A Paul Muldoon poem in Memory of LC

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DBCohen
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Location: Kyoto, Japan

A Paul Muldoon poem in Memory of LC

Postby DBCohen » Mon Jan 23, 2017 4:25 pm

Irish poet Paul Muldoon published the following poem in the January 19, 2017 issue of The New York Review of Books:
Superior Aloeswood

Paul Muldoon

In memory of Leonard Cohen

I light a stick of Superior Aloeswood
from the box you gave me on South Tremaine
when last I visited. You’d conducted us through your new CD,
Professor Bob and myself tapping out a rhythm
on our cans of soda
while Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea
stayed back in the mix. Even as the aloeswood’s musk-sweet
drifts through my kitchen I determine

how determinedly you refused to blend
a sorrow-base with a top note of solace.
Hard to make light of Bashar al-Assad turning his bombardiers
on his own citizenry (grâce à Putin),
while our vain, vindictive Pompadour
is pushing every button
on the console. During their break at the processing plant
the Mexicans are celebrating All Souls

with chilaquiles, there being no circumstance so bland
a little extra salsa
won’t kick it up. That August afternoon in Tinsel Town
we touched on how Europe’s
right-wing nationalism is so in tune
with our own. The one note produced by the jaw harps
was more than enough for the Jews of Poland,
most of them conveyed from Silesia

to Auschwitz-Birkenau only after ponying up
for their own tickets.
Though we’d hoped to meet at the Blue Plate Oysterette
you’d been confined to barracks
on account of the side effects, I surmised, of steroids.
Not periwinkles, Nicodemus. Periwigs!
Though they went for $5 a pop
I used to favor a half-dozen Belons from the Damariscotta

over a dozen Wellfleets. Hard not to think of Pip,
the cabin boy of the Pequod,
forced to eat all that traif.
Hard not to think of him learning to flense
blubber from a whale like a turf-cutter cutting turf
on his smallholding. There was a little flourish on the violins
when you so graciously offered myself and Professor Bob
some Cheddar or aged Gouda

and I happened to ask if you were a fan of Époisses—
the “King of Cheeses,”
according to Brillat-Savarin. I must have been in manic
mode when I’d have Murray’s FedEx you a round
only hours after getting back to New York. A Cistercian monk
has been known to obsessively rinse the rind
in the pomace brandy that gives it such extra pizazz.
Why the electorate chooses

the likes of Ronald Bonzo and George W. Bozo
as Commander-in-Chief has already defied exegesis.
Hard not to think of Starbuck opening the waterproof match keg
and contriving to light a lamp of hope
while Tashtego, Daggoo, and Queequeg
despair of the vengeful Ahab.
When Nicodemus busies
himself treating the body of Jesus

“with a mixture of myrrh and aloes,
about an hundred pound weight,”
this “aloes” is our self-same aloeswood, beaten to a pulp
and thereafter prized
as an embalming agent from Beirut through Bologna to Bilbao.
It seems particularly appropriate that a priest
should also distill brandy from the lees
of wine. Not one iota

of aloeswood shall derive from the Aquilara tree
till it’s threatened by a mold.
Only when a gold-orange
bloom of bacteria is allowed to seep
through a rind-washed cheese is its raunchy
essence revealed. Only when a sponge on a stalk of hyssop’s
proffered him does Christ acknowledge the glitter
of the doubloon nailed to the mast’s not only an amulet

against the whale but an emblem of Burgundian caseiculture.
“Trouble is,” you e-mailed
in October of your new favorite, Époisses,
“it’s the only thing I want to eat.”
Only when it’s threatened does the Aquilara push
back with the fragrant gum that translates to agar or oud.
Egoless, aquiline, égalitaire,
you yourself had tried no less to emulate

the teachings of the abbot of Mount Baldy
than his famous locum,
Bernard of Clairvaux. I suspect Bernard had a hand
in the development of the Meursault
Jefferson would come to love. Hard to reconcile the whale hunt
with the thirteen attributes of Divine Mercy
now that Ahab pilots the pilot
away from our ninth and final gam

