Sunday Gazette-Mail from Charleston, West Virginia on August 6, 1972 · Page 80
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Sunday Gazette-Mail from Charleston, West Virginia · Page 80

Charleston, West Virginia
Issue Date:
Sunday, August 6, 1972
Page 80
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Page 80 article text (OCR)

Three Poems of Marion Schoberlein STATE MAGAZINE, August 6,1972 By Arthur c; Buck (Copyright 1972, ArthurC. Buck) I have had the privilege of publishing several poems of Marion Schoeberlein of Elmhurst, 111., on the "Insights" page of literature that I edited for the Morgantown "Sunday Dominion-Post Panorama" from October, 1969, to March, 1971. Miss Schoeberlein had sent me a few of her poems in response to an announcement about "Insights" in one of the writers' magazines. Because I was immediately impressed by the quality of Miss Schoeberlein's poetry, I asked her to send me more of her work, even though space limitations in "Insights" precluded my publishing very many of her poems. In the correspondence that followed, I was really not too much surprised to learn that she was already an accomplished writer whose work had appeared consistently in leading journals and anthologies. Other editors, obviously, have also been strongly impressed by her style and her ability. A graduate of De Paul University, where she specialized in English, Miss . Schoeberlein is now a free lance writer of short stories, poems and articles. Her work has appeared in the "Harvard Advocate," "Atlantic," Chicago "Tribune Magazine," the "Ladies Home Journal," "Good Housekeeping," the New York "Times," and many literary periodicals, as well as in numerous anthologies published in America, England and Switzerland. In addition, several collections of her' poems have been published: "The Whiffle Tree of Amethyst," by the Story Book Press of Dallas, Texas; "Poems," also by the Story Book Press, and a co-authored pamphlet, "In a Gold Bed" published by Candor Press, Dexter, Mo. The thematic content of her poems is not unique; themes have not drastically changed through the history of poetry. The major ideas celebrated in her poems have been celebrated by other poets many times: time, mutability, decay; maturity; lost love; return to childhood; religion; the role of the poet. These are the dominant thematic-ideas of her work; it is not the theme that marks her work, but rather the images that she uses to express those themes. I would like to discuss three of Miss Schoeberlein's poems that I consider representative of her work: "The Accountant," "The Guitarist," and "The Chinese Poet." Although they may seem to be poems about three different subjects, at least in one respect they are about the same thing, namely, the role of the artist. THE ACCOUNTANT Trapped by the beautiful mountain of figures He moves his pencil along the columns Looking for one perfect answer. He is like The poet after all; skillfully polishing Everyone of his numbers like a piece of . Furniture inside a newly built house-The last figure is the star, the correct Conclusion to all his searching... like The poet he sighs then... having found the god Of numbers in his boiler of dreams, the calculator. (From the "Georgia Review," XVI, No. 3, Fall 1962. Reprinted by permission of "Georgia Review.") I wonder how many accountants consider themselves "trapped by a beautiful mountain of figures." That opening of the poem is interesting not so much because it tells us something about accountants but rather about poets. The simile of the accountant and the poet comprises most of the poem. The accountant, "trapped by a beautiful mountain of figures," searches for "one perfect answer." One must read these lines metaphorically: the "beautiful mountain of figures" may also be understood as figures of speech and other literary and poetic devices that must be at the command of the poet. On the literal level, "the one perfect answer" is the result of mathematical precision; but in aesthetic Perspectives %®8®^^ terms, it alludes to Truth, or perhaps more exactly, artistic perfection. Does an accountant polish "everyone of his numbers," or is that expression more closely related to the technique of the poefc whose existence, whose immortality, depends upon the extent that he is willing to "polish" or refine his work? The last figure used by the accountant is the asterisk ("the star"), which represents the balancing of his records. On the aesthetic level of the poem, the star represents the fulfillment of the artistic dream, the completion of a masterpiece. The accountant, we are told, polishes Everyone of his numbers like a piece of Furniture inside a newly built house. Has anyone ever said more about the work of a poet in so few words? THE GUITARIST Play, Me Notes of Frozen Honey, Take me back to Spain and its thousands of red skirts, Dancing, flowers, Let me sit in the patio again And sun myself while You ttrum and grin that knowing Spanish grin of yours. Play me a poem of love in the shadows, Play me a sad poem of love that is lost. Then let us walk to the twilight cathedral And you can strum to the Man on the Tree. You can play Him the song of the beautiful peasants, Ring the last lonely bell for His cross. Play, Mr. Notes of Lions and Shadows, Play like the dark, sad clown that you