Ohanami

by John Savoie

Bottles clink, banquets spread
on vinyl sheets cast wide
to catch these urban sprawls.
The moon is lost, but electric
lanterns buzz, illuminating
Ueno’s sacred sakura,
pinkish popcorn, tropical snow;
the faces more gaudy yet
bloom in pungent shades of red—
see how they crawl. O-hanami,
oh tako-on-a-stick!

notes: hanami-flower viewing, o- prefix as honorific; sakura-cherry tree; tako-octopus, a festive food sold by street and park vendors.

John Savoie’s poems have appeared in Poetry, Umbrella, and Best New Poets 2012.
He teaches at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.

 

 

In your cover letter, you wrote, “ars poetica: Implication precedes explication.” Can you talk a bit more about that idea and how it applied to your process with this poem?
Implication precedes explication. My day job is professor of seventeenth-century literature explicating the likes of Donne, Milton and Marvell. (By night I’m a brooding conflicted demi-hero, but that’s another story.) Their poems have an immediacy, embodying, in Eliot’s phrase, “a direct sensuous apprehension of thought” that any alert reader can appreciate. But they also enfold, that is ply or implicate, subtleties that emerge more slowly and keep me fascinated year after year. I want to write like that. Yes, it’s a high ambition and seldom achieved, but should we aspire to anything less?

Through quick images and palpable sounds my poem “Ohanami” seeks to convey the sensory experience of contemporary flower-viewing, an odd mingling of natural beauty, ancient tradition and modern decadence. But there’s more. I’d like to think a well-tuned reader might overhear in “the moon is lost” a play upon Donne’s “the sun is lost,” from a crucial passage in his Anatomy of the World; that cosmological angst crosses 400 years and 6000 miles to figure here as farce. Or a linguist might wonder if the Japanese honorific o- shares a common, even universal, lineage with the English exclamation oh. And the very playful reader, most likely reading out loud, may hear in ohanami a distant dissipating echo of oh the humanity, tragedy modulated through melodrama to belated absurdity. And tako? I can’t tell you everything. Meaning burrows deep that the reader may set it free. You complete me.

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