and, having tempered his barb in the blood
of Queequeg, Tashtego, and Daggoo, offers his final l’chaim
while urging us to stand firm. A chasuble
is a version of a “little house.” A kind of poncho.
It was no time after Jezebel
had married Ahab that she took it upon herself to banish
the prophets of Israel and trade them for the polity
of Baal. In the matter of leukemia,

of course, it comes down to the bone marrow
producing freak blood cells. Let’s not forget how the brazen
serpent becomes a false idol
to which the Israelites cry Hallelujah
and make their own offerings of incense. One jot or one tittle
shall in no way pass from the law
till Abraham sacrifices Ishmael on Mount Moriah.
The incense-smoke sends up its orison

over Mounts Moriah and Meru.
That August afternoon our tour d’horizon
included not only the Tower of Wrong
being built by Trump
from the promises on which he’ll shortly renege
but the life-size diorama
of a grove of trees. Those same trees producing myrrh
only when they’re wounded. Just as the resin

in a stick of Superior Aloeswood
is produced only as an immune response
to an all-out attack. It’s not only Bashar al-Assad
dropping barrel-bombs on his people that threatens the core
of our humanity. The rancid sweat
from a round of Époisses raises its own Kyrie
through the kitchen to mingle with the fragrant incense-soot.
Not harps, Nicodemus. Not harps. Harpoons!

vickiwoodyard
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Re: A Paul Muldoon poem in Memory of LC

Postby vickiwoodyard » Mon Jan 23, 2017 4:33 pm

Such power in this poem. Such brilliance. Such love.
DBCohen
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Re: A Paul Muldoon poem in Memory of LC

Postby DBCohen » Tue Jan 31, 2017 2:05 pm

There haven’t been many responses to this poem here, which is perhaps not surprising considering its length and difficulty. I had to read it several times and look up several terms before I could make heads or tails of it. Paul Muldoon seems to offer many private associations while moving from one theme to another and including a range of obscure words and names that require the reader (perhaps intentionally) to reread the poem carefully in an attempt to figure it out. But the effort proves worthwhile as the poem reveals itself to be a unique tribute to LC, his life and creativity, placing them deservedly in a world which is both mythological and political. I can’t offer here an interpretation of the whole long poem but I would like to point out a few themes and substances.

The narrator in the poem (presumably the poet) describes a visit to LC’s home in Los Angeles (“South Tremaine”, “Tinsel Town”) last August (2016) in the company of “Professor Bob” (who is he?). They hoped to meet LC in a restaurant (“Blue Plate Oysterette”, apparently in Santa Monica), but he was too weak to go out, “on account of the side effects, I surmised, of steroids”; later he mentions specifically leukemia, due to which “the bone marrow producing freak blood cells.” So here is another evidence, if one was still required, for LC’s terminal ailment.

The poem’s title, “Superior Aloeswood”, refers to a brand of incense; it was given to the narrator by LC (who was well known for burning incense and lighting candles regularly), and now he is lighting one stick in his memory as mentioned in the first lines of the first stanza, and again in the first lines of the last stanza, closing the circle after going through various associations and memories. The name of the incense leads by association to several religious motifs, of which I’ll point out two.

The first association is to Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea, who, according to the Gospel of John (19:38-42) buried Jesus after the crucifixion, and the former of whom, as mentioned in the poem’s 7th and 8th stanzas, treated the body of Jesus “with a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about an hundred pound weight”. It seems that the suffering LC is depicted here in the role of Jesus, while his guests are the two who would bury him.

The second association of incense appears later in the poem (stanzas 12-14), leading to one of the many Jewish motifs in it, here related to several Old Testament stories: Jezebel and the prophets of Baal (I Kings 17-18), the brazen serpent created by Moses to heal a disease – here subtly connected with LC’s leukemia as well as with his song “Hallelujah” – and which was turned into a false idol (Numbers 21:9 & II Kings 18:4), and the binding of Isaac by Abraham on Mount Moriah (Genesis 22), of which LC also wrote a great song, although here Isaac is replaced, according to the tradition of Islam, by Ishmael (to whom LC also referred, in Book of Mercy 14 & 27).

