Poet's Choice: 'In an Adirondack With You' by Paul Otremba

By Paul Otremba
Sunday, May 24, 2009

My initial impulse for writing a poem rarely remains intact in the completed version, but that happened with this one. The poem began out of my desire to join two close friends who were together without me half the country away. One of the earliest impressions poetry made on me was its ability to speak, how it assumes a human voice, and I took comfort in that aspect of the art for this poem. I wanted to have a conversation with my friends, even if the compensation of such an imagined -- and decidedly one-sided -- dialogue would be limited.

Thinking of what I wanted to say to them, I was reminded of the English Romantic poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge and his "conversation" poem "This Lime-Tree Bower My Prison," in which the speaker finds himself separated from friends he longs to join. I started my poem by imitating Coleridge's opening, with its initial interjection, "Well," and blank verse line (unrhymed iambic pentameter). The potential contradiction of using imitation to attempt sincere statement was not lost on me, but most of my verbal interactions with friends are allusive and associative, shifting easily between irony and sincerity.

In my experience, pastiche, hyper-allusiveness and associative logic contribute just as much to the texture of everyday communication as they do to making up postmodern literature and "Simpsons" episodes and Mitsubishi commercials. As negotiators of symbols, we are now comfortable with multiplicity and simultaneity, and our natural state seems to have become some play between the surface of language and the depths of meaning. Likewise, naked sentiment is often authenticated by a radical juxtaposition with ironic statement.

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In an Adirondack With You

Well, there's the one about the boy who fell

off the swing. Because the wind picked up.

Because after three days, I've gone outside

into the heat and heard you laugh across

long distances, crossing the road that cuts

the little cake-village, the field in view,

and behind that the spine of pine trees curved

in the sun. It's the only joke I remember.

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