Reader Richard writes, in the comment section to Today’s Spam Poem – Atomic Kazoo – analyzed,”analyze this, its in the same kind of language. But differs a lot. I don´t understand it but I got it. Please help me out with this.”
Here is the poem
optima drummond boyhood? wallboard, priori perspicuous.
sentiment priori colossus optima hewn narcotic, citywide
droll eke priori aubrey brookline.
terre immigrate atomic
hewn sentiment ingratiate? necromantic, hrothgar headlight.
plus windy category vanderpoel necromantic teakwood, arose
plus aviatrix ingratiate brookline wallboard.
necromantic vanderpoel headlight
gad cryptanalyze extricable? category, cupidity cryptanalyze.
A deeper look,
Optima colossus is a work of some stylistic beauty. However, the theme of despair and lost love has been dealt with by many prior poets, and often to greater effect. Though the style is beautiful, it never quite reaches the lofty heights of Bond’s earlier work, particularly Atomic Kazoo. Though uncredited, Optima is immediately recognizable, not just as a poem by the gifted and cryptic Chase Bond, but also as part of the same cycle of poetry as (the far superior) Atomic Kazoo. The theme of boyhood, of innocence lost and hungered for, runs through both like a Stygian plea for the sweet release of death.
However, the tone here is darker – dark to the point of near-opacity. As the wallboards close in “priori perspicuous”, the narrator reaches out, but no longer to the sweetness of boyhood memory , here he reaches out to the “narcotic, citywide,” as if, in ingesting massive quantities of opiates, he will unlock the mysteries that haunt him. Or at least take a hallucinatory respite from his troubles. As pleasant as that prospect may be, he dismisses it out of hand, to instead stare down the “necromantic, hrothgar headlight.”
The “Hrothgar headlight” is a reference to the legendary 6th Century Danish king, immortalized in the narrative poem Beowulf. In this instance, the just and wise old king offers necromantic overtures to entice our narrator to the ‘great sleep’. By personifying death as the sagacious Hrothgar, Bond offers us a view of Death not as a fearsome thing, but rather a reward for penance served (see harassment at the hands of Grendel in the epic poem ‘Beowulf’).
It is at this point in the work that the narrator prepares to ‘immigrate atomic’. For those unfamiliar with 1960’s beatnik prisoner slang from Kansas City, to ‘immigrate atomic’ means to commit suicide. This spells out, in no uncertain terms, the authors slide into a deepening depression.
Immediately; when the depression is darkest, the consequences of haste a moments breadth from being brought to bear, the artists twin instincts for preservation and self-deprecation kick in. ‘Hewn sentiment, ingratiate’. Both a challenge, and a condescension, this dramatic rhetorical question plunges us into the last half of the poem, where he struggles, Hamlet-like, in the grips of mournful indecision. Ultimately, the question hangs, like a noose, in the space where prepositions and conjunctions should be.
Syntactically speaking, the poem fits snugly in Bond’s anti-grammatical style. Unfortunately, the effect – once refreshing – here has become strident and stale, if not outright hackneyed. It’s not that the viewer can’t or doesn’t empathize with the despair, more that the repetition and familiarity have bred a measure of contempt. “Plus windy category vanderpoel” expresses a poignant and severe observation of the variable nature of the human form, and the detrimental effects of aging. But it doesn’t express it with the same gravitas as in previous outings.
The glimmer of hope: for the poem, for the narrator, and for the reader, comes right at the end. “drummond bette”, says he, plainly and plaintively. To summon his lost love with the solitary purpose of the beating of his heart.
The hope here for the reader is that Bond will follow Hrothgar’s headlight, not by slipping Letheward into atomic immigration, but rather to continue to push the bounds of his art and expression. Either by further idiosyncratic anti-syntactic poetry that shows artistic evolution blessed by the sagacity that time affords, or alternately by heeding the clarion call of Hrothgar, and the dramatic possibilities therein.