Another motif that stands out in the poem is the one of food; LC, who according to many stories always insisted on offering his guests all kinds of food, here offers them “some Cheddar or aged Gouda” (5th stanza), which leads the narrator to mention Époisses, the “King of Cheeses,” which he immediately sends LC from New York, and which in October LC emails him to say that “it’s the only thing I want to eat” (10). In the final lines the aroma of the cheese mingles with that of the incense and “raises its own Kyrie”. All along the poem the sensual is mixed with the spiritual, which is one of the distinctive marks of LC’s life and work.

The mention of “Blue Plate Oysterette” leads to the mention of several kinds of oysters (4-5), which in turn leads to Moby-Dick, from which book several figures are mentioned along the poem (and by association leads also from Captain Ahab to the biblical Ahab and his wife Jezebel). The mention of Captain Ahab, the doomed leader who brings disaster upon his crew, is associated with despised political leaders, such as “Ronald Bonzo and George W. Bozo”, and the leader to be, Trump (mentioned already in the second stanza as “our vain, vindictive Pompadour”), building “the Tower of Wrong” (contrary to LC’s “The Tower of Song”) (14). Another one is “Bashar al-Assad turning his bombardiers / on his own citizenry (grâce à Putin)”. This ties well with LC’s own historical and political concerns (“Democracy”, “Anthem” and others), which is also floated through the reference to the Holocaust (3-4), another important subject in LC’s work (and in the current context made me think of “The Captain”).

There is much more that can be said of the Moby-Dick allusions. For example, in the lines “Hard not to think of Starbuck opening the waterproof match keg / and contriving to light a lamp of hope” (5), the Pequod’s first mate Starbuck’s action is associated with LC through lines in his songs such as: “all the brave young men / they're waiting now to see a signal / which some killer will be lighting for pay” (“The Old Revolution”), or “There is a crack, a crack in everything / That's how the light gets in” (“Anthem”), to which quote other lines in the poem can be related: “Those same trees producing myrrh / only when they’re wounded” (14).

In some stanzas many of the above motifs (incense, cheese, Moby-Dick, Jesus) are brought together in a very subtle way, as in stanzas 9-10, where it seems that LC is again depicted in the role of Christ:
Only when a gold-orange
bloom of bacteria is allowed to seep
through a rind-washed cheese is its raunchy
essence revealed. Only when a sponge on a stalk of hyssop’s
proffered him does Christ acknowledge the glitter
of the doubloon nailed to the mast’s not only an amulet

against the whale but an emblem of Burgundian caseiculture.
“Trouble is,” you e-mailed…

From here he leads on to another heady mixture of motifs:
Egoless, aquiline, égalitaire,
you yourself had tried no less to emulate

the teachings of the abbot of Mount Baldy
than his famous locum,
Bernard of Clairvaux. I suspect Bernard had a hand
in the development of the Meursault
Jefferson would come to love. Hard to reconcile the whale hunt
with the thirteen attributes of Divine Mercy
now that Ahab pilots the pilot
away from our ninth and final gam
According to the narrator, LC tried to emulate not only his Zen master Roshi (“the abbot of Mount Baldy”), but also the great Catholic abbot from France; however, Bernard’s function here is not as a religious figure but as one of the developers of the Meursault wine, of which Tomas Jefferson (his country’s ambassador to France before he became president) was allegedly a connoisseur. The thirteen attributes of Divine Mercy (reminding, again, of Book of Mercy), is a Jewish motif, based on Exodus 34:6-7; the “ninth and final gam” was the last meeting of the Pequod with another ship before Ahab lead it to destruction, but note that the poet writes “our”, connecting the ship with the disasters in leadership mentioned earlier and later.

Obviously, there is also the theme of music; LC plays his recent album to his guests (last August You Want It Darker was already finished, and was also played once to our gathering at the Amsterdam Event, before it was officially released in October). The sound of the violins on the album is mixed with the eating of cheese (5). A little earlier the jaw harp (known also as the “Jews harp”, sometimes mentioned and used in LC’s songs), leads to the Jews of Poland who had to cover the costs of their own transportation to the death camps. The last line of the poem reads: “Not harps, Nicodemus. Not harps. Harpoons!”; it seems that the narrator here encourages himself to give precedence to tough action (building on the theme of Moby-Dick) over music and even spirituality (harps are often associated with angelic music).

