Challenge 654 Response
Bewildering Stories discusses...
Momentum in “Evergreen”
Oonah V. Joslin’s “Evergreen” appears in issue 654.
[Marion Clarke] I thoroughly enjoyed this poem from Oonah Joslin. Regarding the first question, I’m embarrassed to say that at first I thought it was a typo! Upon rereading, I realised that it is in fact a concrete line of poetry.
The phrase ‘in the moment’ is well known, so when the reader is confronted with the ‘um’ on the following line it is quite a surprise. But in terms of ’concrete poetry’ I think the poet is saying that the momentum has literally been broken. This could be referring to the momentum of the game the two girls are playing, or of life.
I think the disappearing windows are moments in time that are there for a millisecond, but then are gone, never to be relived or recaptured.
I may be incorrect, but I would describe this as an elegy, as it features regret for the fleeting passage of time.
Warrenpoint, Northern Ireland
[Don Webb] Thank you, Marion. I expect you speak for a lot of readers!
Breaking up “momentum” — or any word — in a poem is comical, because it calls attention to the word itself as an abstract artifact, a signifier independent of meaning.
It’s also a way for Oonah to have her “moment” and “momentum” at the same time. Perhaps it means, as you say, that a certain momentum has been stopped. Or maybe it can mean that the painting depicts a moment in which some kind of momentum is present. Take your pick!
Oonah agrees with you about the “windows” imagery, and I agree that it puts the poem over the top. Aside from that, though, Oonah says she dislikes the painting, She finds its imagery not subtle at all.
I can see why she might; the painting has a kind of funereal aspect. The house and trees are big, stolid, practically monumental. Meanwhile, in the foreground, two girls are playing badminton, with the shuttlecock reflecting the fleet passage of seconds in human time. The painting shouts, “Carpe that diem and, while you’re at it, memento mori, too.”
Oonah is not one to live in such commonplaces. She and her poetry focus on moments and their momentum.
Copyright © 2016 by Marion Clarke and