Thursday, December 24, 2009

Molt. Rest. Molt.

Here's a poem from Amy Gerstler's terrific new book DEAREST CREATURE, a total pleasure for Christmas Eve. Not exactly in the holiday spirit, but, like this whole book, adventurous, funny, and completely unexpected. The long poem called "Mrs. Monster Pens Her Memoirs" is brilliant.





ADVICE FROM A CATERPILLAR


Chew your way into a new world.
Munch leaves. Molt. Rest. Molt
again. Self-reinvention is everything.
Spin many nests. Cultivate stinging
bristles. Don't get sentimental
about your discarded skins. Grow
quickly. Develop a yen for nettles.
Alternate crumpling and climbing. Rely
on your antennae. Sequester poisons
in your body for use at a later date.
When threatened, emit foul odors
in self-defense. Behave cryptically
to confuse predators: change colors, spit,
or feign death. If all else fails, taste terrible.

5 comments:

Elisabeth said...

What a wonderful poem, a different take on Kafka's metamorposis. Here the insect is empowered.

I mentioned recently to Paul Lisicky on his blog that I read had just his essay in David Lazar's edited series, 'Truth in Non-Fiction' a fantastic book of essays, which I recommend to everyone at the moment.

I also loved your 'Bride in Beige'essay, included in the book, and I especially agree with your thoughts about the need not to ask questions at times in order to get at the facts of the past.

Sometimes it's better to rely on our imaginations when it comes to literary recall.

I wish so many people weren't preoccupied with getting at the so-called facts, especially given that more often than not they don't exist.

Besides your version of your sister's wedding dress and her reasons for wearing it, as you perceived it as a small boy, is far more entrancing.

Merry Christmas and thanks for sharing the poem.

Mark Doty said...

Thanks, Elisabeth, and merry christmas to you! The whole debate about truth in nonfiction always makes me feel a little trapped, as though I'm stuck in some faulty house of logic I can't get out of fast enough! And I remember Gaston Bachelard, who says, in THE POETICS OF REVERIE, something to the effect that, at their root, memory and imagination are the same thing.

Rethabile said...

"When threatened, emit foul odors
in self-defense. Behave cryptically
to confuse predators: change colors, spit,
or feign death. If all else fails, taste terrible."


Be an animal. Magnificent. Dense. True. Poet to look out for.

Marie-Elizabeth said...

I just read and loved that book, too! What great sounds in the monster/memoir poem, like "My mismatched anatomy's / the sum of chilly-fingered clinicians' / tinkerings..." and I cracked up over the post-coital sweat that smells like celery! And the turn at the end was great.

"Moon Salutation" was beautiful, too. And "Elegy with Peonies." And the caterpillar poem. So many of the poems, really. She just gets better and better, I think!

Happy New Year to you and Paul. xoxo

brucekrajewski said...

Paul Celan has a poem (opening line "Von ungetraeumtem") about an unnamed mole digging up the "life-mountain" (Lebensberg), and from that digging comes a soil out of which we receive our names. The poem covers similar territory to the poem here about molting, and I cannot help being reminded of the line in Hamlet about shuffling off this mortal coil. Somewhere Stanley Cavell has an interpretation of that line relating the quotation not to death and mortality, but to rebirth, a shedding of our skin, snake-like, to start again. That sounds like an interpretation that might be appropriate for the New Year. Best to you, Mark, and thanks for providing all of us with your blog.