The above analysis offers but a first glimpse into the entangled themes of this complex poem. I have hardly touched on its language, which is so rich in word-play and alliterations. The more I read it the more I am filled with admiration for the scope and richness of this poem, which, as elaborated above, does justice to many of the facets of LC's art and life. The only outstanding aspect that seems to be missing is the sexual one, and it can hardly be by accident; the poet must have decided not to explore it in this poem for reasons known to him alone. The only female to be mentioned is Jezebel, whose name became a synonym for an immoral woman, but she is mentioned here only in the religious context (and LC himself usually preferred “Babylon”; the only mention of “Jezebel” by him refers to the title of Frankie Laine’s song in “Memories”).

This turned out to be a rather lengthy (if incomplete) interpretation; I hope those who’ve bothered to read it gained something by it and will offer their own contributions.

Doron
Last edited by DBCohen on Thu Feb 02, 2017 3:11 am, edited 2 times in total.
vickiwoodyard
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Re: A Paul Muldoon poem in Memory of LC

Postby vickiwoodyard » Tue Jan 31, 2017 3:38 pm

Thank you for your brilliant words about this poem. Such a poem is deserving of such fine writing about it. The first time I read it, I knew it was extraordinary writing about a beloved friend. The poem begs to be read more than once, to be savored and acknowledged. It is a poem that his friend would be deeply moved by.
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Joe Way
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Re: A Paul Muldoon poem in Memory of LC

Postby Joe Way » Wed Mar 15, 2017 3:37 am

Thank you, Doron-it is a brilliant poem and you have done much to help us understand its richness. I look forward to reading it many times and helping to bring out the intricacies.

Joe
"Say a prayer for the cowboy..."
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Re: A Paul Muldoon poem in Memory of LC

Postby Joe Way » Sun Mar 19, 2017 5:47 am

I have read the poem many times-I'm somewhat obsessed by it now-I think it is so good. I've done a little research and I can't say that I have anything succinct to say about it. I don't recognize any particular rhyming pattern. It may be in a form of blank verse, but I'm not good at recognizing those things. I've written some observations, stanza by stanza in the hope that this will help some others and that we can continue on with our observations as Doron has started. I hope this helps and I'm looking for further in depth interpretation.

Paul Muldoon

In memory of Leonard Cohen

I light a stick of Superior Aloeswood
from the box you gave me on South Tremaine
when last I visited. You’d conducted us through your new CD,
Professor Bob and myself tapping out a rhythm
on our cans of soda
while Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea
stayed back in the mix. Even as the aloeswood’s musk-sweet
drifts through my kitchen I determine

In the first stanza, the scene is set. The narrator lights a piece of incense that has been gifted to him from Leonard. This takes place somewhere else, if the narrator is the poet, Paul Muldoon, presumably it is NYC.

In retrospect, the narrator, someone named Professor Bob, and Leonard are at Leonard’s home in Los Angeles. Leonard “conducts” them through his new CD, presumably “You Want It Darker.” Enjoying sodas, they listen. The narrator brings in the images of Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea bringing to mind the burial of Jesus of Nazareth and the tomb carved out of stone that Joseph of Arimathea received permission from the Roman authorities in which to bury the body of Jesus. I wonder if the poet had a foreshadowing of the death of Leonard while sitting there listening. I remember the questions that we asked Patrick Leonard in Amsterdam about Leonard’s health after the rumors-he seemed to re-assure us that Leonard was doing ok. But the aloeswood musk imagery suggests the first image of scent.

how determinedly you refused to blend
a sorrow-base with a top note of solace.
Hard to make light of Bashar al-Assad turning his bombardiers
on his own citizenry (grâce à Putin),
while our vain, vindictive Pompadour
is pushing every button
on the console. During their break at the processing plant
the Mexicans are celebrating All Souls


“I determine /how determinedly you refused to blend/ a sorrow-base with a top note of solace.”

