Monday, March 31, 2008

"Snow, Aldo" and Sparrow for President

"Snow, Aldo" by Kate DiCamillo

Snow, Aldo

Once, I was in New York,
in Central Park, and I saw
an old man in a black overcoat walking
a black dog. This was springtime
and the trees were still
bare and the sky was
gray and low and it began, suddenly,
to snow:
big fat flakes
that twirled and landed on the
black of the man's overcoat and
the black dog's fur. The dog
lifted his face and stared
up at the sky. The man looked
up, too. "Snow, Aldo," he said to the dog,
"snow." And he laughed.
The dog looked
at him and wagged his tail.


It's time for a brief intermission before continuing on with the last stanza. Feel free to stretch your legs, get a snack or a drink, go to the bathroom, but I must advise you, there will not be a gentle gong or blinking lights to let you know when to return. You can scroll down to get an idea of how many words are involved, gauge your time that way. Better yet, why not simply read along. They'll be plenty of time for intermission-like activity after the poem concludes.

I am overwhelmed by this part of the poem -

"Snow, Aldo," he said to the dog, "snow." And he laughed. The dog looked at him and wagged his tail."

It pulls at my heart and I want to savour it for a bit and allow you to do the same. I know it's not my poem and I have no right to stop it and intersperse a bunch of words, when the poet continued on with it. I'm trying to make sense of the whole concept of words and art and rights and the like. We all use words, in fact we use the same words as one another all the time, unless, of course, we make up fake words such as lkjes; and qopiee and vbiue-jop. (There is a writer who has been using her own made-up language for years but I can't remember her name at the moment.) We can surely protect against someone messing with our poems if we write in faux words but, who's going to understand them and, come to think of it, there's no telling if someone takes a shine to our pretend words and uses them, or intersperses other words amongst them. I suspect Sparrow wouldn't mind if that happened with is words.

We take excerpts from essays and novels and we play stanzas from sonatas, but stopping a poem in the middle is kind of like stopping a concert and having the intermission between the second and third movements. It's just not done. It would probably be okay if owned this poem, which I don't, and I wouldn't own it even if I'd bought the book that it's in, anymore than I would own a recording of music that I bought on CD. But if I purchased a painting, which I've been known to do, I could alter it in any way I wish. I could paint over it with Sharpies or whipped cream or food coloring, I could smear it with hummus or staple photographs and shoelaces to it, which I wouldn't of course, because when I purchase a painting I do so because I genuinely love it and wouldn't want to alter it in any way.

Sparrow wrote a poem for sale once. It was in The Sun magazine and if I remember correctly, it was priced at a dollar. I suppose if I'd sent him a dollar as he suggested in the poem as some actually did, then I would own it and could alter it in any way I wish, but knowing how a feel about Sparrow's poems I undoubtedly wouldn't touch it.

According to The Sun, Sparrow "is running for president of the United States for the fifth time (on the Sudoku-for-All Party ticket) and is the only candidate to support a maximum wage." His latest book is called America: A Prophecy (Soft Skull Press). He writes about his presidency in his book Republican Like Me, although I'll have to admit to never having read it. Perhaps you could read it and report back to me. You can see one of his Stump Speeches here.

I'm wondering if I could be his running mate. I think I would bring a lot to the ticket. I know how to make flan and bagels and my nickname as a child was Poodlejumper, shortened to Poodle, sometimes Pood. I think it's important when running for President that one has a nickname. Look at Ike and W, for example. Sparrow and Poodle. A winning team. If I were his running mate maybe he'd give me a poem or two. I know he published one in The Sun several years ago titled "All My Previous Poems" in which he wrote, if I remember correctly, that this poem will replace all of his previous poems. Perhaps he'd be willing to give me some of those. I could then change them (or not) to my heart's content.

As I mentioned, it is not my intent to change "Snow, Aldo." As I said, I want to savour it because it's lovely and

"Snow, Aldo," he said to the dog, "snow."

is my favorite line and it almost breaks my heart. I hope you're rested after this brief intermission. If you've chosen to stretch your legs, go to the bathroom and get a drink you haven't missed much. We'll now continue with our current poem.

If I was in charge of making
snow globes, this is what I would put inside:
the old man in the black overcoat,
the black dog,
two friends with their faces turned up to the sky
as if they were receiving a blessing,
as if they were being blessed together
by something
as simple as snow
in March.

"Snow, Aldo" by Kate DiCamillo. © Kate DiCamillo.


sharryb said...

Oh my gosh. What a fun time I had reading this post. First, I love the poem as well. I've been waiting for something to memorize, and I think "Snow, Aldo" is perfect. I didn't know Kate DiCammillo wrote poety.

Second, your commentary was unexpected and (thus?) interesting. I will take some time later to find out more about Sparrow. This post raised several questions in my mind: I have a poem that has never been published that I really love called "Where Did Last Monday Go?" What would happen if I gave it to you? Would it still be mine? Can Altered Poety be the next big art movement? I was surprised at how nervous I got when you described altering a painting. My stomach felt quesy. I could go on and on. I can't believe no one else has commented on this amazing post.
Maybe, as have I, they are just getting around to catching up on their blog reading.


Marylyn said...

I was just looking up Sparrow on Google, because my latest issue of The Sun arrived yesterday with lots of soundrites by him, and I was laughing! What a great guy, and I didn't even know he was a poet! (The soundrites were all prose).

Now that I know he is a poet, WELL! I'm thrilled! I am one, too. And I DO "alter" things for my poems, because I take random phrases from books I'm reading, or have, make a list, then rearrange the list to make what might be called "sense." Or at least poetic sense, where you have to really make some metaphorical poodlejumps.

I love the Kate DeCamillo poem, and agree that the lines you chose were the most touching. I met an artist who does his own snowglobes. Maybe you could contact him and he could make one of that scene. SERIOUSLY! He is going for his MFA in Knoxville, TN, or maybe has it by now.

I also agree that the idea of "defacing" art being possible if you "own" it was disconcerting! But interesting!