Dec 182015


by Kirby Congdon…….

An aggressive poem, “Figure,” was put out as a folded broadside in 1967 and was recently advertised as rare literature. At least we know it is rare. Special permission was obtained to reprint a photograph in it, a portrait of the author standing beside his first motorcycle. The photographer, Marie Cosindas had exhibits of her Polaroids at the Museum of Modern Art and elsewhere and, so, was very protective of her work. The Polaroid Company had even set up a separate laboratory to find out how to keep her colors permanent.

The poem was also used once more in the collection, Athletes, in a small press studio in Michigan in 2011. The poem itself was an attempt to nail down the mystique of the leather scene which had caught the imagination of the avant-garde through the new freedom after World War II of a generation that had to sublimate any experimental behavior or the attraction of owning a motorcycle to the demands of a war-time economy. In the process of establishing itself as a post-war society the niceties of a middle-class conforming to expectations were dismissed. One did not have to display talent, creative concerns or even any particular personality when the blatant noise of a motorcycle exhaust pipe forced a bystander to forget about making any judgments as to why a motorcycle was more impressive than, say, a motor scooter. This denial, in effect, of polite society allowed the author of the poem to assert that the involuntary conclusion of death obliged an individual, as in a racing car, to dismiss any aspect of risk or danger; it was all a part of the definition of being alive. The poem concludes with this assertion:

Death does not come to us;
soon or late
men ready
their manliness
for that final state
and, walking,
steady and direct,
march straight on
into the end of it.

If that man was walking or marching, the reader may wonder where is the motorcycle? Perhaps poetic license lets it stand on its kick-stand by itself while the fantasy takes care of itself!

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 December 18, 2015  Posted by at 12:35 am Issue #145, Kirby Congdon  Add comments

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