Note the two meanings of determine-the process of inquiring about something and determinedly-the force that sets one on a course. The sentiments of how “you refused to blend/a sorrow-base with a top note of solace.” I believe this is one of the key lines to understanding the poem. If I understand this correctly. It seems the poet is saying that Leonard wouldn’t allow any of the usual “this is our chance to say good-bye and don’t feel badly etc.

Then there is the hard jump into politics. “Hard to make light” probably from casual conversation with an undercurrent of the misery created by the likes of politicians, Bashar al-Assad, Putin, and “our vain, vindictive Pompadour,” Trump. Then, the talk of Mexicans at the processing plant celebrating All Souls Day which places the narrator to a date in time, November 1st.


with chilaquiles, there being no circumstance so bland
a little extra salsa
won’t kick it up. That August afternoon in Tinsel Town
we touched on how Europe’s
right-wing nationalism is so in tune
with our own. The one note produced by the jaw harps
was more than enough for the Jews of Poland,
most of them conveyed from Silesia

Chilaquiles are a delicious mix of tortillas, eggs, chicken & salsa that my wife’s sister who lives in Mexico makes us often and this introduces another sense in addition to smell, that of taste- which can be “kicked up.”

Then setting the scene again-“That August afternoon in Tinsel Town”-Hollywood, Los Angeles and an immediate jump again into politics-Europe and the parallel of right-wing nationalism there and in the U. S. The use of the words “in tune” leads to the one note, and the that suggestion leads to jaw harps which leads to to the Jews of Poland and the area of Silesia which is an area in flux for many years as parts of Poland, Germany, and now parts of the Czech Republic with a diverse population.

to Auschwitz-Birkenau only after ponying up
for their own tickets.
Though we’d hoped to meet at the Blue Plate Oysterette
you’d been confined to barracks
on account of the side effects, I surmised, of steroids.
Not periwinkles, Nicodemus. Periwigs!
Though they went for $5 a pop
I used to favor a half-dozen Belons from the Damariscotta

Immediately the next stanza introduces the Holocaust folks who had to pay for their own transportation to the Crematorium.

Then a big jump again back to the time in August when the narrator, Professor Bob & Leonard were supposed to meet at a restaurant. But the narrator quotes Leonard in a familiar line that he had been “confined to barracks” and the narrator then first introduces the image of illness and side affects due to steroids.

The next line is puzzling. Not periwinkles (flowers), Nicodemus-perhaps as a mask for embalming, but Periwigs!-elaborate wigs famous for the heads of royalty.

The next two lines reference Belons from Damariscotta-very scarce Maine oysters, that many say have a very strong flavor and are apparently very expensive at $5 each.

over a dozen Wellfleets. Hard not to think of Pip,
the cabin boy of the Pequod,
forced to eat all that traif.
Hard not to think of him learning to flense
blubber from a whale like a turf-cutter cutting turf
on his smallholding. There was a little flourish on the violins
when you so graciously offered myself and Professor Bob
some Cheddar or aged Gouda

Wellfleets are also oysters from Maine but also less expensive and not as strongly flavored.

Next comes the introduction of Pip, the cabin boy of the Pequod and the first introduction directly of references to Moby Dick. Pip is a black and in Moby Dick used in reference to slavery. “Traif” is food that is non-kosher. I suspect that oysters are not kosher, but I don’t know why Pip eating non-Kosher would be an issue. I am not a Melville expert, but Pip has an important role in Moby Dick-he had to harvest the blubber from the whales-“flense” the process of separating blubber from the skeleton. Maybe it is like slicing cheese as well as cutting turf. Next the violins are introduced and another sense, sound is associated with taste from the Cheddar and aged Gouda.

and I happened to ask if you were a fan of Époisses—
the “King of Cheeses,”
according to Brillat-Savarin. I must have been in manic
mode when I’d have Murray’s FedEx you a round
only hours after getting back to New York. A Cistercian monk
has been known to obsessively rinse the rind
in the pomace brandy that gives it such extra pizazz.
Why the electorate chooses


Époisses is a very stinky cheese-I’ve never had it, but it is a soft-ripened cheese similar to Brie, but much stronger. If you check the internet, you can order some from Murray’s in New York-I plan to do so. Also we learn more about it-it is a Burgundian cheese created by Monks and as the poet describes the rind is washed with pomace brandy (a colorless brandy made from the lees of wine grapes). This gives it “extra pizazz.”

