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Visitors' Comments about:

Salmon

Jorie Graham

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salmon
2005-12-04
Added by: Oscar
(Susie's comment is dated, made two years ago. But a response is never too late anyway, so...)

"It's a bit long and BORING!" -- i certainly hope this is not demonstrative of American literary criticism, of how far it has gone.

it appears that the primary measure that Susie is using to read Salmon is entertainment value, its "popcorn grade," one might say.

i am certain that Salmon, or any other kind of poetry in this regard, was written (and is meant to be read) beyond the question of whether it was boring or not. (i think it would insult graham to tell her that her poems are "entertaining.")

rather, the first step is to look at what each poem is trying to say, to look at how important its message is, and to pay attention to the poetic language employed. the criterion that arises here is depth and language.

in this regard, Salmon is a poem that works. i think graham is making a comment about human freedom, questioning whether it is illusory or not, given causal circumstances. (notice the word "helpless" apprears twice in the poem, one among other markers.) the poetic tension appears between the "resolution of will" and "helplessness" of salmons that fight to swim upward against the current, for the salmons are merely obeying "archaic" and genetic determinations.

and then graham juxtaposes this image of the salmons with a variety of images: mother committting suicide, the ants feeding on a dead moth, the sexual act she witnessed, and so on.

and the question that emerges is this: when we act resolutely, when we choose to love or work or commit to anything, are we really free, or, just like the salmons, are we simply driven by some "archaic" programming that has determined our lives?

i think this theme is a possible starting point for an interpretation. and there can be many rich interpretations. mine claims no eminence.

perhaps to make the question starker: when Susie made that comment about how boring Salmon is, do you think she was freely expressing her opinion, or was she merely demonstrating the causal sequence that has determined her life, which expresses itself in her comment? perhaps her poetry teacher in high school was "boring," her taste for movies limited to eye-candy flicks, her taste typically consumerist? i may simply be wrong about my guesses (and her answer doesn't really matter), but it's an interesting question. it is a question that the wisest people throughout the history of ideas have tried to deal with.

in this case, Salmon is certainly not a boring poem. i disagree with Susie.
2006-03-31
Added by: dc
i like the description of the couple getting it on - trying to erase the black line that separates them. isn't that what it's like sometimes when you try to merge like that?

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