properly adapted to a form thatsuffers a drunk man’s stagger from the lamppost of one stanza to thatof the next. The sestina cannot help but return to itself, to round  Simic/57   Morton Marr Poetry Prize/57 upon itself in peregrinatory style; but this poem easily and naturallyincorporates the end words into a meditation upon failed transcen-dence, a walk on the home grounds of Concord in the footsteps ofthat Grand Old Transcendentalist R. W. Emerson. There is some-thing of Elizabeth Bishop in the poem’s slightly cool oddness, as wellas in the faux-naif wonderment to which it pretends. Surely the reader,catching the pretense, is disarmed by the wit and the weariness ofwit, in the steps of the famous dead. Honorable Mention: lorna knowles blake “Rainy Day: Paris” michael cantor “For Harry, Who Had Three Passports” catherine staples “Intimations”In a different mood, a different climate, I might have chosenany of these fine poems instead. Each had its charms, even its insis-tent charms; but the sirens’ call of the other poems was too great toresist, in the end.William Logan, Judge Southwest Review  2005  Morton Marr Poetry PrizeDecember, 2005  arthur brown The Tomb of Hunting and Fishing In the Tomb of Hunting and Fishing, Tarquinia,a hunter stands mid-motion on a rock,the slingshot stretched these two millennia,the nearest bird about to take the shock;while in the boat two boys, their arms outspread,signal to the oarsman, worn away,that fish—this big—are jumping dead ahead,although the angler, bowed, could wait all day.The birds fly off in two and three directions,arcing upward over the painting’s border,as from below the dolphins’ resurrectionsmirror their curving dives and make an orderless of nature’s than the painter’s art—though in the short run nature played its part.  thomas pfau In Concord We too had a wish to sense something beyondourselves, to feel our bodies knew a transparentclarity and delight less fleeting than clouds:so we set out for the famed Concord Common,hoping that within its charmed green circlethere might yet dwell a few transcendental muses.But were there any lingering immortal musesleft to ask? Had they all voyaged silently beyondinto the landscape of the past, leaving a circleof ruined altars in Europe, their forms a transparentabsence even to initiates? We thought it a commonenough question. Best ask the New England clouds.Answers weren’t forthcoming from the clouds.Perhaps they were as blank as the roll call of muses.We strolled across the matted grass of the Commonthinking of Emerson, whose thought moved beyondours, or so we believed. We were making a transparentgesture in imitation of him, being out to circlehis old grounds, as he did when he escaped his circleof friends. At times, too much conversation cloudsthe mind. In solitude he became “a transparenteyeball,” was “nothing” himself, as he blithely musedon nothing in particular, head uplifted into the beyondof infinite space, all while “crossing a bare common.”How could we hope to recapture such an uncommonmoment? Our minds whirled in a clumsy circle.Was it a mistake to appropriate particulars into a beyond,stealing away Concord’s actual pines, pigeons, and clouds?Had we made Emerson into one of “the courtly muses”to whom we needn’t listen? Better consult a parent.  60/Southwest Review  Yet Emerson had long been truly transparent.His vision is of everyday endeavors: that the commonis the extraordinary, that the universe is a muse.We could wander around Concord, drawing a tiny circlearound ourselves, never seeing the figures in the clouds,their lack of need for us, and that we are already beyondourselves as the mind randomly muses. The circlewe walk at dusk invents us. Longing for clarity cloudstransparent delight. The common day is our beyond.
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