The next line leads back to the politics of the next stanza.

the likes of Ronald Bonzo and George W. Bozo
as Commander-in-Chief has already defied exegesis.
Hard not to think of Starbuck opening the waterproof match keg
and contriving to light a lamp of hope
while Tashtego, Daggoo, and Queequeg
despair of the vengeful Ahab.
When Nicodemus busies
himself treating the body of Jesus


The narrator leaves no doubt about his disdain for Ronald Reagan (Ronald Bonzo) and George W. Bozo (Georger W. Bush) and suggests that they have defied divine prayer (exegesis). And then we are brought back to the characters in Moby Dick-Starbuck who opens the casket that was made for Queequeg when it was thought that he was dying, but then he recovers and calks and seals it to use as a float. Here we have a lamp of hope for those doomed men, Tashtego, Daggoo and Queequeg. And the first mention of Ahab-both the protagonist of Moby Dick and the King that angered the creator more than all of the other kings of Israel. One of the overriding themes of Moby Dick is the relationship between the vengeful Ahab and the narrator, Ishmael.

And again a reference to the treatment of the body (embalming) of Jesus.

“with a mixture of myrrh and aloes,
about an hundred pound weight,”
this “aloes” is our self-same aloeswood, beaten to a pulp
and thereafter prized
as an embalming agent from Beirut through Bologna to Bilbao.
It seems particularly appropriate that a priest
should also distill brandy from the lees
of wine. Not one iota


The embalming process is something that has been taking place for many years and is referenced with the body of Jesus. What confuses me now is that from what I understand, Jews do not embalm the body and hence, when Leonard was transported to Montreal in his plain pine box, he had not been embalmed.

Again, in the process of creating something, in this case aloeswood, it is a process that involves some issues like “beaten to a pulp” that would not be acceptable if transferred to human relationships. The reference to “priest” obviously seems to refer to the Cohen tradition of Priest descending from Aaron.

Next comes again, a reference to the pomace brandy from the lees of wine. The last words, “Not one iota” are one of those powerful phrases that characterize determination-one of the other themes of the poem.

of aloeswood shall derive from the Aquilara tree
till it’s threatened by a mold.
Only when a gold-orange
bloom of bacteria is allowed to seep
through a rind-washed cheese is its raunchy
essence revealed. Only when a sponge on a stalk of hyssop’s
proffered him does Christ acknowledge the glitter
of the doubloon nailed to the mast’s not only an amulet


Now, we turn again to the process of making something valuable, rare and hard to create. The mold from the Aquilara tree that produces the oud, deep rich perfume that makes the scent; the bacteria that works its way through the rind of the cheese to make it stinky, wonderful; the sponge that raised the bitter wine to the lips of Christ on the cross.

And again, a reference to Moby Dick and the doubloon that was nailed to the mast on the Pequad. It is said that each crew member had a different meaning for it.

against the whale but an emblem of Burgundian caseiculture.
“Trouble is,” you e-mailed
in October of your new favorite, Époisses,
“it’s the only thing I want to eat.”
Only when it’s threatened does the Aquilara push
back with the fragrant gum that translates to agar or oud.
Egoless, aquiline, égalitaire,
you yourself had tried no less to emulate

I confess that I have no idea what the connection is with the doubloon and Burgundian caseiculture.

Leonard emails the author that the stinky cheese is the only thing he wants to eat.

We learn again about the troubled process of creating the fragrant Superior Aloeswood. Oud is an ingredient in some very expensive perfumes.

