Monday, April 09, 2007

Notes on Impulse to Love

Notes on Impulse to Love

Jim Bodeen’s Impulse to Love--Rough Draft of notes for the class,

If you don’t read anything else:

In the Mari Sandoz CrazyHorse

Thinking About Buckshot

The Babe the Dude and the Speedboat

Hawks of the Midnight Sun and After the Healing


The Song is a 20 Year Chain

Bowbells, ND: Getting There

Ear Ache

Alone with the Trombones

Cleaning the Yard

To My Children

Canyonlands and All Souls Day

Blackberry Syrup


I think that understanding the structure of this book is the best way to understand the poems.

The book is structured like an initiation ritual. Separation, Initiation, Return. Like the Divine Comedy and the monomyth. Neruda's Heights of Macchu Picchu is one of the guides.

  • The first section is the overture
  • The second and third chapters are more complete journeys
  • The final section is the re-integration of the traveler.

Separation (Ex: Thinking About the Buckshot/Reading Neruda)

The traveler is called to the journey—first poem, c-4 in the brain


From his childhood—the war in the living room (boy/man)

From the memories of the war in Viet Nam (first and last sections)

From health (seizure)

From his culture (Chile)

From his own story (Boy/Man)

Initiation (Hawks; Boy/Man dialogue)

Mystical traditions explored (Chile)

Biblical traditions explored

Other forgotten voices/stories explored (Chile)

Neruda as spirit guide (Chile)

Work-repeated use of that word to describe it--of self analysis

Return: (Ex: After the Healing; Leaving; Blackberry Syrup)

With poems for others (for example, the number of poems dedicated to others in the last section)

Restored health (last section)

Integrated into the community (last section and after the climatic poems in sections 2 and 3.

Attempt to pay back, return the favor by telling his story.

Here’s a more detailed look at each section

In The Mari Sandoz Crazy Horse Camp:

Voice of the poet as shaman figure, speaking for the community

Voice of the oppressed, but not beaten.

Drum beat of the repetitions

Confident declarations

Overture/Exposition: Nothing is Hid from The Heat

Establishes setting—time and place

1991, Persian Gulf War

Introduces the voice/persona

Main themes, including war, Latin America, childhood, biblical archetypes, sense of humor

This short section replicates the overall structure of the book from

separation (C-4), initiation (Bible, Townspeople Speak) to the return (Leaving)

Separation-Initiation-Return: Chile

The Price of Things

Chile trip.

Classic epic journey

Theme of politics, human rights, Neruda/Latino literature, lost stories

Begins with plane flight.

Climaxes in Hawks

But best poem is the one that comes after it

Ends with “afterward” that helps with the whole section

Reunion-Initiation-Return: Bowbells


Same epic archetype as The Price of Things, but a coming back home rather than a going away. In the tradition of the indigenous journey.

Much different style

Two voices/ dialogue style


Return, not a separation that leads to the understanding.

Goes back to Bowbells—incredible first poem.

The Man and the Boy On the Last Day of the Year and the Man and the Boy seem to represent the depths (go up to go down)—the work on your own insides, writing and thinking—required to come to grips with what started in Chile and exploded during Gulf War One. The work goes back to the earliest separations, back to prebirth.

Interrupts the seriousness AGAIN with the poem that follows it and it is also the best poem in the section. Read In the Womb, too.

Return and Integration

Impulse to Love:

Viet Nam shapes us today (96)

So does our childhood. (Trombones)

The traveler brings back of the wisdom. Brings lessons for the present. Tries to help others.

It feels like this is the section of the book that we’ve been building to

Alone with the trombones—a sense of humor, revealing.

Cleaning up the yard is the big poem in this section. Refers back to the beginning section. Like it picks the story back up after going down into the history of his quest. But this is THE STORY, one feels of his time in Viet Nam. Nobody fucks with the Bo. We wrapped them in gauze until they disappeared—this is repeated earlier as an image, the gauze—and the sense that THIS is what is being uncovered now is clear. Title of the poem is clearly about this, too. Garden as metaphor for health/arrival/stories.

To My Children: A War Story is an incredible poem. This is crucial to understanding why the poet is speaking, and on this journey.

Much of the section deals with Viet Nam experience 20 years later. And those that don’t directly, seem to deal with it indirectly.

After you read the section, it feels like every poem is about viet nam. But many aren’t. So, the question is, starting about “Letter to Rexroth” how are they connected? You could ask this about the opening poems in the chapter. They seem to be preparing us for Cleaning the Yard. There’s a sense, generally of abundance—like with the story revealed, the gifts are everywhere—silk, feasting, old roses.

I see these as part of the formal structure of the book as a whole. The last section is a blessing, a benediction. This structure is made explicit in his next manuscript, which he models on an order of worship in the southern gospel tradition, set to Wynton Marsalis’ In this House on this Morning.

The last poems are about re-integration in the community. Ars Poetica calls the garden solace. The poem/poet is sewn back into the fabric, new friends are made, rivers are given new names and a dessert, Blackberry syrup with ice cream, is served the end.

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