My Personal Favorite: Caroline Maun

Caroline Maun

At this moment in time which of your own poems is your personal favorite, and why?

Ornament

Imagine the tangle of filament,

the complexity of loops and knots.

I couldn’t gauge the length wound

round the branch, or what strange

force could produce such a fierce,

irrational record.  In the center

of the lines was the body of the sparrow

who had struggled, the circuit

of flight dwindling with each launch

from the branch, with each push,

each angle attempted.  Maybe he bathed

in lake’s shallows, wings churning

a tiny spray when he was caught

by the shiny, idle hook.  Like an ornament

nested in a milky macramé of sunlit cords,

he was desiccated, yet whole,

an artifact at the center of a shimmering 

testimony of foreclosure.

Why Caroline Chose It:

When I saw this scene in real life it was so striking and complex that it arrested me.  My spouse, who was walking with me at a nearby park, asked me to stop staring at it and keep going — how macabre — who wants to dwell on a dead bird who had fallen victim to stray fishing line? It was sad to think about this avoidable, premature death and the way some aspect of the bird’s panic and suffering was so explicit in how the fishing line was tangled in the branches.  As I wrote the poem, I also began thinking about the body of work a poet writes over a lifetime and how in some ways the lines of writing are winding around what will be our idea of the poet after he or she is no longer able to write — when the body of work and the writer’s voice are foreclosed by death. The poem also draws some of its inspiration in dialogue with W. B. Yeats’s poem “Sailing to Byzantium,” which ends on a different note when the persona says he would, after death, choose to return as the golden ornament of a bird rather than taking the form of any natural thing.  Here, I am attempting to contemplate the natural thing as a remarkably striking ornament or artifact– with the corollary thought that it is not a good thing to leave fishing line and hooks to inadvertently harm living things. 

Bio: Caroline Maun is an Associate Professor and Chair in the Department of English at Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan. She is the author of Mosaic of Fire: The Work of Lola Ridge, Evelyn Scott, Charlotte Wilder, and Kay Boyle. She is the editor of The Collected Poems of Evelyn Scott, author of the poetry collections  The Sleeping and What Remains. She has published three chapbooks of poetry–most recently Accident with Alice Greene & Company. www.carolinemaun.com

Her launch party will be at the Cabbage Patch Saloon on October 11th at 6:30pm. See here for more details.

Available at Alice Green and Co here: as well as local bookstores and Amazon.

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