Next another couple of lines that describe Leonard-“Egoless, aquiline, égalitaire” I love this description as my brief encounters with Leonard certainly embraced the concepts of egoless and “égalitaire.” His nose was certainly aquiline in a very distinguished way.

The lines, “ you yourself had tried no less to emulate” refer to the narrator rather than Leonard.

the teachings of the abbot of Mount Baldy
than his famous locum,
Bernard of Clairvaux. I suspect Bernard had a hand
in the development of the Meursault
Jefferson would come to love. Hard to reconcile the whale hunt
with the thirteen attributes of Divine Mercy
now that Ahab pilots the pilot
away from our ninth and final gam

The abbot of Mount Baldy is of course, Roshi. Bernard of Clairvaux in addition to the development of the Meursault also helped found the Knights Templar and helped deal with the schism that existed in the church during his time.
I wonder if the narrator in saying “our ninth and final gam” was referring to his, Professor Bob and Leonard’s last meeting. It is certainly an important theme in Moby Dick and the notion that whaling boats meeting in the vastness of the ocean in a gam is certainly a great metaphor of poets meeting together.

and, having tempered his barb in the blood
of Queequeg, Tashtego, and Daggoo, offers his final l’chaim
while urging us to stand firm. A chasuble
is a version of a “little house.” A kind of poncho.
It was no time after Jezebel
had married Ahab that she took it upon herself to banish
the prophets of Israel and trade them for the polity
of Baal. In the matter of leukemia,

Ahab constructs a special harpoon to try to finally conquer Moby Dick and his deadly determination not only claims Queequeg, Tashtego, and Daggoo, but the whole of the Pequod (with the exception of Ishmael). “To Life”-while urging them to stand firm. Can this be what Leonard was suggesting to his visitors? No sympathy, but stand firm in their pursuit of the metaphor of the white whale?

I don’t understand the reference to the chasuble here-I’m very familiar with it as our priest wears one every Sunday. It does look like a poncho and a “little house.”

Jezebel and Ahab again and their banishment and murder of the prophets introduce the illness of leukemia.

of course, it comes down to the bone marrow
producing freak blood cells. Let’s not forget how the brazen
serpent becomes a false idol
to which the Israelites cry Hallelujah
and make their own offerings of incense. One jot or one tittle
shall in no way pass from the law
till Abraham sacrifices Ishmael on Mount Moriah.
The incense-smoke sends up its orison

The diseased bone marrow produces the freak cells, but instead of leading to fragrant incense, or tasty, stinky cheese-leads to weakness and death.

Like the serpent who works against producing anything of value and distracts the Israelites

It comes down to Abraham and his faith to sacrifice his own son while tested by God. The prayer sent heavenward through the smoke.

over Mounts Moriah and Meru.
That August afternoon our tour d’horizon
included not only the Tower of Wrong
being built by Trump
from the promises on which he’ll shortly renege
but the life-size diorama
of a grove of trees. Those same trees producing myrrh
only when they’re wounded. Just as the resin

And here they are, the poets under the smoke of the Superior Aloeswood on an August afternoon, with them knowing that Leonard was not long for this world discussing the state of disarray of Trump much like Ahab and Jezebel, Ahab & the poor crew of the Pequad, enjoying cheese, but having no doubt that this is a stage of history repeating itself. And the image of trees, a life-size diorama which produce those precious things when wounded.

in a stick of Superior Aloeswood
is produced only as an immune response
to an all-out attack. It’s not only Bashar al-Assad
dropping barrel-bombs on his people that threatens the core
of our humanity. The rancid sweat
from a round of Époisses raises its own Kyrie
through the kitchen to mingle with the fragrant incense-soot.
Not harps, Nicodemus. Not harps. Harpoons!

