Roman Fountain – Louise Bogan
Up from the bronze, I saw
Water without a flaw
Rush to its rest in air,
Reach to its rest, and fall.
Bronze of the blackest shade,
An element man-made,
Shaping upright the bare
Clear gouts of water in air.
O, as with arm and hammer,
Still it is good to strive
To beat out the image whole,
To echo the shout and stammer
When full-gushed waters, alive,
Strike on the fountain’s bowl
After the air of summer.
This week on the Influence: Louise Bogan.
This poem takes me in right away with its music: word choice plays out the water in its w’s and r’s, and the fountain later in the m’s. The pacing also adds to the musical element. Note the choice comma in the fourth line “Reach to its rest, and fall” which mimics the flow of the water.
The stanza structure also plays out the concept. The first two stanzas have their symmetry, four lines each, rhyming couplets. Then there’s the drive and rush of the last stanza, its rhymes a bit more scattered, the form there hidden and changing as water does in a fountain.
All of these things come together to make the poem an experience with several layers. Safe to say: they don’t, ahem, make them like this anymore. Or enough.
This poem took on a new life for me after reading The Anthologist by Nicholson Baker (a novel every poet would be charmed by). In the book, the main character tells a story about how he read Bogan’s poem to a crowd and how the reading of it aloud really affected somebody, to the point that the person, not a regular reader of poetry, came up to him and asked about “that fountain poem”.
This scene makes me think about what poems have had that effect on my life, have hooked into me and taught me something. It is my goal to write something that will have people asking about it later, something worth reading.
In other news, if you take a look up top you’ll see I have added an official page for my chapbook The Wall. On it is ordering information, some very kind words from Naomi Shihab Nye, and a photo from the day I received my copies. I got to pick up my copies straight from the printer. They came in a white box very similar to a cake box. Sadly, no cake.
Here’s one more by Bogan:
Solitary Observation Brought Back from a Sojourn in Hell – Louise Bogan
At midnight tears
Run in your ears.