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Transom:
The narrative in the first half of this poem seems to wink at the over-the-top nature of nightmare imagery, gradually shrinking the horror down to “bullshit” and a “lesson.” At the same time, we’re struck by the haiku-like atmospherics in the poem’s ending. In the endlessly ironized world we’ve inherited, do you think the path to sincerity necessarily goes through “bullshit”?

Gosztyla:
It’s funny that you ask me that question. I’ve been thinking about a couple of my favorite poems a lot recently, Frost’s “The Most of It” and O’Hara’s “A True Account of Talking to the Sun at Fire Island.” They’ve both for some time now been touchstone poems for me, and I recently came to the conclusion that they’re both unfortunately just a bunch of bullshit.

Frost’s reminds me of the kind of “bullshit” you run into in social situations. Gab fests like those stereotypically associated with barber shops, locker rooms, hair salons, & book clubs. I think the title “The Most of It” is supposed to remind the reader of an old farmer, who just told a tall one at the country store, and is wrapping it up on his way out the door, ending with, “Well, that’s the most of it.” See you next time.

O’Hara’s poem seems to be the type of “bullshit” that is nothing more than total fabrication. As a reader, you should know immediately the poem is not true; the sun, in fact, does not talk. But in a way, it reminds me of the scene in the Blues Brothers where Jake finds out the band broke up while he was in prison and accuses Elwood of lying to him. Elwood says back, “What was I gonna do? Take away your only hope? … I took the liberty of bullshitting you.”

So to get back to your question, in this case “bullshit” was for me a path to sincerity. But sometimes, like Jake and Elwood, you can literally walk thru the sewers to evade the police in an attempt to rescue the Penguin from back taxes, do all the paperwork just right, get your receipt, and end up in ‘cuffs anyways. Maybe, despite what the poem says, the lesson is: any time you start in with poetry, you better watch what you’re doing or you might end up stepping in it.