August 3rd, 2010


addendum to the last

Was chatting with someone on MSN about one of the poems from my last post, and thought I'd add something else. The part I am talking about is this poem:

standing in your doorway
again and again

am I coming or going
you never know

every day:
you in your kitchen

and all I am to you now
is an empty chair

always everywhere
never there

I said that 'there is no sense of whether being together or apart brings joy or sadness or any other emotion' and my friend said 'But how can it be taken any other way than sad?' I totally get that, I suppose most people's immediate feeling reading this would be of distance and sadness. And maybe that's how it is intended. But I try not to leap to the more melancholy meanings right away, or assume the poet wants to create a certain response. So when I wrote that I was actually trying to think of another possible meaning, just to see if it could fit.

Picture this: a mother in the kitchen singing with the radio while doing dishes or cooking or whatever; several sons always on the go, in and out with friends or alone, wanting food, needing cuts and scrapes tended, meals eaten so fast before they're off to do something else, overnight boy scout camping trips and heating leftovers after a late soccer game when everyone else has gone to bed. I remember my mother in this situation (I was the little sister, still the kitchen helper while my older brothers lived their fast-paced teenage years), and she was not unhappy or sad. That 'empty chair' represented a happy, active child off doing interesting things and always potentially on the verge of returning from an adventure or ready to start a new one. Yes there were times when she sat at the kitchen table late at night, waiting for this or that child to get home from some event or outing, and that must have been lonely or stressful. But overall I think the 'never there' brought out a fond exasperation reaction in her. And she still loves for us to be out there living life :-)

Anyway my point being only that it is fine of course to absorb that immediate response to a poem or piece of writing, but good also to not let it take over or prevent you from thinking about it any other way. A really good writer doesn't need to hand you your reaction on a silver plate, or write about absolutes. And many writers have been asked about what they meant in this or that poem or passage, only to reply that it is up to the reader to take from it what they will. So no matter what was intended with this or the other poems I wrote about, I realize I could be way off base in my ramblings, but that doesn't bother me :-) Interpretation is up to each individual, and one of the things Magne is good at is writing things that can be interpreted in several ways.