The Poets light but Lamps —
Themselves — go out —
The Wicks they stimulate —
If vital Light
Inhere as do the Suns —
Each Age a Lens
The nineteenth century American Poet Emily Dickinson liked to use the word “Circumference” to define the undercurrent ‘content’ in and of her poetry. According to the recently published Emily Dickinson Lexicon, her use of Circumference in the poem above (J-883) implies “semantic connotations that go beyond the core meaning of a word” as in metaphoric “experience; reality; enlightenment; intelligence; revelation; inspiration; wisdom.” Dickinson apparently also saw, in Circumference, what would be considered “irrefutable aspects of reality.”
As an amateur ‘poet,’ I’ve long found that whole idea to be not only intriguing, but also a fun way to kill several hours on each of several days, sometimes for several weeks, all in pursuit of the idea of coming up with various “semantic connotations that go beyond the core meaning of a word” — or of a name, maybe? Simple task, right? Well, OK, not ‘simple,’ but intriguing enough to snag my attention. So I decided to give it all a try. My poetic style choice was the sonnet: 14 lines, 10 syllables per line, Shakespearean rhyming pattern abab.cdcd.efef.gg. That part’s tough enough, but I soon got to wondering if I could also find a way to use fourteen of the letters from the poem’s main title acrostically, i.e. as the first letters, in order, of each of the sonnet’s fourteen lines which together might (hopefully!) produce a statement containing “irrefutable aspects of reality,” aka Circumference!
So without further ado: first in line is this one, written late in the George W. Bush years, circa 2007. it’s actually less about Dubya than it is about the impact of his eight years on the country and its people, a consequence more likely related to the entire of his administration and not just himself; but still, he owns it.
Gone, Wasted, Broken –
The Legacy of GEORGE W BUSH
An Elegy on America
Gone now, America’s halcyon days
Where Reason stood tall and grand in the sun;
Brilliance defined Her equanimous ways –
Gone now, expunged, all Her triumphs hard won.
E. pluribus unum: Her goal was clear;
One chosen from many, She alone rose
Reflecting the grandeur of cause sincere,
Gone now, forever corrupted by woes.
Environment – Poisoned with gas and fume;
Waters – Mercurial, deadly as wars;
Broken – A people, too cold to exhume;
Uberty – Transposed to desolate shores;
Society – Crushed, then forced to concede
Hegemony – now become pow’r . . . and greed.
Next, from the pre-election months of 2012, my circumferential impressions of Candidate Mitt Romney, including the probable impact of his Oligarch-style wealth and greed mantras on the country, along with my own notion that if he won the election, then “Nobody” would be President.
WILLARD M ROMNEY
The Odyssey of Nemo
With Much Regret
When greed defines a nominee’s malaise,
Implicitly, the nation’s fortunes loom
Like mountains visible through brownish haze,
Like ocean’s breakers crashing in the gloom
And doom of icy or cyclonic storm.
Republics and Democracies succumb;
Death assumes a barbarous pose, its form
Most certainly the product of those numb
Regurgitations from dead minds, unsheathed.
“Oh death, where is thy sting?” the poet asked.
“My sword’s malaise of greed to you bequeathed,”
Nemo responds, his vapid soul unmasked.
Eternal passage thus abruptly halts,
Yet Nemo ne’er will lead – he’s crazed with faults.
Next comes a more recent addition, one that’s not a sonnet, not acrostic, and not very circumferential, because when the topic is Trump, circumference and metaphor really aren’t always all that necessary (or even available)!
DONALD J. TRUMP
His 2016 Candidacy: Parsed
If ever there was a moment of note,
This moment might well be the one;
If ever there’s been a good time to act,
That time hasn’t passed, it’s NOT gone.
Time, when it’s wasted, impacts that ‘right now’
Which surfaced a second ago,
And future arriving a second too soon
Can oftentimes screw up the show!
The show now on stage rehashes again
Those mistakes that define whence we’ve come;
The reason is clear, it’s not hard to see:
Hair Drumpf is the consummate BUM!
If ever there was a screwball of note,
This screwball’s atop a long list;
Of each and all bums from present and past,
THIS one, when gone, won’t be missed!
So think of all that the next time you find
A moment to ponder, to parse —
Employ the best means such moment allows,
Then throw this bum out on his arse!
The fourth poem is a return to the fourteen line acrostic sonnet in which the unburdened message is the title, which is also embedded acrostically. The circumference — those “semantic connotations that go beyond the core meaning of a word” — is embedded in the body of the sonnet — its structure, its words, rhyming patterns, etc. — and hopefully suggests metaphors of “experience; reality; enlightenment; intelligence; revelation; inspiration; wisdom” alongside “irrefutable aspects of reality,” and all in ways which clarify the unburdened title’s message.
Requiem, as dirge of sophistic love,
Exposes destinies which nations earn.
Quoth Hamlet: “Conscience does make cowards of
Us all” – that is, till We the People learn,
Implicitly, that human Cowardice
Exudes contempt for Rationalities.
Meanwhile, mankind’s destiny – Avarice –
Appears in service to those Vanities
Most shallowed minds presume to be their right,
Enabling failure thus of Self, of State.
Repression blooms and quickly dims all light
Intrinsic to the heart of Freedom’s Fate –
Consumed – whilst words of Truth, now specious, Moan . . .
And stand as lifeless slogans . . . etched in stone.
And finally, a non-circumferential Emily Dickinson verse containing but one simile and no exhaustive metaphor, but which nevertheless manages to sum up — in four lines and a mere twenty-one words — the entire of the personas of each George W. Bush, Willard M. Romney, and Donald J. Trump (along with the bulk of the remainder of the entire Republican Party, for that matter). Or maybe that’s Circumference in its purest form!
How dreary — to be — Somebody!
How public — like a Frog —
To tell one’s name — the livelong June —
To an admiring Bog!
Final note: Setting Poetry, Circumference, and the collective message(s) embedded therein aside for the moment, one fact continues to stand tall by itself, and it needs no metaphorical support to burgeon its impact: Far Right Wing Politics represent one of the — if not THE — most deadly and dangerous enemies of the State, of we the People, of Civilization, and of the Planet itself. This country continues to teeter on the brink of succumbing to that political machine that cares for NOTHING other than power and the wealth thereby gatherable. In fact, the most salient way to put Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan into effect would be to turn the clock back some sixty years, dispose of right wing conservatism completely, and work instead to build a nation and a society in which there is no hate, no fear, no greed, but instead one that’s built upon education, creative thought, innovation, and, of course, Poetic Circumference! — all of which invariably work together hand-in-hand to discourage the unenlightened thought that defines Right Wing Conservatism. And then we can — finally — begin again that elusive goal of building a civilization NOT based on hate, fear, and avarice.
Worth a try, I’d say.
“OK, we’ll have to leave it there.”