Monday, January 28, 2008

Found Poem (100x8)

Lost in Love

He knew she was there
by the joy and fear
that overwhelmed his heart.
She stood at the other end of the rink,
talking to a lady.

There was nothing very special
in her dress, nor in her pose;
but she was as easy to recognize
in that crowd as a rose among nettles.
Everything was lit up by her.
“Can I really step down there
on the ice and go over to her?”
he thought.

The place where she stood
seemed to him unapproachably holy,
and there was a moment
when he almost went away —
he was so filled with awe.

Process Reflection: I thought I might take a shot at a found poem, and I decided to look in the most obvious place: what I'm reading now. One of my students is reading Anna Karenina, and since it's a book I had never gotten around to reading before, I figured I'd read it along with her. This is a passage from early in the book when Levin, a landowner from the country, has come to Moscow to ask a young woman he has known since her childhood if she will marry him. He's beset with doubts about whether he is worthy of her, and whether she will in fact accept him or laugh in his face.

I've been charmed, so far, by Tolstoy's tone: he renders his characters with what comes across as a kind of compassionate amusement. He sees them as somewhat awkward and ridiculous, but perhaps no more so than any of the rest of us. I'm reading Tom Perotta's Little Children at the same time (having heartily enjoyed his most recent effort, The Abstinence Teacher). Perotta has also been described as a "gentle satirist, and his characters are also awkward and ridiculous at times," but one comes away from his definitely funny but pointedly devastating characterizations with something closer to dismay than amusement. You get the sense that he's interested in his characters, but not so much that he loves them. But with Tolstoy, so far at least, you get the sense that he does love them, despite their foibles, and that he is encouraging you to love them too.

In an attempt to stay within the 100-word framework, I wound up deleting a few words from the original, but still came in a few words over. I'm not going to get too anal-retentive about it. Whatever.

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