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Heart-Shaped Fly Swatter


Heart-Shaped Fly Swatter

Papaxanthos, Nicholas (2014) Heart-Shaped Fly Swatter. Masters thesis, Concordia University.

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Heart-Shaped Fly Swatter is a failed attempt at writing in the style of so-called New York School Poetry, but a successful attempt, I think, at writing towards writing in that style. It’s a failed attempt because most of these poems are planted too firmly in the ground (the page), unable to leap off into the air. Take, for example, the difference between “Heart-Shaped Fly Swatter” and “Fly-Shaped Heart Swatter”: one is easily imagined before us, as satisfying as a well-timed swat killing the bug, while the other can’t be pinned down exactly, more out of reach, momentary, and indistinct—which is more akin, I think, to the playfulness and “going on your nerve” New-York-School sensibility. I hope my poetry moves towards and eventually in this direction in the future, happily embracing uncertainties and a slippery range of meaning.

If they don’t leap off the page, perhaps these poems leap inside and around themselves. As I understand how I wrote them, they use repetition in one way or another to hold themselves together. “Cheerless and Ready for Love,” goes on a rampage of repeated diction to restrain its wild imagery; “In Preparation for the Long Awaited I Forget What” and “Infinite Digestion” are more interested in syntactical and rhythmic unity; and “Small Town” and “The Procedure” employ a narrative and/or a central theme or idea. Most of the poems in this collection fall into one of these general categories. The exception is “Noon,” an erasure, which might explain why it’s more loose and abstract. I’m excited by the first two lines: “I ran out the back of my closet. / Two people elevated the space for me.” What is holding these together? The speaker appears in both lines and the “back of my closet” becomes “the space” — but why or how two people are elevating it is the mystery, as well as the different implications of the phrases “back of my closet” and “the space,” a movement from the specific to the general, which fosters a kind of control and release in the poem, an almost unheard click in the lock that will (hopefully) eventually open for a Houdini-like escape. I think “Noon” comes closest in this collection to almost successfully resisting a kind of intelligence in which repetition isn’t the deciding factor that holds two lines together, but a mystery of difference, estrangement, and unpredictability. The rest of these poems are struggling towards that mystery. I imagine them like beginning swimmers holding on to the side of the pool: they’re kicking hard, but afraid, not fully trusting that something will hold them up if they let go.

Divisions:Concordia University > Faculty of Arts and Science > English
Item Type:Thesis (Masters)
Authors:Papaxanthos, Nicholas
Institution:Concordia University
Degree Name:M.A.
Date:April 2014
Thesis Supervisor(s):di Michele, Mary and Herz, Judith
ID Code:978468
Deposited On:26 Jun 2014 20:44
Last Modified:18 Jan 2018 17:46
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