Po-Chop: Jeffrey McDaniel: The Forgiveness Parade

“There’s nothing like a full moon, reflected
in the eyes of a blind man, using a telescope
to stir a bowl of Russian alphabet soup
for the cosmonauts . . .”

Jeffrey McDaniel’s poem, “The Forgiveness Parade” (The Forgiveness Parade Manic D Press, 1998), is an excellent example of how poetry can serve as nourishment and push the boundaries of language. The poem introduces a parade of strange and surprising images that begs for poetry’s return to society, despite having been neglected by the masses. The opening lines, “There’s nothing like a full moon, reflected / in the eyes of a blind man, using a telescope / to stir a bowl of Russian alphabet soup / for the cosmonauts” invite the reader to unpack the many layers that are so often present in McDaniel’s poetry.

 

The moon reflects in the blind man’s eyes, while at the same time McDaniel’s images reflect in the reader’s mind. The reader resembles the blind man in that they both have to use their imagination. Instead of serving expected images, McDaniel dishes up words that complicate images. Stirring soup with a telescope, a tool to widen the eyes’ limited scope in understanding the world, clearly indicates that the blind man does not need his vision to get by. He performs the task of preparing soup for the cosmonauts without much trouble. To him the telescope is simply a spoon, and the contradiction inherent in this particular image speaks to the contradiction of wanting to go beyond what can be understood. The blind man is not interested in seeing, but rather in nourishing as he rearranges Cyrillic letters to form words. Here, McDaniel raises awareness to the fact that without language one cannot articulate what is perceived. Language, in essence, gives meaning to life. The alphabet soup is the nourishment that might provide the cosmonauts with the strength to continue searching for that meaning.

 

Furthermore, the comical image of stirring soup with a telescope can be understood as a criticism of attempting to go beyond our limitations. The creation of new tools, while ignoring older tools, such as language, is a valid concern. One does not need a telescope to appreciate the beauty of a full moon; however, language and particularly poetry is necessary in expressing this appreciation. Jeffrey McDaniel is a poet who charts the constellations of language for his reader, creating beautiful and surprising images of the moon, the cosmos, and their admirers.

 


More Jeffrey McDaniel:

McDaniel on Poetry Foundation

Buy McDaniel on Amazon


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