are. On top of the Hurricane, life, Say of the wild fields of sex, Sing of the magic gone long, Whisper, oh whisper Me home to old Spain. Nostalgia is perhaps the dominant chord in "The Guitarist," with its emphasis on happy and pleasant experiences in Spain in the past, but secondary chords of lost love, cynicism, and artistic creation are also evident, as they are in many of Miss Schoeberlein's poems. Artistic creation is suggested in the association of the guitarist with the poet: Play me a poem of love in the shadows, Play me a sad poem of love that is lost. This poem is typical of other Schoeberlein poems with its rather pessimistic and cynical implications, i. e., there is no happiness in the present, only in the past; any love that is beautiful must be a lost love, a love in the past. Notice the emphasis on "love in the shadows," as if love is only an illusion, retained only in its after-effects, in memory. Or perhaps we could say that only the guitarist (the artist) can perpetuate the memory of a beautiful, lost love, that any deep experience can be understood only in terms of a work of art. THE CHINESE POET Sad, yellow face like n sad yellow flower Nods to the wind and says, "Yes" to the rain. He is thirsty and dreams of purple wine. He is hungry and dreams of sugar cakes. Summer forgot to come into his dreary life. Winter was his eternal friend and father. Sorrow flowed into his bucket of milk, Pain was a temple he continually lived in. Even his prayers could not change... Even his heart that sang like an oriole... He with the song of the bird high inside him Was like a new pearl beside his pots of rice · * * (From "The Western Humanities Review," XV, No. 4, Autumn 1961. Copyright 1961, WHR. Reprinted by permission of WHR.) "The Chinese Poet" echoes the familiar theme of poets and artists alike--namely, that of the two worlds most people seem to admit, the temporal and the eternal, the artist must necessarily sacrifice one for the other, the temporal for the eternal. It is a familiar theme, yet still the masses of men can never fully comprehend the 'significance of it; they wifl never really understand the artist at all, for the masses live in their own worlds, with emphasis on present pleasures and physical sensations. What can the masses of men grasp in the artist's attempt to find Eternal Truth? The title, of course, is deliberately misleading: the poem is no more about a Chinese poet than about a Hungarian poet or a South African poet; the poem has nothing to do with nationalities at all. The use of "Chinese" gives the poem an exotic background and places the subject matter of the poem at a distance, so that the presence of the actual poet of the poem--Miss Schoeberlein--will seem remote. I submit that Miss Schoeberlein is very much like the Chinese poet of the poem: the opening line can very well be associated with the pervasive sadness of her poems. And when we talk of opening lines, who can depict the poet more succinctly and accurately than Miss Schoeberlein does in the opening two lines of this poem? Jad, yellow face like a sad yellow flower Nods to the wind and says, "Yes" tt the rain. The paradox in the life of a poet is that he must live in the two worlds, temporal and eternal, at one and the same time. The two worlds are suggested in the second stanza of the poem, which must be read on the two levels. The poet is hungry and thirsty for food and drink, for he must eke out his own physical existence on earth, barely appreciated or supported by the society as a whole, as Franz Kafka so capably reveals in "The Hunger Artist." But of even greater significance, those lines suggest the poet's thirst for knowledge and his desire for artistic perfection and aesthetic elegance that are really symbolized by the dreams of "purple wine" and "sugar cakes." The drabness and difficulty of his life on earth are depicted equally well in the third stanza. Note that "time" is revealed in terms of "Summer" and "Winter," but these words are suggestive rather than literal. In effect, Miss Schoeberlein is saying that the poet's life is "always" dreary, in youth ("Summer") and in old age ("Winter"). "Summer" and "Winter," therefore, are also associated with the poet's life: the absence of summer suggests that the poet's temporal life is a life without joy and pleasure, for he must deny the ordinary pleasures of life if he is to capture the eternal values. The "eternal" presence of winter reinforces the image cf the poet's mortal life as one of coldness, difficulty, and despair. "Even his prayers could not change .. ." is another line that shows Miss Schoeberlein's acuteness of perception. To me, "prayers" connotes artistic inspiration and aesthetic desire. The poet knows, and has always known, that the pleasures of ordinary men are definitely rewarding and that sometimes they even lure the poet away from his goal; he also knows, however, that if he swerves from the one world to the other, from the eternal to the temporal, if he, in fact, rejoices in temporal pleasures, he can no longer be a poet. If he ever indulges in the "pots of rice" to the extent that he will neglect the eternal world for the temporal, he can no longer be a poet To be a poet is to be forever sad. CHARLESTON, W.VA. 19m

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