The incense, the terror that harkens back to the Holocaust, the cheese-seen in their particular perspective bring a blessing. Heaven doesn’t necessarily depend on angels, but on that focused intensity that awaits us.
"Say a prayer for the cowboy..."
DBCohen
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Re: A Paul Muldoon poem in Memory of LC

Postby DBCohen » Sun Mar 19, 2017 11:44 am

Great effort, Joe, thanks. It is indeed a very griping poem and a great tribute to LC.
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mutti
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Re: A Paul Muldoon poem in Memory of LC

Postby mutti » Sun Mar 19, 2017 6:35 pm

Thank you Doron and thank you Joe for your words and interpretations of this poem. I briefly scanned it the first time and now have spent more time reading and processing it. I am glad I came back to this post to further spend time with the Paul Muldoon poem.
Brilliant and beyond me in many instances...
appreciate it.
Leslie
1988 Vancouver
2009 Victoria/Seattle/Almost Red Rocks/Las Vegas/San Jose.
2010 Sligo x 2/Victoria/Vancouver/Portland/Las Vegas x 2.
2012 Austin x 2/Seattle/Vancouver/Montreal x 2.
2013 Oakland x 2/New York City x 2/Winnipeg...
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Joe Way
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Re: A Paul Muldoon poem in Memory of LC

Postby Joe Way » Mon Mar 20, 2017 12:44 am

I think the next step needs to be connecting those "Cohen" connections within this poem. I really need some help with that.

Professor Bob is Robert Faggen of Claremont McKenna College who is an old friend of Leonard's from back in his Mount Baldy days. Professor Bob provided the intro to David Remnick who did the great interview in the New Yorker from September. Apparently, in August, Paul Muldoon also accompanied him to Leonard's house. Paul Muldoon is the poetry editor of The New Yorker.

Here is a link to that article from the New Yorker that was published shortly before Leonard's death.

http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2016/ ... -it-darker

Most of you have probably read this already, but I think it helps provide a little more understanding of Muldoon's poem.

Joe
"Say a prayer for the cowboy..."
DBCohen
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Re: A Paul Muldoon poem in Memory of LC

Postby DBCohen » Mon Mar 20, 2017 3:55 am

Joe,

Thanks for identifying “Professor Bob”. I reread the interview parts in the New Yorker article once again, and I was struck by the impression that what LC says towards the end is not in tune with the way we interpreted the Darker album; he seems more confident, less doubting, while our impression of the songs (speaking very generally) was that he had doubts and even resentment. What is your impression?
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Joe Way
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Re: A Paul Muldoon poem in Memory of LC

Postby Joe Way » Mon Mar 20, 2017 4:48 am

Doron,
Yes, I get the same sense. It is one of the reasons that I have not posted very much recently on the thread about the songs. Northrop Frye talks about religion only being able to be expressed in metaphor and I agree with the jist of that. After all, I don't know anyone who has truly seen water turned to wine-except in a metaphorical way.

The life of the mind, though, was primary to Leonard-despite his love of sensuality-scent, taste, texture, especially sex. I can understand that. Yesterday, Anne & I joined some friends at a tavern to watch the Univ. of Wisconsin Badger Basketball team play in the NCAA tournament. I'm a huge fan, we've had season tickets for years and this was a big game. I had started my work on Paul Muldoon's poem that morning and despite my excitement for the game, I couldn't get it out of my mind. None of the people at the table including, Anne would have been able to understand that. I don't know if that makes me different or Leonard different or anyone else.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that Leonard loved the process that revealed the life of the mind-especially those questions that remain at the heart of our existence. I doubt he cared "one iota" about the possibility of an afterlife, but he was going to enjoy the ride until the bitter end-yes, the end even with its pain, Leukemia, stress fractures-after all he still had "all his marbles" as he said.

I look forward to discussing this more with you and our many other friends.

Joe
"Say a prayer for the cowboy..."
DBCohen
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Re: A Paul Muldoon poem in Memory of LC

Postby DBCohen » Tue Mar 21, 2017 3:05 am

Still, perhaps we should distinguish between different media of expression. In an interview a person may say one thing (and on the whole, LC was fairly consistent in his many interviews, although you can never be sure whether he was quoted accurately in print and what did the interviewer choose to highlight or to leave out). The songs, as poetic expressions, may say something different, or reveal some hidden currents that cannot be expressed outright. We always said that the persona in the poems is not the same as the poet (although I’m beginning to have some second thoughts), so the fact that the songs may say something different than the interviews should be carefully considered.

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